What was and what is
When I was a teenager, I would stay up late on Christmas Eve, an ear on the quiet in the house and a mug of hot chocolate in my hand, watching whatever TV specials were available. Christmas Day was for family, but Christmas Eve was mine alone, a day of peace and quiet and reading.
Christmas Eve is a jazz day for me, the day that I dig out my Cassandra Wilson and Diana Krall and soak myself in the quieter side of life. Christmas Day is for family and yelling and presents and food and laughter; Christmas Eve belongs to me.
We mark this day as special; unlike our random June twenty-eighths, for instance, we can usually think back and remember exactly what we did on this day in years past. We mark the passage of our years by the changes in our lives on our holidays, the presence or absence of those we care about. Our specific memories of this day on years past serve to bring a loved one's absence into sharper, more painful relief.
In the end, most of us still have it right: when we think of this holiday we think not of the gifts, but the people we shared those gifts with. Lose someone you care about, and you will think about them during the holiday season for the rest of your life.
The weight of memory can be difficult to bear, so difficult that sometimes we lose track of how precious the people still in our lives are to us. Those of us who mourn for what was once, without celebrating the now, tend to forget that as of next year, this day falls into the category of "what was."
On this holiday, celebrate what is. By all means, remember those you have lost, but celebrate those who are still in your life.
Tonight, I may or may not have the mug of hot chocolate, since I won't be at home, but you'll be in my thoughts.