Monday, December 22, 2014

Simple Gifts

the Shrine at Stan's memorial service
On Tuesday, I am going away for four days on a Buddhist Retreat. I will spend Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day there. This is my first Christmas without Stan, and it seemed the best way for me to let the holiday pass, as much as possible, without notice.

I won’t be celebrating Christmas this year, but I have wrapped some simple gifts for the people who have held me up when I felt I would surely crumble.  Stan’s friends and family have found their way through their own grief to reach out to me and remind me that I am in their thoughts and hearts. I hope my small token of appreciation will help them to know how important their generosity of time and presence has been to me.

My Buddhist sangha, my spiritual community of friends and teachers, has been the rock that I have leaned on through these last few months. I am not certain I would have survived without them. They made sure that my husband’s memorial services were meaningful and beautiful. They generously gave of themselves in those first few days and weeks, when I could not eat or sleep or think. They lit candles in his honour and placed his photo in the reception area and on the shrine, next to the Buddha. In the months since his death, when most people have returned to their daily lives, they continue to allow me to express my sadness, and they are not afraid to speak his name.

I sit in meditation most days, but some days, I am afraid to make space for what will come, that whatever it is underneath all my busyness and chatter might overwhelm me, if I allow it to surface. I sit at home, on my own, or meditate with friends at the Centre.

When I make time and space to sit in silence, not planning or doing or thinking, the sadness inevitably erupts, from a place deep within, from the pit of my stomach, and, most often, I cry. It is not something I can control, and I think it is best that I don’t try to control it. It feels healing to sit quietly, before the shrine, with all that I am, at that moment, and to let the tears come. I breathe with the tears, and let them fall onto my cushion, not moving to quell them or rub them away.

Particularly, during our ritual pujas, in which we chant and recite ancient sutras and sacred texts, I am moved to tears. The aroma of incense, the trail of smoke rising to the ceiling, the glow of candlelight, the harmonies of chanting, the people in my sangha bowing in humble reverence before the shrine—all of these elements combine to move me beyond my thinking head and toward my heart. It is then, when I allow the controls I place upon myself to slip away, that my sorrow arises. I remember Stan and feel his absence from our sangha. I feel the emptiness he left behind.

Not long ago, our sangha gathered to celebrate one of several festivals we hold throughout the year, and we concluded our day with a ritual puja. Little tea candles lined the pathway from the back of the room to the shrine, and the chanting was hauntingly beautiful, that night. I remembered Stan, and I let the tears come.

People walked toward the Buddha with gifts of flowers and incense, offerings to lay upon the shrine. I closed my eyes and deepened my breath. When I opened them, I found that a flower had been lain at my feet. An Order member had seen my sadness, and, when taking his offering to the Buddha, decided to give the flower to me, instead.

His gift of the Buddha’s flower meant the world to me. It meant that my sorrow was witnessed and accepted. It meant that my grief could be held and responded to and met by others. 

I am blessed by the compassion and presence of my friends in the sangha, my spiritual home. My heart is soothed by the simple gifts they bring to me—an invitation to share a walk together, a conversation and a cup of tea, a thoughtful card in memory of my husband, the Buddha’s flower, lain at my feet. These simple gifts bring me strength and hope and the courage I need to face another day without him.

members of my sangha and me, on retreat, 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Complex Christmas and An Inspiring Story

Jayci at her grandfather's grave. Source
This morning I was watching the news and saw a feature about a young girl - 14 years old - who is working hard to achieve a very special Christmas goal. Her wish, is to put a wreath on every single grave at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery here in San Antonio, TX. To date, there are over 144,000 graves of fallen soldiers buried here. To say it is a big goal is an understatement. They have yet to reach that goal in a single year, but she is relentless. Partnered now with Wreaths Across America, she does 15 or 20 speaking engagements and fund raisers around the San Antonio, TX area in the fall to help raise money and bring in volunteers for this massive effort. The focus and resolve are nothing short of incredible to watch - particularly in someone so young.

I could not help but be completely inspired by the boldness and determination of her spirit. It allowed me to put my own pain aside for a moment and think about just how many ways on any given day there are to do something to remember or appreciate those who have died - whether as soldiers or otherwise.

