This is Us
I’ve cried through the Season 2 Trailer of “This is Us” on YouTube. I’ve never watched an episode. If I were to write about the show, I’d be writing about them. Not us.
Chris Peterson is my fiancee. I’m the McNallan in the equation. It’s the final relic from what was my marriage. My daughter, Elizabeth is the Conser. She’s 19. Audi Young is my granddaughter. Elizabeth’s daughter with Domonique. He isn’t in this picture, but he is in the picture. Also not in this picture, Chris’s six children, stepson, grandson and step granddaughter. I’m sure you know Santa Claus. He’s magical and traditional.
All would be gathered in the living room and dining room of my grandparents’ home on East Center Street. The two rooms were more connected than separated. My grandparents had ten children, most of whom had children. It was the ‘80s. We were (and some of us still are) Catholic.
Christmases were homemade chili, sandwiches, and what seemed like more than a table full of desserts to graze on throughout the night. We’d gather, eat, and talk. Uncles asked me how many boyfriends I had. Aunts asked me which were my favorite classes. Presents were passed. Everyone had a couple to open. Once the chaos of wrapping paper was picked up, cousins would wander upstairs and down, playing games, snacking on sweets, and talking. Then, we’d all get bundled up and go to Midnight Mass.
Mass at Christmas time felt magical to me. Our big family, gathered together, took up a few pews. Someone always came in loud and proud at the completely wrong time on at least one carol.
Christmas Eve, like our Sundays, Thanksgivings, and Easters, was ended with choruses of “Bye All.” There were just so many of us. It was easier that way.
This is What I Thought I’d Be
I pictured myself growing up to be Ellen Griswold with a Clark of a guy, who always wanted the best for everyone he loved, even if things didn’t turn out well. Our children and family would be gathered around as someone read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas after an amazing dinner followed by presents. We’d go to mass and try to sleep as we waited for the joy of Christmas morning.
During the entire month we’d binge on Christmas movies and music, because it is the happiest time of the year. Okay, July is nice, but…it does lack the rosy cheeks and generous spirit of the holiday season.
This is Now…
Every time I look at Audi’s first picture with Santa Claus, I smile. I’ve shared it proudly with everyone. Someday, she’ll see this picture and think, “What a bunch of assholes. I’m crying and they’re laughing at me.”
Before visiting Santa, we picked Audi and Elizabeth up from the airport. Elizabeth had forgotten Audi’s stroller at her aunt’s. Elizabeth has always left things behind wherever she’s been. It was a constant joke between her grandparents and me. “Oh, that Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth’s Aunt Michelle had flown Elizabeth and Audi out to Oregon to surprise the grandmother Elizabeth has never met. Elizabeth’s Dad and I had split up before he met his biological family. Through social media, Elizabeth began communicating with her aunt, uncles, and grandmother. I watched the comments they made in my daughter’s feed and felt they were good people providing positive guidance to my daughter. It takes a village and then some to watch out for her.
I had bought the cute Santa dress by Mud Pie at a Just Between Friends Sale Event run by my friend Khiengchai Fulton, but I hadn’t bought tights. My daughter and I have our similarities. We may not have it all together, but…
Chris is my Clark even though Christmas isn’t his thing. He’s been sick of most holiday music since Thanksgiving. Yet, he always wants to make those he loves happy and for things to go smooth. He’s raised seven to my one, so he’s kind of a pro at all things kid-related. “Let’s go somewhere and buy a stroller.”
We went to Target. It was 3:30 on a Sunday. The Vikings had just won against the Atlanta Falcons. Finding parking was a challenge and so was everything else. The place was crowded and the lines were long. How does a store plan for the Vikings being so hot this season that everyone’s waiting to do errands until after the game?
I found the tights and a cute little bow for Audi’s hair, while Chris found the stroller. He picked out a Minnie Mouse one for her. Then, we dashed over to the Mall of America (MOA). Once we were inside of a parking ramp at the Mall of America, Chris put the stroller together. He had to take off so many thick plastic pieces with only a key to use as a knife. My man, my “Clark” did it though. Happiness mission accomplished.
Then, I think the photographer ringing sleigh bells to get her attention, Santa, and Chris and I being to her side instead of smiling at her lead to Audi’s mini meltdown.
She was happy within a few seconds of being away from Santa. I promise. She is, after all, one of the happiest kids to ever grace this planet.
Joy to the World…All the Boys and Girls
I feel joy when I look at our so-not-perfect Christmas picture and think of all our life’s complications. When my fiancee goes to Mass with me this Christmas Eve, it’ll be his first time going with me to church. I stopped attending in part because I’d feel low looking at the families I thought my life would be like as I stood in front, singing with the choir. Yet, when I look at our picture, I feel no envy towards any other family.
Our life is messy and full of complications, because it’s full of people. I’m so happy my daughter and granddaughter are now connected with family halfway across the country, whom I’ve never met, but who love my daughter and granddaughter. I love Chris. He’ll never be Catholic and I don’t think he’ll ever attend Mass with me more than once every two years. His children are great and it’s so neat getting to know them a little bit better with each passing week.
I often think of my friend Kelly, who was the receptionist at Lupient Buick GMC when I met her. She would talk about her stepchildren and make comments like, “It’s just more people to love.”
We are not what I dreamt of having at Christmas when I was a little girl. Our connections may have some limitations that other families do not. Yet, we’re real and happy (most of the time). There’s so much to love. This is us.