Christmas, unboxed

by Julie Frayn on December 14, 2013 in  Bric-a-brac

This year was filled with ominous diagnoses of terminal illness for our family. Not the kind of presents you want for Christmas.

More cancer for my systir. Well, more of the same cancer, back with a vengeance. More chemo, more surgery on the horizon. Oh, how festive.

Grandma's and Grandpa's ornament

Grandma's and Grandpa's ornament

And for Mom? Alzheimer’s. I knew it, could see it. But hearing it was hard. Especially for Mom. Denial and anger, frustration and loss of control of her world. No more driving. May as well nail her coffin shut. Maybe when she does pass, we’ll bury her in her beloved truck. Except she wants to be cremated. Maybe leave her ashes under the seat where she can be a backseat urn-driver and tell any who dare to get behind her wheel that they are following too close, stopping too fast, not doing it right. She’d love that.

All these what-ifs and maybes about the future, or potential lack thereof, has changed how we are doing Christmas.

We are unboxing it.

We unboxed the tree mid-November. Maybe I’ll leave it up past New Year’s Eve. That’s about four or five weeks longer than I usually allow it to take up space on my hardwood floor. And I never let the New Year begin with the old tree. Even though it’s the same tree every year. The fake kind. Pre-lit. But still…

peekaboo ex-Santa bulb that is now my favourite ornament

peekaboo ex-Santa bulb that is now my favourite ornament

We decorated it one night when Mom, my systir and my nephew were over. Mom put up the antique ornaments that had belonged to her parents, placing each with painstaking care and love. Each one she hung came with a little story of our Grandma and Grandpa. My systir took pictures. We had some Chinese food, some wine and beer. It was a lovely evening.

We aren’t wrapping many presents. We’re just giving them. Now. No waiting. What are we waiting for? There may be too few tomorrows to enjoy the gift.

Best bottle opener ever

Best bottle opener ever

So my nephew has his new shoes and new monitor. My systir is wrapped in her cozy new sweater and comfy stretch pants. Mom will get her sweater this week when I find some thick warm socks to go with it (since she likes to sweep snow in just her stocking feet).

And my nephew got us a fabulous bottle opener. He knows how we love our beer. It’s already magnetized to the fridge, its little cup to catch bottle tops almost full. Already. Don’t judge.

yeah, we like our beer...

yeah, we like our beer...

Mom and my systir are giving us the only thing we want or need. Time. You can’t even PUT that into a box.

Not only is Christmas unboxed, but it is uncorked, uncapped. Hell, it’s unChristmas.

My favourite kind.


{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Susie Clevenger December 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

I have tears from reading this. My mother had Alzheimer’s and I so understand how you feel. I wish I could wrap my heart around your sister. I love your unChristmas.


Julie Frayn December 15, 2013 at 7:33 am

Thanks, Susie. Cancer and Alzheimer’s touch so many families. Seems for us that cancer has been part of our Christmas the past five years. I’d like to uninvite it. But it just won’t leave.

Mitch December 14, 2013 at 11:26 am

Happy unChristmas to all of you. May you make some memories to cherish forever. I think you would like the Christmas present I got for Jerry – a box full of different beers from around the world, including one expensive bottle brewed by monks from a French monastery. I’m going to help him drink that one. Oh. The chocolate bunny one too! ♡♥


Julie Frayn December 15, 2013 at 7:34 am

I love the beer gift. If he reads my blog you just spoiled the surprise! Unless you are unboxing too. :) xo

Tracy James Jones December 14, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Happy unChristmas, Sweetie. Going through a bit of that myself, but holding on. Take care. Big hugs and much love to you and your family.


Julie Frayn December 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

Much love to you too, Tracy. I do wish we were closer and could grab a coffee or tea sometime. Maybe you need to join Amber and/or Scott for a visit north next year 😀

Tracy James Jones December 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Happy early holidays, Sweetie. Going through a bit of that myself, but holding on. Take care. Big hugs and much love to you and your family.


JoAnne Simson December 14, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Julie, Thanks for this. I always leave my tree (artificial) up until Valentine’s Day! I love to sit in the dark and look at the lights in the dark winter nights. It’s so soothing, almost magical.