It is one of those things that my fiance's death has changed in me for the better. Now I know first-hand what it means to the loved ones of the fallen for them to be remembered. My fiancé was not in the military - though he wanted nothing more than to do so, a back injury prevented him from being allowed to enlist. Regardless of that, I still know what it feels like when someone does something to show me they remember him - like leaving something at his grave, or sharing a memory, or donating in his honor. It means more than words can describe. You all get that.

I've been stuck in my own pain this past week - stuck thinking about how I'm sick of Christmas and ready for all this holiday mess to be over with. Year three without him is no better. Less scary for sure, less traumatic, but still I am able to muster only apathy for the entire affair. Even though I will be deeply happy to spend Christmas with his family - whom is now very much my own family - all the time leading up to that day is just an assault on the emotions. People talking about nothing but how behind they are on getting presents for everyone… when all you're thinking as you hear them is how lucky they are to still have all of their people in tact to give presents to.

I hate this. I want to be able to enjoy the season. I want to be able to just enjoy things the way other people do again. I want a simple holiday season where all I'm worried about is getting the Christmas shopping done and making sure food is cooked. But it is so far from my reality - Complex Christmas.

That's is why I am so glad I caught this feature on tv this morning though. This story about the wreaths got me out of my own pain and woke me up to the possibility that - if I pay attention and look for it - there are ways that I could use the holiday season to help me find meaning. If I make USE of Christmas as a way to connect to other folks who are enduring a complex Christmas - whether due to death, illness, financial strains, etc - maybe I could reclaim a bit of the good in this season. Maybe I could actually be able to find more than apathy in this time of year again.

There are all kinds of ways to do this… and even though it won't bring him back or make Christmas simple like it used to be, it would feel good, and make others feel good who might really need it too. That part of it I can get behind. I know that's not rocket science, but I think you get it. We get stuck in our heads so easily in the midst of grief and trauma. We have blinders on much of the time. And it can be hard see anything that can help it.

Today, I'm really grateful that a young girl doing big things helped me to take the blinders off for a while and begin to think about what I can do in the next few days that could bring meaning back to Christmas - not only for me, but for someone else. We'll see what I come up with.

To donate or find information about Jayci's Wreaths for Heroes project, you can visit her Facebook page.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My love for Sydney

A happy Sydney moment - our engagement party in 2012.

Today, I'm writing to you from Sydney, Australia, where I'm in town visiting my in-laws for an early Christmas celebration.  I'm one of those lucky widows who has wonderful, supportive parents-in-law. Our already healthy relationship only grew stronger after Dan died, as we found comfort, strength and support in each other.

Sydney has always held a special place in my heart.  I was born here and even though we moved to Queensland when I was only five-years-old, I've always loved visiting family and holidaying in this beautiful city.  When I met and fell in love with Dan, who had moved to Brisbane for work, I was very excited that I would have an excuse to spend so much more time here and was welcomed into his Sydney life by family and friends alike.

I have some beautiful memories of being here in Sydney with Dan, including cruising around the harbor on a ferry for his 33rd birthday; our engagement party in a beautiful old pub; Christmas Day and New Year's Eve in 2012.  He loved this city, it was part of him. I know it was a difficult sacrifice for him to settle down in Brisbane but I'm just lucky he loved me more and, in his words, his home was now in me.

Like most of Australia, I was going about my day on Monday morning when I heard the news bulletins about the gunman who had taken 17 hostages in a popular cafe in the middle of the city.  My first reaction was to run through mental check list of all our family in Sydney and work out if any might have been in the area that morning.  I had spoken to Dan's parents the night before and quickly worked out that they should have all been safe.

I then sat glued to my computer for the whole day and late in to the evening, flicking between the live stream of commentary from different news outlets as I tried to understand what was going on and how such a terrifying situation could have occurred.

When I finally switched off and went to bed, I laid quietly in the dark, with tears running down my face, while I thought about those families who wouldn't sleep that night, as they waited with heavy hearts for news of their loved ones inside the cafe.  My heart broke as I wondered what news I'd wake up to in the morning.  I felt so very scared, not only for those hostages but for our country.  How would this change us?

I know that many parts of the world live with this kind of fear constantly.  Terrorists and extremists kill innocent people every day. I am lucky to live in Australia where these feelings of fear are so alien and strange but this thought didn't make me feel any more ok - it only made me sadder.

