Christmas 2007 is now history. Brian's parents, my parents, my grandmother, my brother and his wife, and my uncle came to celebrate the holiday with us here, and it was a relatively relaxing, worry-free holiday. Unfortunately, this was preceded by three days of head-shattering migraine headache that kept me in a drug-induced stupor which very sadly failed to make a dent in the pain. As it turned out, my very last resort, a single muscle relaxant recommended by one of my best friends, loosened its death grip on me just before the holiday began, and I was finally able to prepare for the holiday and enjoy myself.
We all gathered around the tree to open presents after our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of hot clam chowder and bread, and Erik opened presents for the first time as if he had been doing it for years. This was the only time I felt close to being emotional about much of anything. I watched his meaty fingers find weaknesses in the festive paper and rip, exposing the colorful goodies inside. He cocked his head as he examined each gift, finding himself entranced by some of them, especially the book my mother made for him with photos of vehicles like the ones driven by the people he knows and loves.
Generally speaking, children with WS have little to no interest in toys most children find fascinating. Getting my kid to pretend play with toys is almost impossible unless there is a toy car with spinning wheels involved. Play sets collect dust in the closet or are packed up to take to the children at his school who cannot afford them. Thankfully, all of the gifts Erik received were wonderful with an obvious degree of thought about his personality and disorder behind them. When I sat down to read blogs yesterday, I was relieved to see that Tara and Bob, fellow WS parents, echoed a lot of my feelings about gifts and toys for our children. Tara explained that Dr. Mervis, a WS researcher at the University of Louisville, once told her, "Most children with WS do not play with toys. They watch their parents play with their toys." It's true, and it's one more reason I feel ripped off. However, Tara also explained that her daughter's joy is "about being surrounded by her family and unwrapping and tearing every piece of paper in sight." I found myself busy around the house at times I might feel sadness seeping in, and it didn't really touch me this holiday. On Christmas Day, my good china dishes emerged from their dark places in my cupboards, and the plates were soon heaped with a feast I had assistance preparing: Ham, turkey, cranberry salad, stuffing, green bean casserole, bread, and pies. My mother brought a tiny one-layer cake with her part of the feast, and after dinner we sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, something that seemed a little strange while I planned the holiday but instantly became a brand new, natural tradition when I saw the amazed look on Erik's face as we all began to sing.
Last night Brian ran hot water into our jetted tub and added raspberry-vanilla bath salts, which smelled wonderful. We extinguished the lights and opened the blinds covering the windows around us that point towards the desert landscape. Light from the chunky bulbs of our twinkling Christmas lights that Brian strung along the rain gutters outside zipped around the house above us as the scented steam rose from the water's surface. I took a deep breath and realized that I successfully survived another holiday. I actually felt as if I had accomplished something. I realized that gatherings feel like work now. I feel like I am swimming against a strong current and am constantly laboring. I wonder if I will ever truly be able to relax and enjoy Christmas with the same trust that all will be perfect ever again, or if I will always be holding my breath waiting for the next wave of emotion to hit me. They will never be the same, but maybe holidays like this will be an adequate break in this crazy life to at least stop and count my blessings. The turkey, trimmings, and gifts seem sort of ridiculous to me now, but they are a welcome distraction and a big dose of what is deemed "normal" in this chapter of the American Dream. I guess could use a little more normal in each and every day. I just wonder if this new numbness I feel will ever subside. Maybe it's best that it does not.
Oh. Just one more thing. Santa brought me a Chia pet.