Even before we were married, my wife always enjoyed the Christmas Eve gatherings and, of course, my children loved the entire occasion. A decade earlier --well before the family ship had been scuttled-- it had been a visit I enjoyed, too, but as life ticked through my twenties and thirties, each visit felt more like a task completed, than a comforting holiday renewal.
That Christmas Eve was the last task I ever completed at my mother's house. My mother cheerfully greeted all of us at the front door and invited us in to visit; my sister and her minions immediately shrank to another part of the house and didn't emerge until after we left. The complete severance of all ties even at Christmas among my sister, her legions, and me that evening was the end of the holiday celebrations at my mother's house. I heard through my son that she ended the Christmas gatherings that year. and never had another.
As the first anniversary of my mother's death approaches, and the holiday season winds around again, I try and remember the better times I had with all of my family. It isn't easy to let go of the anger and find something of meaning that isn't easily dismissed. It looks like I have a new task for this Christmas.