12/23/13. Busy Days

Hi Everyone,

Whew….this is the week when every year I speed through 3 cities and 2 countries in the space of a few days, in order to get home for Christmas with my children. In theory, Christmas is a happy time of year, although sometimes we get so buried in the details of it, that we forget the bigger picture, the meaning of the holidays (if you believe in those meanings), and forget to be grateful for what we do have, rather than regretful or even resentful of what we don’t. I am always grateful to get home. The weather can be dicey in both Paris and New York in December, and I always worry about getting snowed in, in either city, and missing the holiday with my family entirely. And being too busy too much of the time, and usually working til the last minute, I worry that I might get sick, catch a flu and be unable to fly. And although I flirted with some kind of bug before I came home, nothing much came of it, so I was able to fly. I stop in New York on the way home for Christmas, to celebrate the birthday of one of my daughters who was born a week before Christmas. So I was happy to spend a day with her in New York on the way home, which is always a treat for me. And it was freezing in New York.

So laden like a beast of burden, with a suitcase full of gifts (which broke and exploded at the airport, but fortunately nothing got lost, but I had to replace the suitcase in New York), and my two dogs in their traveling bags, I boarded the plane in Paris, and whipped through New York, and got home in time for Christmas, and everything I need to do before. I pride myself on being a very organized person, and my whole family makes fun of me because I start Christmas shopping in August, but I have a lot of kids and people to buy presents for, so I like to get an early start, and hate the last minute rush. But no matter how organized I am, there are always people I have forgotten, things that don’t arrive, last minute requests from my kids, so I end up rushing as much as anyone else.

And although in many ways I am blessed, and have many children, and am grateful not to spend the holidays alone, as many do, even that is not always as easy as it appears. Important holidays are often as much about the people who are not there, as about those who are. It has been many years now since my son Nick died, and to some extent I have adjusted to it. But no matter how philosophical you try to be, it remains a hole in your heart when you lose a child, or someone you love that much. My ex husband (with whom I remained very close), the father of my children, passed away two years ago, and we feel his absence sorely too. I was standing at the Paris airport, juggling the dogs, my purse, a tote bag, my briefcase, waiting for the flight, when suddenly I was so overwhelmed by missing my son that I could hardly breathe. It was as though I had lost him yesterday. I could easily remember all his sweetness, his funny antics, how much he loved Christmas, how much we loved each other, how loving his hugs were, and I felt as though the bottom had fallen out of my world, again. I could barely speak I was so overwhelmed with grief when I got on the plane. In many ways, particularly on holidays, that is a wound that never fully heals, and suddenly when you least expect it, you are broadsided by the loss again. And in today’s complicated world, where families are broken up into different cities, suddenly it’s not as easy to get together as it once was. My three older now married children have their own lives, homes, families, in laws, and don’t spend Christmas with us anymore. And although I try to be reasonable about it, that makes me sad too. It seems only yesterday when all 9 children were around our table, laughter and happiness were the order of the day, and it seemed as though life would be simple and happy forever, which we all know is never the case. And holidays put a lot of stress on all of us. Arguments and disappointments seem to come to a head then, when time is short and nerves are frayed. Disagreements are remembered, and instead of peace and joy, dissent can become the order of the day. It’s so easy to remember how happy things used to be, and to be acutely aware of how different they are now. And the addition of in laws can be a challenge in some families, suddenly we are not just surrounded by our children but there are strangers with different points of view in our midst, and we all get pulled many ways. And during the holidays we are even challenged sometimes by finding ourselves nose to nose with relatives we don’t get along with or like, and arguments are best avoided at the holiday table, and you have to bite your tongue. I don’t mean to harp on the downside of the holidays, but it’s comforting in a way to admit to it, because it’s something we all deal with. Life changes, people change, circumstances change and our happiest holiday memories may be different than the reality we live today. I think it happens to us all. And no matter how beautiful the table looks, how great the presents are, or how many adult children are at my table (more than most), on Christmas eve I will still feel the absence of my son, and his father, we will all feel it, whether we put it into words or not.

