I love Christmas.
It is my absolute favorite holiday. I would give up my birthday in May if it meant that we could have Christmas twice a year. It’s not even about the gifts. It’s about the Christmas spirit. The environment that just about anything is possible, if you just believe in it. I love the green and the red and the snow and the bells. I love ugly Christmas sweaters and cars with antlers on them. I love watching Peanuts and listen to Linus tell us about the true meaning of Christmas. I love reading about the birth of Jesus and of the wise men. I love it. I love all of it.
However, this Christmas season is draped with just a bit of sadness. Thinking about Christmas leaves me feeling empty inside.
Usually, this is about the time my husband and I start listening to Christmas music. Yes, we really are Christmas nuts. It’s not even October and we’re singing Jingle Bells and Here Comes Santa Clause.
But the other night, on the way home from picking my husband up form work, I burst into tears. We got through about two songs before I just couldn’t take it anymore. I’m pretty sure it was ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You.’ It’s a pretty simple song, and it’s generally about how you want someone far away close to you for the holidays. It’s about finding that special someone and not wanting to let go. Normally I belt it out with all the gushy emotion I can manage. I make googly eyes at my husband and profess my love to him through this song. But this time, it wasn’t romantic for me. This time, it just felt heavy. It felt like someone draped a thick, wool blanket over my head. With every verse, on went another blanket. Then it just got too stuffy to breathe and I couldn’t hold it back anymore. The tears started rolling and I just couldn’t get them to stop.
While I am here, wearing clean clothes, my son with a full belly, in a car we take for granted, kids are alone. My kids are alone. But not just my kids, thousands of kids. Kids are rotting away in cribs – in their own personal cells. This is a place where babies learn that crying is useless. This a place where kids become content just lying there.
I get so frustrated with Axel sometimes. He has so much energy. I feel like he can go and go and go. He’s always wanting to run around playing tag, scream at the top of his lungs, or have me half-read about fifty books. Sometimes I just wish that he would go and play by himself quietly. And then I got a video of my sweet Roman yesterday. It wasn’t much; not even a minute long. But it was what my heart was longing for. I got to see him smile. But that’s it. He was so content. He was laying there, with the blanket pulled up under his arm pits, just stroking his arm. He was smiling at the camera while someone talked to him. He didn’t move. He didn’t try to get up and interact. He just laid there.
Roman is older than Axel – by how much, I’m not sure. Axel outgrew his crib over a year ago. It just wasn’t safe. He would shake it, try to climb out of it, pull toys into it. He loosened the side of the darn thing. He was chewing on the top and getting splinters in his mouth. So we made it a little day bed. But Roman – Roman had just accepted that none of that would’ve worked. Thank God he is taken care of where he is at. I know in some places, possibly even his orphanage, kids who are too rambunctious, kids who act too much like kids, are sedated. They’re drugged to the point that they just lie still because there either aren’t enough people to care for them, or no one has a desire to care for them.
It was like Roman had accepted his fate – which was to lie there until he was given the privilege of playing on some of the equipment his orphanage was blessed with. But I know it can’t be often. I’ve seen in other videos that the back of his head is still flat. While he is highly favored where he is at, it still doesn’t mean that he gets the attention a child should get. Axel rolls all over the place to get comfortable. Roman just stays in one place – that flat spot on the back of his head proves it.
This isn’t right.
Roman should be home, in my arms, dancing to Jingle Bell Rock. He should be wearing flannel shirts and getting Christmas pictures taken. He should be given the chance to throw snow at his daddy. He should be eating Christmas cookies and getting into the flour. He should be getting spoiled with clothes and toys. He should be trashing the playroom with his brother. Axel should be teaching him how to be nice to our cat. He should get to feel the rain mist his face on an early morning walk with his family.
He should be watching Polar Express over and over again, drinking hot chocolate and begging for candy canes. He should be finger painting and making Christmas ornaments. He should be getting into Mommy’s craft supplies and dumping glitter everywhere.
He should be experiencing Christmas. He should be experiencing life.
Instead, he’s lying there, content, not moving. Not crying. Not making a fuss. It wouldn’t make a difference even if he did.
This Christmas, I was hoping my arms would be full. Axel keeps asking when Roman is going to come play with him. Whenever I pack his old clothes away, he says, “For Moman?” (We’re working on his R’s.) Instead, this Christmas just feels empty. There’s just too much room in my lap, in my arms, in my bed, in my heart. And no amount of Christmas music and cookies and movies will ever be able to fill it.
But I swear this is the last Christmas he’ll ever spend alone. This will be the last Christmas without a picture of him in a fancy Christmas suit. This will be the last Christmas Roman will be without our last name.
I will make sure of it.