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It will be, of course, our first Christmas without Wylie. There is still one child who we didn't get to buy any gifts for this year, two pairs of matching Christmas pajamas tucked away in a drawer because there's no need for them anymore. There is still one child who wasn't toted around to light displays with us and who didn't get to sit on Santa's lap any of the four thousand times we visited Santa this season. There is one family member who will be missing from the photographs. I couldn't bear to send a picture of all of us on our holiday card this year. Something about "family portrait" feeling crass and unjust and, more than anything, incomplete. Can it be a family portrait if one member is missing? If one member will always be missing? I worry about this, too. I worry about doing these family things for Ethan because he needs to feel part of a family and I need to reassure him always that he is. It's a confusing web to walk through and it's sticky and messy and just so much easier to stay up until midnight baking cookies and thinking of Ethan's joy when he wakes to see them. So that's what I've been doing, of course, submerging myself in Ethan's joy. His joy is my own and it always will be.
As I stood folding laundry in the living room tonight, rattling off my to-do list before our Christmas Eve get together tomorrow night to my husband, I thought of "fake it 'til you make it." I felt like I was faking it and hoping I was really making it. And then I felt guilty. I thought of Ethan and how I wasn't faking anything, how much his incessant need to celebrate every minute of every day had been saving me more than I realized. How easy it was to feel joy and happiness and magic when he was there by my side. My two children live in two different worlds. I think of Wylie and I am faking it until I make it while being entirely sure that I'm not making anything. I think of Ethan and I am being saved by a three year old little boy with a heart of gold and kindness and goodness, with little hands that have weaved this completely perfect Christmas for all of us.
I don't smile for him. I smile because of him.