I got home last night, after 2 long flights, and the quick stop in New York. The dogs and I survived the flight. I unpacked when I got home. I ran around like a maniac all day today, and will all weekend, with final preparations and even last minute shopping. I gave a Santa lunch for my grandchildren today, which was fun. They’re very young, and only two out of five were able to come, but I was grateful to have them there. My own children who live in other cities are coming home today, and I am giving a Christmas party tonight for friends I often don’t see all year long, since I’m not in California full time anymore. There is a bittersweet feeling to the holidays, which are as much about our history as the present day.

I have so much to be grateful for, and I am, and I often share with you how important gratitude is in our lives. But our memories are tender and nostalgic and often bittersweet. I remember the skating parties we gave for our children, our friends and their children, when my children were younger, and how much fun we had. I remember how wonderful it was when the kids all still lived at home, when we didn’t have to plan visits to other cities to see each other, when work didn’t rule our lives quite as much. I remember baking with the kids for their teachers and our friends. We made brownies for everyone….it was all so easy and so happy, and life looked like a Christmas card. But today is sweet too. And times change. It’s a challenge to adjust to the changes, and as a wise friend of mine says “That was then. This is now.” Now is always different in all our lives. My ‘work’ this Christmas is to remember how lucky we are to have now, and the blessings that we do. And even if life is stressful, we no longer live in the same city, if the brownie tins we filled are long forgotten, and the skating parties are only a memory, and not all of us are together on holidays anymore, and even if at time tensions mount…..we still have much to be grateful for. I wonder sometimes what my son Nick would be like if he were still alive today, he would probably be busy, with his life and career, probably live in another city, and rush home for a few days, as we all do now. We all grew up, and so did I. But I am grateful for the blessings of the Christmas we do have, as well as the Christmases we used to have. How sweet and beautiful they were!!!

May your Christmas be peaceful, happy, stress free, among people and relatives you like. If you have children, I hope they can come home, or that you’re with them. And if your family has dispersed and you’re on your own, may a loving angel of Christmas bring kind people into your life, and the miracle of love and grace. And thank YOU for your kindness to me all year, your lovely messages, and the letters I get from you. May you be blessed during these holidays, and always, and may these holidays be filled with love for you.

love, danielle

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8 Comments so far
  1. Jay Parfan December 23, 2013 2:00 pm

    Hello, Miss Danielle!! Thank you so much, from my heart to yours, for touching my life, with all the heartwarming, yet wonderful blessings you ever so lovingly and generously impart to me, as well as countless others, through your works.
    Having had a not so happy childhood, and it sometimes feels traumatic, in fact, in reading your books you had first of all brought me back the self and the soul, the heart, which you made me remember are still rightfully mine. You make me recall and be thankful just now how we are to be open, and vocal with the voices yearning to be heard deep inside our hearts and minds and soul- that only then can we be genuinely true to ourselves and the world around us, that only then can we heal whatever wounds had pained us from a distant past, for like a patient longing to be healed and free at long last, healing happens when we acknowledge whatever bothered us in the first place. I’m now actually thinking of a new poem I feel like writing about, and how it dawns on me lately that I have to write it as it realistically is, if only to be real,loving, and joyful with my self and the world as only me can do it. I realize that in being myself, I may effect frowns and heads shaking at times probably, but well, in the end,we are ourselves after all. Having been abused many times before,you give me hope,thanks to your books, that folks like me still count,and can still grasp the dreams that my heart desires so long as optimism and being myself and God’s love reigns in my heart. Once again, thank you so much,and happy holidays to you and your loved ones, God bless us all!!

  2. P.J. December 23, 2013 3:21 pm

    Merry Christmas and please just focus on your 5 beautiful, healthy children and let no sad thoughts enter.
    I am always touched by the kind words you say about your ex-husband, one doesn’t always hear such remarks. I have a friend who still raves about her ex-husband even though they’ve been divorced for 20+years and he is no longer with us. Her comments always amaze me too.

