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Everywhere we look, we’re told to be merry, bright, sparkly, celebratory, and cheery. Our hearts don’t know we’re supposed to be festive when they’re feeling fragile. I miss Gavin so much.

Mabel shares Gavin’s snuggly and sensitive proclivities and Finn’s never-ending energy and needs for fun, fun, fun. Ten years apart, my boys left this world a week after the holidays. So, I’m laboring to find my liveliness. 

My mom and I used to joke that when Gavin was sleeping, his frog-dog legs looked like the lamp from A Christmas Story. My perfect boy shivered and needed a layer of clothes when it was 70°F and another layer for every ten degrees below that. By the time winter was over, Gavin had resembled Randy from the same iconic movie. And I often had to tell neighbors that Gavin hadn’t doubled in size since they last saw him. My wiggle-butt-love-muffin boy was wearing at least five layers.

As the weather cooled, Mabel didn’t need a sweater until it was below 35°F. My sweet girl looks adorable in Gavin’s old yet bright-colored sweatshirts. I dressed him like Rainbow Brite because if his smiling scrunchie face didn’t show the world how much he loved and wanted to be loved, I thought maybe candy-colored clothes would.

Mabel’s been doing smashingly well on walks. She’s relaxed enough after seeing dogs to find treats in the grass and peeing on rather than rolling in and eating poop. Plus, watching my wants-to-be-a-good-girl-even-when-she-acts-like-a-piranha now often walk with swaggering confidence makes me so happy.

When Mabel first came home, I lifted the blanket for her, an invitation to snuggle underneath the covers with me, something Gavin loved the moment he entered my life. While the gesture didn’t make Mabel uncomfortable, I could see it wasn’t for her.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I was watching TV, and Mabel rose from her frog-dog nap and stretched like waking up was so much work. As she ambled towards me on the sofa, I lifted the blanket, and she crawled below the cozy comforter into a circle as closely as she could get to me. Then, after a few moans and minor adjustments to nestle in nearer, my sweet girl fell deeply asleep. And I was reminded of the healing power of love, mutual respect, and quiet companionship.

So, whether you’re ready and rearin’ for festivities and feasts or knee-deep in nurture and mend mode, I hope you follow your heart and honor your needs. Even the Parkers eventually found laughter and joy in ridiculous bunny pajamas and the neighbors’ dogs devouring their holiday dinner. 

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