The holiest of holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I have been keeping a Christmas memory book since the early 1990s. I used to fill it out rather religiously. This is evident from the early posts that have every little worldly detail and event captured along with the pasting of a photo and a sample holiday card I sent that year.
As the years went by the entries became spottier and less detailed. Some years are completely missing. The years that involved the breakdown of my marriage and eventual divorce seem to be the least populated if not completely absent. Makes sense. I struggled through every day back then. Last thing I would want to do is capture the sad times.
I pulled the book out this year and am gleefully populating it. I can talk about my fiance, our lovely new home, my sons changing schools, my oldest son in the Latin Honor Society, friends, family and world events.
Life is good.
As I flipped through the pages of the book, I was startled to see a small notation at the bottom of each completed page. I had forgotten I did this. Amongst the notes of the latest president, my dads sobriety (or not), and other notable family events I placed my daughter’s age along with hearts and other small doodles.
The Christmas 1992 entry was an interesting one. I noted the marriage of her father to another woman (with the words “ouch” following that entry). I noted that my aunt and uncle had adopted another child (making their grand total equal to four children). I noted that Amber (my daughters original name) was six years old. Six! She will be 24 next May. My how time flies even in a closed adoption.
Makes my heart ache.
I can vividly remember nearly every christmas that I spent without knowing where she was, if she was alive or dead. I remember pondering a few seconds before writing those notations if she was happy. I remember doing a mental tabulation of the years that had to pass before I could “legally” find her. I would fantasize about her and I making christmas cookies, decorating a tree, eating pierogies at my mother’s house, musing over the family tradition of sharing oplatki at Christmas (along with making blasphemous jokes about communion wafer with my siblings), and finally attending a Polish midnight mass.
I found her in June 2005. I was permitted to send her the first christmas gifts that year. My how I rejoiced. I spent so much time shopping, wrapping, and packaging those gifts. Somewhat surprisingly, there is no 2005 entry there in the holiday book to capture this event. I am okay with that. It is captured, imprinted, tattooed on my heart and onto the hallways of my mind. It was a blessed time. I remember it fondly.
Reading these old pages is bittersweet. I no longer need to list her age or muse as I once did. I now know she is alive, what she looks like, where she works, and in the general area in which she lives. I am not quite sure what, if anything, I will write about her in the book this year. For now, for today, I am at peace that I finally know my child is alive. I have more than many other mothers have.
A few photos of holiday book pages below. Click thumbnails to make larger.