They say the first year is the hardest. The first missed birthday, the first missed anniversary, the first missed Thanksgiving and for many, the first missed Christmas.

I’ve always felt I am a bit different. Perhaps fittingly the “first year is the hardest” sentiment has not been my experience.

It could be that when she was alive, Mary and I didn’t celebrate holidays the way most people did. We seldom went out on the exact day of our anniversary. We went out when we felt the timing suited us. Being pushed to “celebrate” a day just because the calendar said it was the right day went against our idea that celebrations were “ours”. Some of our attitude probably came from the fact that Mary lost her father early in her life and close to a holiday. Even before he died, holidays were frequently family excuses to overindulge in food and drink. Holidays were not always happy recollections. After her fathers’ death, she and her mother both had to work to earn money for basics like rent and food. Money for holidays diverted money for necessities toward money for drink and obligatory gifts …creating more pressure than pleasure. I believe these difficult memories were the prime reason why Mary did not much like holidays. We seldom bought frivolous gifts for each other. I thought as a result of our casual attitude toward holidays that I might not have had as much trouble when it came to be experiencing them without her.

That has turned out not to be true.

As time passed, the memories and the emotions were pushed to back of mind. The mix of people involved in my holidays changed and new people replace old. New ways of celebrating events replaced familiar family traditions. A Christmas turkey was replaced, traditional dressing was spiced with something new. Changes slowly took place without fanfare. The new events and new traditions with new people, I thought had become my new normal.

And then an old song played in the new event pushing the tune from the back of my mind to the present. New faces around the table replaced faces from a past. For a moment, my stomach tightens, my breathing catches in my throat and tears push up behind my eyes.

I am surprised, that a moment that should be happy…that should have signaled that I have moved on…becomes an emotional moment of sadness and a reflection back to a time that sadly no longer exists.

It is an intense moment that pops up without warning.

Forget what they say about the first year being the hardest.

Holidays bring out emotions.