I couldn't stop wishing Dan were here.  To hold me and make me feel safe. To talk to about what was going on and what this would mean for a city we both loved. Dan was the most open-minded and tolerant person I'd ever met. Not only did he not care about people's colour, culture or religious beliefs - he didn't even notice they were 'different' to his own. He was the personification of love and acceptance of fellow man - with the kindest of hearts and purest of intentions.  He was everything right with the world and everything I wanted for our future.

I tried to think of what he might say about this siege in Sydney and I knew his heart would be aching with pain and confusion too.  We would have probably clung to each other and cried together when we woke on Tuesday morning to hear that two innocent lives had been taken over night.

One thing that would have most definitely been different if Dan were here is that I wouldn't have been able to understand or relate to the grief of the families of the two victims who wouldn't be home for Christmas.  Because I wouldn't have been through my own traumatic life-altering loss.  I would have felt deep sorrow for them in a 'Oh gosh, I can't imagine what they must be going through right now' kind of way.  But, I wouldn't have really been able to empathise with any meaningful emotion.

Instead, I was able to very easily put myself in their shoes and recount some of the first-moment grief they would be feeling.  That numbness and physical sickening. The thoughts of how unfair it was that their wife or son were the ones to be killed.  How random that this murderer had walked into the same cafe where their loved one happened to be working or enjoying a morning coffee.  How quickly their lives had been torn apart without any chance to say goodbye. The strange, almost trivial things that pop in to your mind in those first moments of shock - 'what will we do with her Christmas presents'?  Or 'but he has an appointment with the doctor/hair-dresser/accountant next Tuesday that he's supposed to go to'?

As their hearts tore open, I held these families in my own battered heart and thought about the long painful road of grief that lay before them. And as my plane touched down in Sydney on Thursday night I hid my own silent tears behind my sunglasses.

When I walked out of the terminal to meet Dan's parents, I clung to them when they embraced me, taking in the feeling of their arms around me. I had been looking forward to that hug, that connection with another heart that shares your pain and beats with the same ache for the person you're missing.

I hope that the families of the two Sydney siege victims at least find some comfort in the arms of those who share their pain. Because there are hundreds of thousands of arms reaching out to them from all around the country today.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Day, That Tree, Marry Me

Thursday, December 18th, today, is the 9 year anniversary of the day that Don proposed marriage to me underneath the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in NYC. (You are reading this on Friday, but I'm writing it and posting it on Thursday evening, and it is right now, as I write this, my proposal anniversary.) The first Christmas after he died, going within even blocks of that tree made me panic and gave me anxiety and awful, horrible pains. My stomach would go into knots and I would literally go in a different direction and walk detours just to avoid even seeing that tree by accident, rising in between the buildings that make up the NYC skyline. The second Christmas, I went back there way before I was ready, and had a pretty epic emotional breakdown while sitting under those lights. I sobbed until I couldn't sob any more, and then I sobbed a little bit more. Last year my grief therapist came with me to the tree, and we talked and remembered Don and I cried and it was very hard and very sad. This year, yesterday, one day before the actual anniversary, I was in the audience for the taping of The Meredith Viera Show, and afterwards, the plan was to meet Caitlin again by the tree so she could be beside me for whatever emotions I needed to get through.
Got out of the taping, and the sky was looking very dark, and it was starting to rain. Knowing she was coming right from her other job as a guidance counselor to meet me there, I called her cell phone and let her off the hook for meeting me, telling her the sky looks weird and she should go home. She said: "Are you sure, sweetie? Because I will come if you feel like you don't want to be alone there. Whatever you need." I assured her I was okay, and that I was just going to take a quick look at the tree and remember my amazing day there 9 years ago, and then go home. She said: "Well I hope you can feel his love while you're there and I hope he makes himself known to you that he's there like he always seems to."
I hung up and started walking to the tree. Seconds before staring into it's beautiful glowing lights, a man and his wife and their little boy came toward me. It was a couple I hadn't seen since Don's funeral -literally. Years ago, when I had my own wedding planning business, I planned their wedding with Don's help. The guy and Don used to work together on the ambulance in New Jersey. They were coworkers, colleagues, friends. Of ALL the people for me to run into ,at this tree, I ran into him. 
"Kelley? Holy shit! No way! This is so weird. We were JUST passing by this tree, and this stranger came up to us nervously and started telling us how he was going to propose to his girlfriend tonight here. Immediately thought of you and Don. " I replied: "That is beyond weird, because I just made the last second decision to walk here alone after telling my counselor not to come. She usually meets me here. It's 9 years tomorrow that he proposed." "Wow! No way!" "Yup. He is obviously saying hello to us."
After they left, I sat under the lights and just remembered. I remembered that night 9 years ago, and how nervous he was and how he kept adjusting his jacket pockets and fidgeting and I didn't know why. I remembered him slowly going down to one knee in the 25 degree weather, screaming out his beautiful and well-thought out words to me, over the hundreds of clapping and cheering tourists. I remembered my frozen fingers shaking as the ring went on, I remembered drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows in Rockefeller Center afterwards, and I remembered never ever knowing a happier or more joyful moment. My heart sort of skipped a few beats, and I felt an overwhelming sadness, and this weird sensation of unbalance and lightheaded-ness, as I remembered all of these things. But I was okay. I was okay.

