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Saranna has been a friend since I first began publishing. She’s helped me with sex scenes (er, writing them and not performing them…), lent an ear, and been a good friend in more ways than one. When her mother died earlier this year, I watched Saranna come to terms with this loss in her usual amazingly strong way. Saranna is someone I respect and love, and I asked her to share her story with you.
Our dear friend Bas said two years ago, a few months before he died, that Christmas is joy and grief at the same time. Remembering those we’ve lost and making room for new loved ones. You can see Bas’ comment on the first Blue Christmas here. I also talked about Bas for Advent Calendar last year here. This year, I remember my dear quilting granny friend who died in September, and I worry about another friend whose health has taken a drastic turn. Heather Fortman, who ordinarily would be one of our rowdiest players, is grieving the unexpected death of her mother on Wednesday.
Life is not fair. But in the midst of the unfairness, I hope we can find community in our loss and love.
Saranna will respond to comments today. Please do respond to her post, but also name someone (or more than one) who is in your heart today. Hugs and love from Ana.
And now, for Saranna–
I had a lot I wanted to say when I started writing this post and a lot of it was hard and maybe just a little bit ugly. Not ugly like it was cruel, but ugly like the cry face that some people have that’s just so visceral it hurts to look at them. But I decided I don’t need that. I’ve got enough of it and that’s not what I want to spread around. It’s not what she would want me to spread around.
As I’m writing this, it’s my mom’s birthday. She would’ve been 73. This is my first Christmas without her. It’s my first of many things without her. It’s hard not to focus on the challenges of our relationship, because some of those are regrets. But regret is fairly useless emotion unless you learn from it.
She used to tell me I’d have regrets when she was gone, and I do, but not the same ones she thought I’d have. Even though I’ll give her that one. I learned in the last few years that it didn’t kill me to tell her she was right.
But I am who I am because of her.
I’ve never known a more stubborn woman in all of my life. Locking horns with her growing up, it was like a young ram hardening his skull. And it is that hard. I’ll lock horns with anyone, if I think it’s warranted. Correction: Not just anyone, but anything too. Even a brick wall. Eventually one of us has to fall down and it’s not going to be me. That’s served me well all through my many different career paths. You’d have thought that it would’ve served me best when I was a corrections officer, but you know what was harder than that? Being a writer.
She gave me my love of books and writing, too.
When my parents took me home the first time, I was a little over a year old. My adoption wasn’t final until my second birthday.
My first year of life was pretty much an Easy Bake recipe for How To Make A Sociopath. I was neglected both physically and emotionally. I wasn’t held, I was malnourished, and I had motor delays. I couldn’t even sit up for very long by myself when child services took custody. I have their original notes. The case worker thought I was retarded. Her words, not mine.
My mother read to me all the time, held me all the time, quit her job to stay home and work with me because I had an attachment disorder.
I’ve worked through my attachment disorder, I’m a mostly functional, empathetic, intelligent human being with a MENSA IQ. I’m a successful writer. I’m a successful mother.
And I can sit up on my own for however long I want to.
Christmas was her favorite holiday, at least it was until she lost all of her family. Then, not so much. Then it was more about melancholy and memories of years past.
But this year, when I first started missing her, I started getting out the Christmas decorations. Because she loved them. Because they made me feel close to her. Someone said that for every Christmas decoration out before Thanksgiving, a baby reindeer dies. Well, let’s just say at my house, reindeer might be an endangered species.
And I don’t care. Decorating for Christmas and feeling the Christmas spirit in my bones and in my heart isn’t about what other people think about it. It’s about me. It’s about her. It’s about the memories that bind us together, the rituals that commit these times past to the forever pages in our minds. It’s about getting a few more minutes to spend with my mother.
Not the woman who was there in her skin when she got sick, paranoid and delusional, but the one I know was there underneath trying to get out. The one who saw that little girl who needed her, held her in her arms and said, “yeah, we want this one.”
I’m determined this is going to be a good Christmas for my girls. We’re about to go shopping for our tree. They wanted to do it today because it’s my mom’s birthday. It’s going to be a new tradition that today is the day we buy the tree, today is the day that we remember, and today is the day we keep her with us always.
Thanks so much for reading and sharing this day with me. I hope the Christmas season brings you whatever you need most this year.
Saranna DeWylde has always been fascinated by things better left in the dark. She wrote her first story after watching The Exorcist at a slumber party. Since then, she’s published horror, romance and narrative nonfiction. Like all writers, Saranna has held a variety of jobs, from operations supervisor for an airline, to an assistant for a call girl, to a corrections officer. But like Hemingway said, “Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it.” So she traded in her cuffs for a full-time keyboard. She loves to hear from her readers.