He was laughing at the telling, but I could hear the grit of emotion that had entered Dad’s tone, could sense his bittersweet appreciation for his Christmas memories. I finally understood why the tree beside me, why the family around me, would never be enough to make my Christmas celebration complete. It wasn’t that we were having turkey and mashed potatoes — it was that we weren’t having chicken Parmesan and lasagna. It wasn’t that things were quiet and subdued — it’s that they weren’t loud and chaotic; I couldn’t hear my mother singing carols and shrieking in excitement about the arrival of a Santa she still pretends to believe in.
“It’s not about the stupid holiday,” Dad said when I shared my thoughts. “It’s not about the craziness, the tree, or the presents. The only thing that matters is the truth, and the truth is the love between us.” Dad cleared his throat, perhaps considering his family — his parents who are now deceased, his daughters who live in the same town, and their children, his grandchildren. “Underneath all the bullshit, the trappings, the wrappings,” Dad said, “every one of those people loves each other.”