I used to like December.
I like almost being done school, knowing Christmas was around the corner, and another year winding down before stepping into a new one. Even while working, first at a restaurant job, then in book retail, with a stop subbing in classrooms in between, I still liked December, and the first time I heard this song, I was struck by the longing, in Portuguese we call it Saudade.
Around 2005, December changed for me. It started with a book retail season like no other; the closure of one store caused ours to get busier. I worked for a trans-denominational Christian bookstore. In other words, while the store retained its Protestant roots, it went more mainline and included Catholics. One person complained about our staffing situation and kept complaining. She quit and had the twentysomething gall to write a letter to our boss about the situation. Me? I shrugged because the last bookstore I worked at, McNally Robinson, has this curated chaos, especially during author events. What constituted chaos at this Christian bookstore, a good size but still small, made me shrug and get on with it. Not to this person as she bitched and bitched and bitched. One time, I tried to put our situation in context, and she snapped, “Oh, you know more, do you?”,
Yes, it’s called experience, and I was older than many staff members.
After serving the last customer on the 24th, I went home and changed my clothes for Midnight Mass. My car needed gas, so I went to gas it up, and I don’t know what set me off, but I was short with the clerk, feeling something held back, trying to break through. I drove to an empty parking lot and wept. I cried so hard, I had to open my door to nearly vomit. I knew it was time to move on, and two years later, I went back to school. The scars still remain, and things changed for me. I did check myself before going into a store. Was I in a bad mood? Am I sad? Whatever it is, check it and not take it out on the clerk like had happened so many times to me.
Currently, December looks like another month, one I have to endure. After mom died, we decorated the apartment to give dad some normalcy. I remembered the night we did it in 2019. The homecare worker did not show up, and I had to search YouTube on how to change the catheter bag from the small daytime one to the larger nighttime one. Honestly, I kept myself numb the entire time until Christmas Eve. I watched a Christmas mass from a cathedral in Washington, DC, with its bright colours and soaring hymns, crying all the way through while dad was also watching it in his bedroom.
I spent last December with my aunt. I slept over at her place, and we hung out and had Christmas Eve dinner before heading to my brother’s for Christmas day with his family. This year my brother ‘voluntold’ me to host Christmas. My place remains a chaotic mess after spending weekends at dad’s and unable to declutter and donate to thrift shops during the lockdown. Most of all, the sadness redoubled its load. Whatever I held back began to crash down around me, again, feeling much worse than in 2005.
Get me through December, Alison Krauss sings as Natalie McMaster plays her fiddle. I promise I remember; MacMaster draws the strings slowly across, reminding me of tears gently falling. Get me through December, so I can start again. Every December, I go back to that song and its sadness and yearning intensified over the past couple of years. On the other hand, the resolve to start again helps me not sink into despair. 2005 had to happen to enable me to go to return to school in 2007. The past two years made me think about roles and identities, things like daughter, sister, caregiver, Library Technician, employee, friend, defensive, emotional, persecuted, overthinker, middle-aged, fat, and a myriad of terms. Most were assigned to me and sometimes believed, others like ‘sister’ needs redefinition because my married brother forgets I have this whole other life I have and shoulder alone most of the time.
Strangely, reading blog posts and Twitter makes me feel less alone. People struggle with their identities outside of work, especially after furloughs and layoffs. We turn into production machines, but now we use our brains more than our physical bodies, while our social contract seems non-exist or a new set of rules seeks to divide more than unite. Lots of people looking to start again in 2022 and here’s to a December gently guiding us forward, even in the face of another wave and division. After all, as the song says faith can move mountains of that I am sure.