“I’ve never built a gingerbread house” I said, sheepishly, as the walls stuck awkwardly together and the roof continued to slide out-of-place. The finished product represented less a house, and more a dilapidated shack. But, the kids were happy. I was happy, too.
I’d never built a home before, either.
When my wife and I moved into this place almost two years ago, it became the first place in my life that felt like home. I bought the things you buy for a home. Throw pillows. Canvas prints with kitsch sayings. Drapes. I bought drapes! Awkwardly, I decorated the house one room at a time with the forever things. The items I always window shopped in other people’s homes. The sort of things people have on end tables and shelves for no other reason than because they live there. The stuff that says, “This isn’t just a house, it’s a home.”
I bought all sorts of different things for each room. Awkwardly I mashed styles together in a way that wicked give an interior designer a migraine. But, as I filled my house with ornate clocks and little figurines, I built a home.
Writing about the holidays is hard. Not because it sends me spiraling into a sadness. I worry about overdramatizing them. I struggle past the first wave of memories that hit me. I want to dredge through everything coming to mind and pull the nostalgic goodness. Push past the explosive fights, trying to remember decorating the tree. I want to remember the moments of contentment where I momentarily wasn’t feeling out-of-place or lacking.
I don’t remember there being much in the form of holiday traditions as I grew up. Sitting around together building a gingerbread house definitely wasn’t one of them. Maybe there were years we decorated the tree, I don’t know, but nothing stands out. Quite a few holidays were spent traveling. We gathered ourselves around trees in other people’s homes, and I window shopped family traditions I could someday celebrate in my own right.
I am sure there were smiles, and laughter, followed by laying my head gently down on fresh pillows. I know they exist, because I lived in those moments a lifetime ago. But as I recollect them, I struggle.
It’s hard. I am left disassociated and confused. There isn’t a warmth building from the hearth of my heart. Not even a little spark.
The idea I may be too fractured to pull happiness from these moments scares me.
I’m scared I will swirl into the grey of depression all the while furiously trying to paint the past with a shade of love and laughter.
Racing frantically down the corridors of my mind looking for a memory to grip tightly only exasperate me more. I pour over the pain, looking for a moment. A hug. A sense of security to wash over me. one God damned moment in time where feeling safe intersected with holiday cheer, and maybe hot chocolate.
But, I come up short. And I know why.
I’ve spent every year over-analyzing happy moments into the dirt to the point if love was there, I wouldn’t know because I trampled it into the ground.
In a desperate attempt to make myself whole, I’ve broken the memories through continued dissection. I’ve picked them apart, until they are lacking of any emotion; happy or sad. I am left dissatisfied and unsure.
I have mixed the colors together. Until nothing is left but an ugly mess of uncertainty.
But, I built my first gingerbread house tonight. The smiles make me want to repeat it every day until the happiness turns to eye rolls and sighs. The feeling torches my insides, feeling me with more warmth than the coffee I sip.
The excitement tonight is as genuine and tangible as the terrible looking gingerbread house on the kitchen counter reminding me not to dwell. Not to continuously mix the colors.
It reminds me I can’t find happiness in the past. Only in the now. Only in these traditions I build now. In this family I have.
Only in our sheepishly built little gingerbread home.