Too many Christmas carols and the memories they bring have affected my shopping habits. It seems I can't go into a store without stopping midstream. As soon as I hear Nat King Cole sing "The Christmas Song," I think of my mother cutting crosses in chestnuts and placing them in the oven. My heart swells as I notice the sweater, perfume, or a million other things at my fingertips that would have been the perfect gift for her, if she was still alive.
When the first strains of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" rings out of another store's PA system, I find myself in front of a VHS-DVD recorder that my father would have been amazed by, and think of the countless hours we could have spent transferring his enormous collection of tapes.
Boris Karloff calls forth my cousin John Paul and the roast beast dinners we shared on Christmas Eve at Grandma's as children. The Grinch doll winks at me in the Hallmark store, and I flee before I break down.
I sit on a bench in the bustling mall, alone, surrounded by people.
I think the puppies will make me feel better so I head there, but stop myself when I see the picture of a Welsh Corgi hanging on the wall. Max. This is the first Christmas without Max. "O Holy Night" has nothing to do with him, but it sends me over the edge and out the doors.
I arrive home, empty-handed, once again. Bella keeps her distance as I cradle the tin that holds Max's ashes. Once the tears begin, Bella jumps on the bed and wipes them away with her tongue. Her snaggle tooth sticks me in my lip, and her love snaps me out of my grief. That's the power of a pet. If you don't have one, please consider visiting your local shelter and take one home. Give yourself a Christmas gift...a pet, the best gift ever.