I don’t have many holiday rituals. In high school, Mom and I had a tradition called Burning Santa’s Head, which is exactly what it sounds like: We’d buy a cheap tacky Santa candle at MacFrugals and light it on Christmas Eve. Because of the shoddy craftsmanship, Santa’s face would pucker and melt in a disturbing way, and we found this hilarious. Also at MacFrugals, we picked up a cut-rate CD of Christmas carols performed by people who could barely sing, and it included an a cappella version of a song called “Mary’s Boy Child” in which it sounds very much like the singers are saying “Mary’s Pork Chop.” We generally put this song on repeat and turned it up very loud.
At my high school boyfriend’s house, they had a tradition of playing board games and doing a gift exchange with all of the cousins. At my best friend’s house, they made popcorn balls and lebkuchen while drinking cider. I wanted wholesome family traditions like that, but instead every Christmas Eve, you’d find Mom and me in our pajamas dancing around like lunatics screaming along to “Mary’s Pork Chop” and checking the progress on Santa’s melting face.
Now as an adult, I appreciate the zaniness of my upbringing, but I don’t feel particularly strongly about continuing those traditions for Ruby.
The only real holiday tradition I have these days is the annual letter to my perinatologist. Every Thanksgiving, I write him to tell him how thankful I am for Ruby.
The whole thing is really just a boring episode of Mystery Diagnosis: To sum it up, I had a bunch of weird symptoms that all turned out to be related to a genetic mutation that made my blood prone to clotting during pregnancy. A bunch of doctors before my perinatologist had diagnosed me with everything from anxiety to MS to Lyme disease. I’d had MRIs and bloodwork. I’d had B12 injections. Finally, Dr. Grant told me I had –– tada! –– compound heterozygous methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. I was diagnosed too late to save my first pregnancy, which ended at 14 weeks due to a clot in the umbilical cord, but thanks to Dr. Grant, I started heparin injections immediately with Ruby and was monitored incredibly closely.
While donating blood a couple of years ago, I was explaining why I’d taken heparin to the woman doing my health questionnaire, and her breath caught in her throat. “My daughter-in-law had that,” she told me quietly. “She lost 12 babies before they diagnosed her, one at 34 weeks along. She just had a healthy baby boy after doing those shots. You’re lucky you got diagnosed so quickly.”
The idea that Ruby could’ve been just another miscarriage, the idea of enduring the nightmare of that other woman –– it was a total “there but for the grace of God (and Dr. Grant)” moment.
And so at Thanksgiving that year, I wrote him a thank you note and sent him a picture of Ruby. I did the same thing the year after that and then the year after that, so now I guess it’s a tradition.
I remember those early days of pregnancy, those days I thought any false move might cause me to miscarry. I remember thinking Ruby was so fragile, her life so tenuous. And then I see her now, a rough-and-tumble almost-4-year-old with skinned knees and messy blonde curls who has never met a stranger. It’s hard to imagine this child –– this almost-frighteningly brave little girl with enough personality for at least two more kids –– as fragile, but she was, and he helped keep her safe on the inside until she could take the world by storm on the outside.
So my holiday tradition, I guess, is gratitude, something I am glad to pass along to Ruby. I hope she always understands both how precious she is to me and how nice it is to say thank you. But I still might go and buy a Santa candle and light his head on fire come Christmas Eve.
What are your holiday traditions? What are you grateful for?