Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bah Humbug!

Christmas has come and gone and the new year looms on the horizon. I dutifully trotted out the decorations and made the house look festive. I spent an obscene amount of time handcrafting holiday cards to send to friends and family. I even dug up my old collection of Christmas music (vinyl records, not CDs) and played them ad nauseum. I did all this in the hope of stoking the fires of Christmas past because, to be brutally honest, Christmas-y is the last thing I've been feeling. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one not in the holiday mood. Seems everyone in my household was just going through the motions, hoping for something to jumpstart them and put them in the right spirit...a sort of Christmas defibrillation. It didn't happen.

I'm not sure what everyone else's excuse for the apathy was but I know one of my reasons. I received a call several weeks ago from my aunt to tell me that she and my uncle were unexpectedly moving to Florida to live near their son. Under normal circumstances this would not be such a big deal but the circumstances here are a bit different. They're not leaving because this is a choice they wanted to make...they're leaving because they can no longer afford to live in Brooklyn. The cost of living here has escalated to the point that they can no longer survive on their fixed incomes. They were renters, subject to the whims of their landlord and the real estate market. A rent increase scheduled to take effect at the beginning of January was the straw that broke their financial back.

To complicate matters, my uncle has recently succumbed to a debilitating bout of depression that has caused him to withdraw from any sort of normal social contact. He has been in this state for seven months with no sign of improvement. Now he must relocate in the middle of his treatment and essentially start all over again when he arrives in Florida. This alone will set his progress back. The fact that he doesn't want to move makes him even more depressed.

For my part, I have been living a dual existence. Outwardly I appear to be conducting myself as usual but inwardly I have been extremely sad about this whole state of affairs. In my alone time I have cried bitterly, bemoaning the loss of my beloved family members. We have never been more than a short car ride away from one another. Now they'll be moving to Florida which, for me, may as well be the Far East.

On January 2 they will be leaving the cold New York winter behind for the warmth of Florida, miles away from us. The day before, on January 1, I will be hosting an New Year's Day brunch in my home and have invited all of the clan to help greet the new year and bid bon voyage to our loved ones. I imagine this gathering will be crowded, loud, noisy and run the gamut of emotions from great joy to great sorrow. I am happy at the prospect of seeing everyone together at an event that is neither a wedding nor a funeral yet I am sad that this may be the last holiday we will spend near my aunt and uncle. But the dice have been cast and events have been set into motion. There is nothing more to do but go with the flow.

I am not happy.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
- Gitana

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Milestone Reached...

On Saturday, November 29th, we celebrated my youngest daughter's sixteenth birthday. It was a milestone on several fronts. The most obvious one is that of my daughter having reached that magic age where the everything begins to open up before her and her womanhood now becomes a focal point for the world at large. Then there is the fact that she reached that magic age relatively unscathed by the slings and arrows of childhood and early adolescence. By that I mean no fights at school, no squabbles at summer camp (altercations with her siblings don't count), no pregnancies, drugs or alcohol, no gang activity, etc. Not for one moment do I take for granted the fact that although my kids give me grief and back talk sometimes, they are great kids. When I think of the parents wondering where their children are, what they are doing and who they are doing it with, I thank God every day for the kids I have.

The most important milestone in my book is that my empty nest countdown has begun. In the not-so-distant future I can look forward to not having progeny underfoot, to not having to work my schedule around the needs of my children, to doing first and foremost for myself. True, there are still quite a few years before my children will be totally on their own, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel that signals freedom from excessive cell phone charges, sibling squabbles and piles of laundry. Oh, I don't expect that any of that will come to a stop...just that it will be taking place at their place, not mine.

Wanting my children out of my house is not to say that I want them out of my life. I just recognize that as long as they hang around, I will revert to our established modes of behavior, i.e., "I'm the mommy, you're the child and you'll do as you're told as long as you're in my house", and they will understandably resent it. They need autonomy. They need their own space. They need to live in their own squalor to understand the value of a clean home and fresh laundry. They need to work, pay bills, make mistakes and learn to be adults. They need to fly without a net into that scary wild blue yonder.

Yep, my baby is sixteen and I'm going to savor these last years before my kids are gone. The countdown has begun.

Ballo ergo sum,
Always and all ways,
-Gitana, the Creative Diva