December 23, 2020
My dearest Will,
It seems rather fitting that yesterday, on the 22nd day of the month I decorated the gingerbread boys I somewhat reluctantly baked last week. Each year since your passing the little gingerbread boys have become a tradition that I set aside time for and that I have always looked forward to. This year with COVID and how it has changed our world I stumbled, wondering at times if it would be worth it, wondering who would eat them all (other than us!), wondering if anyone would really even notice that the “boys” didn’t make it into their little holiday bags ready to be handed out to friends and family as in years past because we’re isolating and not gathering socially due to the pandemic. And then it hit me – ultimately, it would matter to me and it would matter because of you. It would matter because it has become a tradition born from your passing and not even a world pandemic would stand in the way of those little gingerbread boys and what they mean to me.
I realized yesterday how much I enjoy the ritual and learned that it really wasn’t any trouble at all, but rather a little labour of holiday love in honor of you. I buried myself at the kitchen table with Christmas carols and warm tea, with little gingerbread boys and piped frosting and little white candy hearts. I thought about our Christmases together and though my mind got stuck on how 12 Christmases just weren’t enough I managed to flip the bitter to sweet and remembered how much fun we packed into the Christmases we did have together.
It is easy to complain about the busy-ness of the season but for me the days leading up to Christmas were always the best and the busier we were, it seemed the happier we were. The magic would build day by day, even when the magic of Santa became the magic of giving for all of us. After your angel date we adopted some new Christmas traditions because we knew Christmas would never be the same. To keep on as we did would magnify the empty chair, the empty stocking and the achingly absent “To Will, From Us” gifts under the tree.
Instead we chose to make you the star, the angel, the toque on top of our tree. We made you our morning Santa with socks and pajamas from you to all of us Christmas morning. We still hang your stocking on the mantle amidst all of ours but on Christmas morning it becomes the anchor upon which our Christmas dinner centerpiece sits. We carefully place it in the middle of our dining room table where we light the sparkliest of candles. The last present under the tree is a jigsaw puzzle or a game from you to us – a promised activity that we enjoy doing together. And then there are the coveted gingerbread boys. The boys I am glad I did not leave out this year. Now that they are decorated the world feels a bit right again, even in this crazy and strange world of unknowns and uncomfortable concerns about the coronavirus. Admittedly, I didn’t bake as many this year knowing that I’d eat far too many if they were hanging around the kitchen. There is nothing right about one small family having to eat 10 or so dozen of those little boys… they are small, but…
I enjoyed our afternoon, Will. Needless to say, I miss you more than ever — more than I did yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I am overjoyed that the little gingerbread boys prevailed and that we have them to enjoy over the holidays. Yesterday I discovered that without them it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas. The tags I included with the little boys in every holiday cookie bag over the years are printed and in the tin — an undeniable reminder that…
“Before they can be men, they must be boys.”
And so this is Christmas. And on this side your little light still shines as bright as ever. I’m told some stars are like that, Willy. In my heart of hearts I know your spirit is with us today and yesterday and tomorrow and on Christmas and everyday. We carry you with us in all that we do. Your little light is in each of those little gingerbread boys, a reminder that the little boy / the child is alive and well in all of us, if we just believe.
I love you, my sweet boy. More than a bus and more than all the little gingerbread boys and men and sugar cookies and milk in Santa’s big belly on Christmas eve.
Love Momxo xo xo xo