And then, I remembered something else. Amongst the chaos and the crowd that night, 9 years ago, there was a little boy and little girl. Siblings. Seconds after Don proposed, the boy tugged on his jacket and asked: "Are you marrying her?" "Yes, I am", Don said, smiling and laughing. "Eww! Gross!" He then turned to his sister and started to "mock-propose" to her: "Will you marrryyyy meeee??? Yuck!!!" Don and I and the children's parents were all cracking up, and then we asked their parents if they would take our picture underneath the tree. They did.
Coming out of my time-warp and back in present day, I stood up to leave the tree area and go home, and just then,, I saw them. Two children. A boy and a girl. Friends, or maybe siblings. I don't know. As I walked by, the girl's mom (I'm assuming) said to her little girl: "Honey, show him how much you love him for us! Let us take your picture!" The adults all snapped pictures as the girl leaned on and hugged the boy, and the boy moved away. "Eww!" he said. "Yuck!" The little girl gave it one more shot. "We're gonna get maaaarrrrieddd!", she said knowingly. The boy laughed nervously and fidgeted with his jacket pocket.
The mom gathered up her bags and said to the children: "Alright guys, let's get going. We have to meet Donny for hot chocolate, and you know he doesn't like to miss his hot chocolate."

Everything up until this point was surreal and unbelievable enough, but this last sentence said by this woman, was my proof that Don was with me yesterday, and always, but especially yesterday. "We have to meet Donny for hot chocolate, and you know he doesn't like to miss his hot chocolate." Two things about this. First of all, Donny. My husband's name was Don, or Donald, but the only thing he hated more than being called Donald, was being called Donny. The only person who he would let teasingly call him Donny, was his nephew Mark, because he loved that kid. So we had a running joke about calling him Donny to piss him off. Now, secondly, the hot chocolate. Not only did we drink hot chocolate with marshmallows and candy canes and whipped cream right after the marriage proposal that night, but we also had the venue where we got married serve the same thing to our guests. Peppermint hot chocolate with marshmallow and whipped cream and a candy cane. Everyone raved about the hot chocolate at our wedding. For YEARS, literally, friends would just mention it out of nowhere to us. "That hot chocolate at your wedding was the best hot chocolate I've ever had in my life! What was in that?" 

But we didn't know. BECAUSE WE NEVER GOT ANY. Somehow, with all the chaos of the reception and us being up dancing and everything, the bride and groom never got served any hot chocolate. So, the running joke for years was how Don loved his hot chocolate and he never got any at his own damn wedding. He would randomly say to me sometimes, out of nowhere: "I still cant believe we never got any of that hot chocolate." So for this woman to not only mention hot chocolate, but to use the term "he doesnt like to MISS his hot chocolate" , was beyond weird. It was a sign. That whole place was filled with signs. It was as if Don was talking to me and laughing with me through each one of those brightly lit Christmas tree lights. 

I stood there, stunned. In disbelief, yet also not at all surprised. For I am here, at this tree. Our tree. And he is here too. Not here in the way that I want him here. No, not ever. But he is here. And it will never be okay with me that he is dead. It will never be okay. But I am okay. I am okay.

Pictured: The tree , this week, going there for my wedding proposal anniversary. The little boy and little girl that I saw, who were just like the boy and girl Don and I saw and had the exchange with 9 years ago today. Me, taking a "selfie" with "our tree" behind me, happy that the mere sight of it no longer reduces me to a puddle of anxiety. )

A Heart's Reflections

I went to a Christmas party the other night. A year ago, there is no way I could, or would have been able to socialize like that. And I was going alone, as my guy works evenings. So I know I have made vast strides this past year. This time around I found myself really looking forward to it. I felt happy to have been invited; it felt nice that someone had thought of me and asked me to join in, as invitations from people Mike and I met here together have really dwindled since he died, other than a few dear exceptions. This hostess is a beautiful person I met this past year who lost her husband about six years ago. Well, re-met, actually, since after a couple of conversations we realized she had taken Mike’s last class session before he died. That happens a lot around here, running into people who remember him. Which is nice. 

