Mutant-sized chickens, a mobile ninja obstacle course and the local port-a-potty company’s truck were just a few of the wonderfully quirky entries that we saw in our small town’s Christmas parade on Sunday. With two children receiving out-of-home care and some deeply saddening news, we made the decision to opt out of a favorite tradition and ended up with some great new memories.
TW: Grief and Loss
It was a very short-notice decision. Upon leaving the parking lot after church, my wife and I read the room (each other) and realized we didn’t have enough emotional gas in the tank to participate in a favorite family tradition just a few hours later. However, wanting to still enjoy the festivities, we landed on an alternative that would allow us to celebrate the season, but without adding to our feeling of loss.
I admit that I greatly underestimated the popularity of our small town Christmas parade. We should have left home earlier to get better parking. After circling a bit amazed at the number of folks who had come out as well, we parked and hiked downtown. My wife grabbed a prime spot at the intersection in front of the fire station and got ready for the show. Toddler loved every second, especially the candy that was doled out liberally from every passing vehicle.
Small town Christmas parades are a wonderful crossroads of civic pride, holiday cheer and commercial advertisement. The aforementioned potty truck and later a dumpster truck were personal highlights. I loved seeing the floats bedecked with WWII vets and the rousing applause given by all when they passed. And, of course, there’s nothing like the town’s jolly ol’ St. Nick astride a plastic reindeer to cap off the festivities.
To be honest, I was relieved when my wife spoke up in the car leaving church. As much as I love our normal Christmastime tradition, I couldn’t get excited about it. Dread wouldn’t be too strong of a word. So many memories wrapped up with all of our children singing and smiling celebrating Jesus’ birth that a deep sadness settled into my soul. My wife said, “I want to ask something, but I’ll go if you’ve got your heart set on it.” I immediately knew we were on the same page. We both breathed the deepest sigh of relief in months.
Even though our children are near and speak to them frequently, they are not here and we’re smiling, but we’re also working through that loss. One will visit at Christmas, one will not. Certainly, life moves on around us and we flow along fine most days. But, there’s no sense in scraping the dregs of a parent’s empty heart by unnecessarily trying to meet some preconceived expectation in our minds.
In other words: while traditions are important, they’re not required. If you’re experiencing grief and loss this season, it’s ok to press pause on something this season. It’s ok to do as we did and swap out something new for something you hold very dear. We did so knowing that God-willing, we’ll be able to more fully-participate as a family next year and that it will be even more meaningful.
And, maybe in this dry season, we’ve laid the foundation for a new tradition. (So long as they’re not scheduled at the same time). After all, what on earth could top 10-foot tall sumo-Chickens on the fast food float, a rolling ninja course float and yes, our friends at the local port-a-potty company showing off their (I hope) cleanest tank truck and love for our community.