Last night, I was writing a post about having had a particularly bad day while Christmas shopping. It was a post about struggling with grief over the holidays, about the heartache that comes in those moments when you’ve gotten caught up in the holiday spirit and forgotten that something – that someone – is missing and then you suddenly remember and OOF. It was a post – again, again – about my dad. I was struggling to write it. I was wondering, as I always do, why I persist. I was feeling sad.
As I was agonizing over it, I heard a small voice from the other room, singing, in very high, measured tones, hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelejuha… Hallelujah, Hal-lay-yoo-oo-oo-ooooooo-yah
Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is a song that my dad loved, a song that I’ve played a very few times since his death, because it tugs at my heart in a way that I am not always prepared to embrace. A few times, now and again, once or twice in Emilia’s presence. The last time, maybe, a couple of weeks ago, when she and I had been choreographing routines to the Glee cover of Don’t Stop Believin’ and it came on after the shuffle and I stopped and moved away from her and sat on the sofa to listen, and to cry. Are you crying because it’s pretty, Mommy, she asked.
Yes, sweetie, I said. And because it reminds me of your Grandpa.
— And because it’s pretty. He liked it because it’s pretty.
Something like that, I said.
That was two weeks ago, maybe three. Now she was making it her own. My heart clenched and swelled and swelled and clenched – yes, it can do those things all at once – as I listened to her.
Hallelujah… Hal-lay-LOO-OO-OO-OO-YAH. Her voice soared and trilled.
That’s a nice song, I said.
–– Yeah. I like it because it’s pretty. It’s a Christmas carol.
— Yeah. Can we go carolling? And sing this carol?
Maybe. Why this one?
— It came into my heart. I can sing it another way, too.
Oh, yeah? I braced myself. Would this be the version dedicated to Grandpa at his Death House in Heaven? Would this be the one with lyrics spun to reflect Mommy’s sadness? Had I, in my grief, created a four year old Leonard Cohen who would be bent on ringing in Christmas with dirge-like ballads?
She began to sing.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hal-lay-POO-yah, Hal-lay-POO-OO-OO-OO-yah.
— I knew that I could make you laugh, Mommy. Because I do FUN carols.
You do, baby. You do.
And right then, I knew. Christmas is going to be okay. Because I have them, because I have her. It’s going to be okay. Better than okay. It’s going to be fun.
Hal-lay-POO-YAH and all.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in my world: that post that I mentioned above, that reflects upon grief, yes, but also on how I overcame that grief, and what an owl has to do with it. And, a few of my favorite things, and not a warm woolen mitten among them. Also, cookies. Or not.