How I Handled the Holiday Havoc


It’s over.  Amazing how quickly it passes by, with all that buildup and anticipation leading up to it.

Yes, I’d been dreading the holidays, and yes, I had the occasional breakdown or freakout moment.  But you know what, it’s natural to do that at this time of the year.  Who doesn’t have an emotional meltdown during the Christmas season?  Who doesn’t wake up one morning in a cold sweat, suddenly realizing that absolutely NOTHING has been done in preparation for the big event?

I’d been trying to tell myself that this year would be different and harder to deal with simply because my dad wouldn’t be there– well guess what?  It was just as crazy, just as painful, and even just as wonderful as any other year.

Christmas Eve was probably the strangest time during the weekend.  It was there that my family really felt the loss of everyone who had left us this year.  Madge would usually be running in and out of the kitchen, preparing food, making sure everything was just so, and mingling with the guests.  Dad would not have been there anyway, but he certainly used to go.  And in recent years I would make him a plate and bring it home to him so he could enjoy his traditional Italian fare with everyone else.  This year, we didn’t need to do that.  And Arlene would have made an appearance, bringing homemade chocolates or cookies for everyone to enjoy.

But now they are all gone.  And the night felt especially empty without them.

But even with the emptiness, the family managed to enjoy the night as best we could.  We shared a lot of stories, and enjoyed each other’s company.  Because we’re family, and we have to stick together, no matter how hard life gets.

In truth, the one and only time I really and truly had an emotional breakdown during the entire holiday season was at the Windy City Performing Arts holiday concert.  I no longer sing with the group, so I was in the audience with my good friend Perry, and at the end of the show (which was magnificent), they performed “Silent Night” interspersed with another song called “Night of Silence”. I had heard this ‘mashup’ before many years ago, but it had been a long time since.  It’s really a gorgeous piece, and the choruses performed them absolutely beautifully.

However, what happened at the end of the song is what I wasn’t prepared for.  The chorus membership stood at the perimeter of the church, circling the audience.  The song ended with the familiar “Silent Night,” and as they sang, they were interpreting the words in sign language.  One by one, a part of the music was taken away– first the piano, then the words (to a hum), and then all trace of sound.  The only thing you could hear was the movement of arms signing the words to “Silent Night” in utter, pure silence.

This moment struck me like a freight train and absolutely wrecked me.  By the time they finished, I was absolutely sobbing.  Something about that moment was the wake-up call for me.  I thought of my Dad, I thought of all the other relatives I’d lost this year, and I thought of my family.  There was no really good reason for this– it’s not as if “Silent Night” was my Dad’s favorite song or anything– It was just the power of the moment resonating something in me that brought all of those emotions bubbling back to the surface.

Since that moment, the holidays got easier for me.  I sang with CGMC the next weekend, I threw my party the weekend after that, and I even got all my Christmas shopping done.  Then I packed up the car, drove to Mom’s, went to my Aunt’s for Christmas Eve and my Sister’s for Christmas Day.

And somehow I survived it all.

In the end, we all did.

Hope you had a great holiday as well.