Gab Bonesso on the highs and lows of Christmas for the bereaved | Editorial | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Gab Bonesso on the highs and lows of Christmas for the bereaved 

"The pain I feel now just reinforces how wonderful it once was. I count my blessings and I do my very best to muddle through."

click to enlarge Gab and Santa - GAB BONESSO
  • Gab Bonesso
  • Gab and Santa

My parents loved Christmas. It brought out the best in both of them.

My mother grew up in an abusive, chaotic household. I remember her once saying, “There was never a Christmas where the tree didn’t eventually end up on the floor due to fighting.”

My father grew up in a rigid, Italian-American household with parents who survived the Great Depression and never fully shook that mentality. They believed in practical presents. You should receive something you need, not something you want.

So when my folks got the chance to have their own family, they went HAM for Christmas. No matter what was going on in their lives financially, they made Christmas the biggest, most magical time of the year. 

My mother, until the day she died, believed in Santa Claus. Truly believed. Her birthday was the week before Christmas, so she always received decorations as gifts which in turn, made our home a Christmas cottage.

My father was the kind of guy who read the Children’s Palace ad like it was the New York Times. He loved toys as much, if not more, than his kids. He always had the best instincts as to what the coolest toys of the year would be.

Every December we would bake, sing together, and snuggle up and watch Christmas movies. My mom and I would even read How the Grinch Stole Christmas before bedtime every single night of the month.

These beautiful, perfect memories are what make this time of year so bittersweet.

For every happy memory that brings warmth to my heart and a smile to my face also brings the realization that both my parents are gone. As is my brother Peppy, who actually died on Christmas, bringing a glaring trigger I just can’t avoid, even when I try to only focus on the good memories of my past.

In therapy, I’ve learned that through time, I will make new memories and new traditions and all that therapeutic jazz. Fine. Ok. You bet.

It’s just hard to imagine it ever being that good again because what we had was magic. It was that lightning in a bottle stuff. It was that part in the book after Mr. Scrooge saves Tiny Tim’s life, but we had that every year. It was Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue but in holiday form. It was as good as real life can get.

Being a product of my parents, I also love Christmas. I love it for both the highs and lows that it now brings me. The pain I feel now just reinforces how wonderful it once was. I count my blessings and I do my very best to muddle through.

Merry little Christmas, everyone!

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