But our relationship is purely our own; I am glad she had met him, but we didn’t become friends because of Mike’s talents, which happened a lot before he died, I now realize. We are friends because we share so much in common with each other as women, and widows. Much like my experience she came upon her husband gone from a heart attack, unexpectedly. Like Mike, her husband was a well-known figure in our town, and like us, in their own circles, they were well-known as a couple together for a long time. And like me, she is also dating someone new - and we both have faced backlash from various people who were not ready, or willing, to see us with people other than our husbands whom were both so revered in our little community in their own ways. So we get each other, as we fellow widows often do…the pain of losing our beloveds, and the ins and outs of our lives now without them. 

The party was a relatively small gathering with a potluck, and after all the food was laid out I found myself at a table with four other ladies, and one man. Most of them I hadn’t known before, but it did turn out - of course - that one of the ladies had also been one of Mike’s clients and remembered him well. She had looked familiar but I couldn’t place it; when I asked her if she’d known him her eyes got wide and there it was. As someone commented that night: it’s a little big island. As large an expanse as we live on, our small population often finds multiple connections to each other. 

So as is wont to happen the subject of grief and loss came up. I met yet another widow (we are everywhere, it seems), Mike’s former client had been through a devastating divorce (no it’s not the same no matter what anyone says - but I will grant that there is some sense of mourning a lost life), and another had lost a grandchild recently. So we ladies ended up chatting about our experiences for much of the meal, including the topic of how our culture is so uneducated about the process of grief. Then at one point a sort of silence overcame us as we all kind of realized we’d been leaving out the only man at the table. We chirped our sorries in a way people do at casual polite gatherings, but then he did something unexpected. This kind, gentle man proceeded to tell us, quietly and a bit haltingly, how he understood what we were talking about. He had lost a wife, a child and fought in Vietnam where he witnessed horrors indescribable. He went on to explain how after he picked up the pieces of five of his fellow soldiers there - literally - he spent two weeks lost in the jungle where he had a lot of time to reflect on his own life and how he was going to live his when (and if) he got back. He said he made a decision, back then, to live positively, to do something good, in honor of his fallen comrades, and not let the grief and horror overtake him as it did for many who fought there. It changed his life in a massive way.

Don’t get me wrong. He wasn't trying to outdo us in any way at all. This man’s nature is quiet…sweet, and soft-spoken. He even said he almost never speaks of it but was moved to share it in that moment with us, having listened to us sharing our own stories. After a moment of sitting there silently blinking my stunned horror at his story, I mentioned how during that first terrible day when Mike died I remembered thinking, and commenting, how it felt as if I could suddenly hear all the millions of other voices crying out around the world. It was as if I could suddenly relate to this palpable, physical grief I knew so many others had experienced. As if I became suddenly attuned, or aware of in some deep, visceral way, not only to people in my own country who had suffered losses, but to people who live in terrible circumstances, war zones, genocide, poverty and sickness that we in our First World culture really have no idea about. How I suddenly realized how life-shattering grief was an experience so many of us as humans in this world have in common, but I had been sheltered from; uneducated about. He nodded. 

I knew the conversation was not meant to subvert any of my own personal feelings; it didn’t happen to show me simply that so many people have had it worse than I have, or make me berate myself for the personal devastation I’ve slogged through after my one loss. It happened to show me how people can survive. How people can, as one of the ladies put it so eloquently I thought, move to the other side of it. It doesn’t go away; but, over time and after much work and introspection, I believe we can find a path to walk along that other road we didn’t know was there - that warped reflection of a life we must strain to bring into focus.

The picture above is the gift I ended up with after the party’s lively and fun gift exchange that evening - a mirrored, winged heart. It spoke volumes to me. And as this posts I will be hours away from leaving for the mainland. I am looking forward to a quiet time away with my family. I am looking forward to another opportunity to shift my perspective; to grasp a little more onto this new life. To spend time with loved ones, rest, write, bake, chat with old friends - and reflect. To build a new memory I can keep with me on my new journey over to the other side of this grief. And to do it all with Mike close to my heart.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Widow Confusion~

Widowhood is confusing to me.  I suppose every huge life change is, for those in the midst of it.