  3. mary December 24, 2013 12:23 am

    Merry Christmas and Happy Healthy New Year!!!!
    I had a similar reaction missing Jeff, I had just a simple reminder of him, his jacket in my closet, and the tears poured like rain. Strange thing I was not crying just feeling how much I miss his presence, his shy laugh, his blue eyes. my mind raced backwards through the past 21 years without him like that time never existed and it felt like he just walked out the door and I thought if I could just pick up the phone and call him. I don’t want to remember him in pain I just want to remember everything about him. Time is a gift when we are together with who we love or who we share a moment of joy. I now treasure the special moments like a bag full of gold coins, collecting them one at a time and saving the moments like treasures to spend on my rainy days. My heart feels your loss, I hope a smile brought to your face is a memory of your Nicky during the holidays, I bet he loved to make you laugh. I have my smile for Christmas. Merry Christmas to all.

  4. STELLA ANN December 24, 2013 1:20 am

    Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year. I think you are amazing the pace you keep. I turned 70 this year and my nursing career is waning and I fear I am turning into a hermit. I now have to find a less expensive apartment and the realities of a fixed income have arrived. I am in a period of adjustments and changes. I too think of those not with me and feel sad. My heart was full when I read how you were overwhelmed at the airport. I could visualize by your description all your bags, dogs, and your tiny person standing there. I wish you and your family the most Joyous Christmas and a New Year filled with adventures and happiness. Thank you for what you have given me in your words. Stella

  5. carol oliver December 27, 2013 6:48 pm

    Danielle, and may your Holidays also be filled with Love and Good Health.
    Thank you for all your wonderful books, coming out one by one..I so enjoy them, and as I have told you many times, I have collected all your books and keep them in my Library and do not loan them out. They are precious to me. I will be reading Until the End of Time next.
    Happy New Year Danielle….
    Carol O.in So. Calif…where it has been 80 degrees…by the Ocean…

  6. Susie Esqueda December 29, 2013 3:31 pm

    Hi Danielle,
    I was given your book “Pure Joy” for a gift for Christmas this year. At first glance, at the book, I said “oh my, that totally looks like my Lola!” Lola passed away this September. I just finished the book. I’m in love with Minnie. That’s how my precious Lola’s personality was. I also have more than one dog. Dottie short haired chihuahua and Tootsie a chocolate lab who I also adore. Thank you for sharing your dogs and family with us book readers! I still love hardback books to hold with a cup of coffee or tea. I am not ready for thi Kindle or Nook yet!!! May God continue to bless your gift of writing.

  7. Lorraine January 10, 2014 7:27 pm

    You always seem to hit the nail on the head, Danielle, and know how others feel. We are thankful for what we have! But sometimes what we had was exactly what we wanted and it’s hard to move past that! But we always do! Happy, healthy New Year!

  8. Angie January 12, 2014 5:59 pm

    I actually had the opportunity and honor of serving you and your family in first class on a TWA flight that I was working from San Francisco to New York’s JFK in either 1990 or 1991 just before Christmas. You and your husband John sat together by the window, and your children and their nannies sat in the middle section. We were specifically instructed during our pre-flight meeting that we were not to address your husband as Mr. Steel, although I was so nervous, I don’t think I addressed either one of you except as sir and ma’am! After getting over the initial shock of seeing so many children occupy that many seats in first class, no less, I, as well as the rest of the crew, were in complete amazement as to how well behaved your children were during the entire flight! I have to add, too, that I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t given the heads up as was another flight attendant, who went and purchased one copy of several of your books in paperback at the airport news stand before boarding and had the confidence to ask you to sign them all with the intention of giving them as Christmas gifts. You generously obliged, and we were all a bit jealous, especially me. The flight was a memorable one, and I did not notice at all that you have a fear of flying, as I myself do, although I had the utmost trust in our pilots, especially the ones with white hair (and hence, a lot of experience)! It was sad on so many levels when TWA was bought out by American Airlines and thus, ceased to exist. My very first flight, after all, was on a TWA 747 from Rome, Italy to JFK in 1971, and instead of needing to be sedated to endure the flight with five other members of my family, I was, in fact, a flight attendant wannabe as I had the best time of my life climbing over other passengers passing out Baci candy to anyone who wanted one! All in all, it was a pleasure to serve you and your family, as that flight holds one of the best memories of my flying career.