your voice like the sound of sirens to a house on fire

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I've been referring to Ethan as my little elf. He is all about the holidays this year. The blow of Hanukkah ending has been softened by it being Christmas Eve tomorrow when he wakes up, confirmed by his promise to me that he's going to dream about reindeer and Rudolph and all of the cookies we've baked as he settled in for bed tonight. "I'm going to dream about it all, mommy." It's been easy to put all of my energy into Ethan this holiday season especially now that he's at an age where he understands and wants and hopes and sees all of the magic of the holidays himself. It's been easy to go along with his plan and to pack our days and nights full of all of the holiday activities we can muster. (I may or may not have stayed up until midnight last night baking even more cookies for Ethan to decorate tomorrow.) We are hosting Christmas Eve at our home and Ethan is so excited about this, about all of it, and so it's been easy to live each moment for him and for his joy.

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.


  1. I hear you! My heart aches because I too lost a baby girl at birth, and then lost my son years later. It is devastating! I often think of how wonderful it would be to have them in my life now. Life can change in an instant - even through no fault of your own. Love your family every minute of the day and have a very Merry Christmas!


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