My mind whirls with thoughts of my husband's final days, his death, leaving southern California in my rear view mirror, driving away from him, being out on the road without him...the memories, and the pain that go with those memories, are strong and vivid and color the moments that have brought me to this time, 20 months later.

In numerous conversations even before his last cancer, he told me many times that he wanted me to find another man to love, and be loved by, someday.  I agreed, though I expressed doubts of ever finding any other man who could measure up to my now high standards.

The confusing part?

My marriage to Chuck was a passionate one.  We not only made love, we had wild and crazy sex through the years.  Neither of us was afraid to experiment and he was an exquisite lover.  When we weren't doing that, we touched.  Holding hands.  Kissing.  Hugging.  Dancing.  Our eyes sought each other out when we were in a room together.  I was accustomed to his touch, frequently, as he was accustomed to mine.

So, how does a woman go from that to...nothing?  And I'm sorry to tell you, but all the massages in the world don't replace that.  And here's what confusing to me;  I crave touch.  I crave sex again and the closeness that comes from being with him.  And I want that again.  Desperately at times.  And I know I could go out and find it with some man.  Which makes me vulnerable to not only myself because of that craving, but vulnerable to men.  Is it an old wives tale that men are on the lookout for widows because they figure on this very need being present, and they prey upon it?  I don't know but I feel like it would be so easy to take anything that's offered.  Except that it wouldn't, not really.

It wouldn't be Chuck and he's the one I want.  But having sex, and having that touch, would be a great distraction, I think, on the one hand.  But maybe not, on the other hand.

I have no fucking clue.  There wouldn't be a sense of disloyalty to Chuck, but I suspect there would be a bone-deep wanting-ness because it isn't him and never can be again but this is what is now and I need something and tears along with relief and every other possible emotion.

You see?  It's your classic (to use my favorite military term)...clusterfuck.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Attempt at a Christmas Tradition

Sunday marked two and a half years without Ian.

The first year, I decided to mark the date with a visit to a iconic local Christmas light display - do something nice with John on the day that we'd done with Ian.

It's something we've done each Christmas since. 

Well, attempted to.

This year's attempt was not as disastrous as last year, but not great either.

A weekend evening is a bit of a mad-house there, and I have to accept that John gets over-stimulated and wound up by crowds and noise.  Sunday wouldn't be as bad as a Friday or Saturday, but summer school holidays have started, so there would likely be a bigger crowd than earlier weekends.  So I opted to not do it on the day to hopefully manage his response a bit better.

And I'm kind of glad we cancelled the plans.  John seemed to know it was a significant time, or at least the universe conspired against me.

On the Saturday I'd taken John to a major sporting event, at which he lasted all of 15 minutes before I dragged him out kicking and screaming.   He's not a "sit still" kid, plus it was at least 93F and on the busy and noisy side at the ground. 

It didn't help I then got wails of  "I want my Daddy" and "I miss my Daddy" as we were leaving.  All I can do is tell him 'I miss your daddy, too'. 

Then on Sunday he was ratty-as at Church. He went running up the front (usual - he high 5's the Minister)  and then unusually up onto the pulpit, smiling down cutely at everyone.  Until the pipe organ behind him started and he scurried off like a rabbit.  He didn't want to be left in the children's programs this week - it was the first time they had to come and get me as he was too upset.  Then a while later, he tripped over and fell head first into the metal upright for a hand rail.  The result was a nice old goose-egg, but no concussion thankfully. 

I gave up on the day about then and headed to my parents for a coffee. Meanwhile John was good as gold and "helped" Papa work on his off-road vehicle.

So to at least have a crack at maintaining the tradition, my sister and I took our kids Monday evening.

Yeah, I forgot he's terrified of the volcano with Thor hammering inside that's part of the display.   

So the whole attempt was a bust.  At least John wasn't the only kid wigging out at it.  I have vague recollections of not liking the thing myself as a kid, so I shouldn't be surprised.

I guess I'll have to wait a while before I can really try making it an enjoyable Christmas tradition for us.

Ian and John at the lights in December 2011
Dang it... And as I write this... he's sleep walking through the laundry. Yet something else to deal with.