Julie Frayn December 15, 2013 at 7:37 am

It is soothing, I agree. Then I get antsy to get it down. After I separated, the first year my babies spent Christmas away from me, I took the tree down on Christmas day out of spite. They were gone from Christmas eve until the 28th. They were upset with me (that was 11 years ago), but now they just laugh at my Scroogy tree attitude.

Debra Smith December 16, 2013 at 9:58 am

Well spoken words.
Time is such a valuable commodity. One we so easily take for granted until something like this happens. I was blessed with six very special, very up-close and personal years with my dad before he died with Alzheimers. I wish I’d had more of that with my husband…there was too little time before cancer took him. Three weeks from diagnosis to death. After the shock wore off there was no time to create any cherished moments.
As for the Christmas tree (mine is fake also, but just a little 3′ tree, residing atop a table in the corner of the living room), I found that I left it up longer and longer each year, allowing the lights to stay lit all night–it is calming, reassuring…my own little personal rainbow (like a hug from God) to the point that now, the tree never gets put away. When I need it, I turn the lights on and soak up the little display. Yup.
Cherish those moments, Julie. May each moment you spend with them be filled to overflowing with cherished memories for you to draw upon for a lifetime.
Praying for you all. <3


Julie Frayn December 19, 2013 at 6:32 am

Hi Debra, I am so sorry about both your dad and your husband. I’m not sure which is worse, the sudden loss, or the long, drawn-out illness. Either way, it is heart-wrenching. Good for you on the tree. Thank you for your prayers. We aren’t a praying family but accept any and all goodwill and positive thoughts. I appreciate it very much.

Sean P. Farley December 20, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Julie, I’m ashamed that I haven’t been keeping up on the blogs of you and our blog buddies (you know the ones). Coming here and reading this passage…well, it was uncomfortable. In a good way. I’m bitching in my head about how the grocery store overcharged me by a few dollars (my own mistake, actually), and there are Bigger Things going on. It puts my life in perspective. Thank you for this post.


Julie Frayn December 21, 2013 at 10:05 am

Shelve the shame Sean. (My, that’s a tongue twister!). Life is busy for all, and it’s often hard to do half of what needs to be done, let alone adding what we want on top of it. Glad you came to visit. Sorry it was uncomfortable :)

Sheila Pierson December 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Hi Julie. You know how much I admire you. One of the things that I love about both you and your sister (systir) is that you both have a way of saying things that are usually too hard for the rest of us to even process. Isn’t that why we write, though? We take all this shit inside of us and we let it out on paper, somehow. You do it extremely well. Much love to your family!


Julie Frayn December 21, 2013 at 10:07 am

Thank you Sheila. I hope I can live up to the admiration. Such a kind thing to say :). That is exactly why I write. It helps me cope. Something Carolyn and I have always done. It used to be private, journals, letters that are never sent (Carolyn is especially good at those). Now it is a little more public. But I think everyone has struggles, so it’s good to let the world know they aren’t alone in them. Love back, and Merry UnChristmas :)

Carolyn December 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

Yes, that’s why we write. :) Like Julie says, it is what we have always done. I’m wondering if I should dump everything I’ve written or leave it for Julie and the kids. Ummm. Much love to you Sheila…

Holly December 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

Carolyn, do NOT dump what you have written. Not ever. Those are some of the most important things you could leave behind. <3

Julie Frayn December 23, 2013 at 8:59 am

I agree with Holly. Why would you dump it?

Amber Jerome~Norrgard December 20, 2013 at 10:39 pm

Facing the same battles myself. Love you Julie, and you’re in my thoughts.


Julie Frayn December 21, 2013 at 10:08 am

Love you too, sweetheart. Keeping you in my thoughts as well. ♥

Carolyn Frayn December 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

Time… what a wonderful word. It was the best of evenings… here’s to as many more as we can muster together. I love you darling systir.

♥ ♥ ♥

PS: That was so funny… Mom would love that, to be a backseat urn driver… when I am driving. I don’t think she tells anyone else how to drive? I hope not. :)


Julie Frayn December 23, 2013 at 9:00 am

Apparently she makes those gasping noises when baby girl drives her places too. Not with me. Weird… and yay for me! Much less stressful. I love you too. We’ll toast to many more Christmases to come.

Nancy's Point December 23, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Hi Julie,
What a wonderfully poignant and beautifully written post. Thank you.


Julie Frayn December 24, 2013 at 7:50 am

Thank you, Nancy. I wish you the Merriest Christmas.

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