Surviving the Holidays

By Darby Pritz

I love the Holidays.

Fall and Winter are my two favorite seasons, consecutively. However, in Florida, there are only two seasons. The first contains slightly fall-ish temperatures mixed with random 90 degree days and a few chill-you-to-the-bone damp, cold mornings. The second, beginning with a mass exodus of all the elderly “snowbirds” (please take me with you), is just one long, hot mess with hurricanes and a daily torrential shower around 3:00. I basically live in the rainforest.

The first Christmas Daniel and I were married, my family visited and we saw manatee on the Weeki Wachee River. It was pretty exciting, I’ll admit.

This is probably the exact opposite of Oklahoma (my homeland), whose seasons are both fickle and extreme. I have this sick obsession with dreary skies and ice storms. Maybe because it’s wedged in the middle of a beautiful progression from crisp fall days full of colorful trees to the holidays and always-exciting snow days. And then when you think you can’t handle another day of the bitter cold.. BAM. Wildflowers, bumblebees, and 60 degree weather. It’s bliss. (Please don’t ask me how i feel about summer, there’s a reason I neglected to include it in my seasonal fantasy).

Freeman's first snow
Freeman’s first snow

So I have a lot of adjusting to do.

But not just because of the weather.
I know this isn’t my first holiday season in Florida, but this year it seems more permanent. We are now settled into our house (still renovating, but at least we feel settled), have two kids, and the craziness of running a business has become ordinary. Things are still crazy at the shop around this time of year, and we still feel like we’re barely keeping up, but this is our third Christmas as The Coffee Barn and as a married couple (and the second year with Mountaineer Coffee up and running). So the madness feels normal.

We’ve found that the holidays are so much more fun with kids. We even sat down and talked about the different traditions each of our families had over the years and agreed on which ones we thought would be fun or meaningful to continue with our own kids. We finally feel like our own family. It is an exciting and distracting feeling. Distracting from the fact that this is the first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, first New Year…. First everything without my brother.

You're a goof, Joel. I miss your shenanigans.
You’re a goof, Joel. I miss your shenanigans.

I have mixed emotions about how I’ve handled the holidays so far.
On one hand I’m relieved to have the distraction of adorable babies experiencing all this wonder and excitement, and the busy but happy task of creating a memorable experience for them while helping Daniel keep things running smoothly at the shop amid all the chaos.

But on the other hand, the hand I like to ignore, there is so much guilt.
Guilt because the rest of my family doesn’t get to be 1000 miles away from the hurt. Sure, they’re distracted by my babies. But they have to figure out what their traditions are going to be for different reasons. Are they going to continue celebrating the way we always have? Or are they going to try something totally different. Because, without Joel, things are obviously different.


And that’s another level of guilt.
Is it ok that I’m trying to make Christmas and all the other holidays a happy time and separate from the painful thoughts of what they would be like if he was still here? Or the scariest thought of all: would it even change anything if he were still here? That hurts. What if I started moving on a long time ago? There’s a flood of guilt and pain and remorse following that thought. I’m not ready for thoughts like those. But they happen anyway. It’s one of the many thoughts that I have to put away to work through later. And, of course, there’s guilt accompanying sadness as well. It’s not what he would want. He’s free of pain and suffering now. And it’s not fair to the wonderful people around me who are trying to be sensitive while enjoying their holiday traditions.

The older I get, the more I realize that these special times have so many layers. When we’re young it’s pure excitement and there’s rarely a cause for complex emotion. Happiness is good. Anger is bad. But the pain in our lives gives a bitter edge to joy. “Am I allowed to feel true happiness about this?”. However, it can also make us cling to joy as it’s made all the more sweet when compared with pain and sadness. We desperately need these happy times to give us hope. See? Complex. It’s very inconvenient for someone like me who has a very loose grip on their emotions. Those stupid Folger’s commercials get me SO BAD. But there’s beauty in things we don’t understand. They make us look outside ourselves. And when we know who holds the answers, we find comfort every single time.

So I’ll be adjusting to new weather, new babies, new traditions, and new (very complex) emotions this Christmas. If you have any tips for managing any of these, or if you have any weird traditions in your family, please share. You know I love the weirdness.

Beth pritz says

Sardines in the Christmas stockings!
Beautifully written and Expressed Darby. I know this is a healing blessing for so many. Thank you for sharing.
Love Mom P

Annette Blackwell says

I’d love to know what your new Christmas traditions will be. We are changing our gift giving this year. Maybe that will make it a little easier. Love you and your precious family so much. Nana

Lynna Blackwell says

I’m glad you have those 2 beautiful distractions, Darby! It will be fun to make new Christmas memories with them. I love the photo you posted of you and Joel making funny faces with the glassware at my table one happy Christmas not so many years ago (but seems like it was in another lifetime now).
Someday when you can be alone for a little while and just need to release the sadness in a flood of tears again, go to my Facebook page and click on the link to a song I just found today, called “It’s a different kind of Christmas this year.”
Sometimes it’s okay to let the dam break then start over–pushing the tears back again for awhile. Sometimes the tears just surprise me…but as they say, that’s the price of love.
I love you, sweet granddaughter! GJ

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