A Little More Light

light and darkness

I’m struggling, y’all.

Not every moment of every day, but enough moments of most days that I feel like I am dragging a bag of wet cement in each shoe.

I’ve written 20,000 words…in my head. I’ve rolled out from under the covers every morning and gotten straight to beating myself up for not being up already. For not exercising. For not writing. For not being happy all the fucking time.

For not speaking up about what is worst in the world right now. For not having gifts wrapped under the tree yet. For not making a casserole ahead of time and just skipping the pot luck. For not even trying to do teacher gifts and greeting cards and a new wreath for the front door and gingerbread people and a birthday party plan for Carlos and a haircut and cleaning out my voicemail box at work. For not. Not not not.

I can never do enough to keep the darkness at bay.

I have this little white ceramic Christmas tree that Daddy passed along to me years ago when our Aunt Mary Fuller died. She and Uncle Curtis lived in Avondale Estates for most of their lives, so they were city folk. They couldn’t walk out into the pasture and cut a cedar tree from the fence line. They had this little ceramic tree that lit up from the inside. I remember visiting them once in Atlanta. I fell in love with this tree and the tiny gold foil star that Aunt Mary Fuller had taped to the top.

Now it’s mine.

Like any inheritance, it’s past is so precious to me that I feel like I have to protect it from the present in order to save it for the future. Namely, I don’t want my kids to smash it. When Vivi was a baby, I put this tree on top of the bookcase in her nursery. Once she started toddling about, the tree stayed in its cardboard box for a couple of years, until I could trust her to not bring it crashing down. It lit up the dark nights in the nursery for Carlos’ first few Christmases, then back in the attic.

This year, I brought it down with all the other boxes of decorations. Each kid has a tree of their own now. There’s one in the living room and another in the den. Now that I could put Mary Fuller’s tree out, did we have room for it anymore?

I decided to keep it for myself, to enjoy it in the midst of my dark nights. This weekend, I set it out on a little table right by my bed, in the same spot that the bassinet stood. Vivi and Carlos placed the tiny plastic “bulbs” in the holes on the tips of the branches (and I didn’t even rearrange them to even out the balance of green and red–they were going for a lava flow effect and I think it’s pretty cool). We flipped the switch and sat in the Saturday morning glow of the 1970s. I told them how important this tree is to me and asked them to be very careful around it. I’m trying trust. We’ll see.

At night, I leave the little tree glowing after I set the alarm, write my gratitude in the journal, and turn out the light. Some nights, I cry. Some nights, I don’t.

It’s less dark. And that’s the reminder I need–a gentle push from the past. A reminder that we can only appreciate the stars when it’s dark. We have to trust our fragile hearts to a world that’s likely to break them.


19 thoughts on “A Little More Light

  1. NextInLine

    You are such a beautiful writer that you are the light that shines in the dark of those of us who feel lost or alone, especially at the holidays when we are all “supposed” to be perfect. Thank you for your heart and your words. (and I have this weird Santa guy from my Dad that will never leave, yet my kids think it’s “just so off, Mom.” If I can live with the bloody elves, they can live with weird Santa. Hugs to you.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      Hahahaha…our elf is still smothered in a plastic bag in my tshirt drawer! Maybe he’ll come out this weekend. Maybe not!

  2. Holly Parker

    Ashley, when my mama died my sister and I thought we would never be happy again. Seriously, our grieving went on for so long our husbands got worried. About the time when we all thought life wasn’t ever going to be the same again, the sadness lifted. There is hope, Ashley. Your daddy will always be with you in your memories but the sadness will go away. I hope your holidays will be surrounded with those you love and you find comfort in knowing you are special to so many of us out here.

  3. Mary

    I do this to myself also. I don’t know why I can’t be nicer to myself, but I am so critical. And it’s worse in the winter, I’ve been feeling it coming down like a heavy sad blanket. So I take my vitamins, and try to realize when that mean voice in my head is talking, and tell it to stop. I’m sorry you’re hurting, and I really think your writing is important. I love reading it, and identifying with it. When you make yourself so open like this, you help those of us reading to realize what we are going through is doable, and it becomes much less overwhelming. So thank you.
    I’ve been thinking about giving that mean persona a name and image, so that I can separate it from the real me. So that when she says , you’re not good enough, I can tell her to stuff it. This does sound a bit crazy however. Lol.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      I love that idea! Mine would be named Gert or something so I could say, “Shut it, Gert!”

  4. Lori Lee Bennett

    Ashley, my heart hurts for you. I am so very blessed to not have experienced the same loss as you, but I have experienced loss and hurt. I understand the pain that seems like it will never go away. Memories that seem to crush you. Dreams that seem so real you wake up forgetting the loss for just a moment. You are in my prayers that the darkness will lighten and that your spirit will find joy in the memories of good times and laughter. Keep writing. You can do it. I believe in you. So many others do, too. You are the light to many. With love,

  5. Susan Allen

    In your lovely and poetic way, Ashley, you have captured the normal feelings of loss and despair when we lose those who are closest to us. I recall that right after my parents died (about a year apart), I clung to those precious things that had such rich and happy memories attached to them – and to some extent, I still do that today. Once these people have left us, their memories are tied to the little things that have always meant so much to us. Cherish each of these, don’t despair, keep plugging away creating happiness for others, and most of all, use those happy memories to teach meaningful lessons to your children. Thinking of you!

  6. Regina Smith

    Thank you, thank you, Ashley, for writing this—and for being brave enough to put it out there for all of us to hang on to. Hugs to you.

  7. Michelle

    This may sound crazy, but I’m jealous of your grief, a tiny bit. I was raised with no biological father, then an abusive stepfather. Father/daughter relationships have always mystified me a bit, and having one that reaches beyond his passing… I think that means it was beautiful and strong. I know it can be really easy to say this from the outside, but I think you should embrace your grief because it is a transformation of something greater, something happier.

    Just a thought… it’s probably about as helpful as when people tell me to “cherish these moments” with my children when my toddler is having an epic tantrum and baby has nursed so long that I want to claw off my own skin– great…. thanks…. 😉

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      That makes sense. Grief is evidence of love. I’m lucky to have had a Daddy to miss. Thank you for reminding me of that! And ohmygod I remember those days of the nursing that doesn’t end. Oi vey.

  8. Heather

    Our Mom died on December 7, the year I turned 19. That Christmas Eve, my sister Hazel and I decided to go to NYC to see the tree at Rockefeller center. The city was deserted. We went to the skating rink and looked at the horse drawn carriages, barely holding one another together. We asked a young man driving one of the carriages how much a short ride would be, and it was more than we could afford. Nevertheless, he asked us to jump in and he’d ride us aound the block for nothing since it was Christmas. Well, he took us all over the city. Hazel and I will never forget that night. We have to start our own special remembrances at the holidays, or we can’t do it. Every Christmas since my son Ian died, I decorate the tree and I feel him helping me with the lights. God bless you, we are resilient, we can go on.

    1. Baddest Mother Ever Post author

      Heather, that is such a beautiful story–thank you for sharing it. I felt like one heart in a long chain of hearts when I put my grandmother’s ornaments on my tree this year. Daddy used to say, “I don’t know how old these are, but they were old when i was a kid!”


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