We have come to my childhood home for ExMass. I haven’t been “home” for Christmas since the year before Mum died. Ive been back to the house many times with the boys, but not in winter. not at Christmas. This was always her holiday.
We arrived after supper and decorated the tree. I went from room to room thinking how much emptier the house is, even with all of us here. The last time we did this, she was here. Right over there, in her favourite chair – a ratty old armchair with arse divots worn in it. The Captain fell asleep in the big red sleigh my Da made for him, and Mum sat and watched him sleep.
She knew she was dying. I knew that would be her last Christmas. I was prepared. I thought I was prepared for the rest of my life without her. I had managed to muddle through things (with some difficulty) without my Nama and without my Gramps.
I watched my boys tumble through the heavily blanketed yard of the house in which I grew up. Through the yard I’d tumbled through to the front door I’d banged open and slammed shut every day. I saw all too keenly the absence if my mother’s face at the picture window. I saw an empty place where she should be.
In that instant, the passage of time stretched away from me. It unfurled like the tongue of an emaciated, insatiable beast. I stood on the walk and stared at my home and willed that beast away; I tried to exorcise it, but I am nothing before time. I took a deep breath, blamed the tears on the driving snow, and went home.
But it’s only half-home now. It’s the house Da lives in when he’s in this town. I kept expecting Mum to come home too. That’s what made this my home. Without her, it’s just the house I grew up in.
There are still secrets here, and many memories yet to come. It’s still somewhere I can let go. But I wish the first Christmas dinner I cook in my old home would have been at Mum’s side.
Still and all, we’re together, and we remember her together, and while it’ll never stop hurting, it’s good to be here.