Last night, I wrote about what Erika and I had done on Christmas Eve each year. Christmas Day was often even busier.
For our first year together, in 2013, Erika went to be with her family at her sister’s house in Albany. I can’t find any pictures from that year, they must be on another phone or something.
The next year, we started having our traditions together. After Christmas Eve at my sister’s house, we’d wake up and open presents with my daughter McKenna. Photos of that morning seem scarce, but that afternoon, we headed to Albany. Here’s Erika and her niece Violet on Christmas Day, 2014.
Violet had a game that she liked to play on people which was to tape their pajamas to the wall. Here’s Violet after she successfully taped her grandfather’s pajamas to the wall, along with her accomplice!
But later on in the day, I thought that Violet shouldn’t be the only one to get in on the fun. Here she is when someone, *cough cough* taped her pajamas, and her Auntie Erika’s shorts, to the wall.
But Violet isn’t someone to just take these tricks lying down. Violet is and was a big fan of all sharks. She’s a bit of an expert on sharks. I’d mentioned how afraid that I am of sharks, so she placed all of her sharks on my toothbrush! So scary!
And here is Ol’ Blue Eyes on Christmas Day in 2015, in Albany:
And another with Violet in 2015.
Erika in 2016, with the prankster Violet:
She’s a prankster, because the sharks made a very scary return! I’ll let you guess whose side of the bed that these are all carefully placed on.
And the dashing couple, Christmas 2016.
Christmas in 2017 started a few days early, on Wednesday, December 20th, when Erika got what she often said was the best present she ever got. She had often said that as far back as being a teenager, she’d wanted a gray and white tiger cat and to name him Grendel. Then this little guy arrived:
These two quickly became inseparable and Grendel learned to claim his place on Erika:
She and I didn’t go to Albany that year and instead went for a walk around the lake at Lincoln Woods Park. One of Erika’s favorite activities that she called “Winter Walking.”
A few days later, we rented an AirBnB in Portsmouth, NH, which was a bit of an adventure. In spite of the outdoor temperatures being in single digits, the house had limited heat and the door didn’t lock or close tightly. We still made the best of it.
In 2018, we also stayed home. Whenever I gave Erika a gift that she really liked, I could always tell just by the look on her face when she first saw it. Like this one:
And because you can’t really see what it is just yet, here is what she’s so excited about:
Yep, she really had a thing for sloths. Loved ’em! I think there are still 10 to a dozen sloth things in the house from four stuffed ones, to a coffee mug, pajamas, socks and who knows what else. But she loved that one!
And we also did more “Winter Walking” at Lincoln Woods Park later in the day too.
And then one year ago today. Christmas Day, 2019, without knowing it’d be our last one together.
Did I mention that she liked sloths?
No, I mean she *really liked sloths.
Even Grendel would need to learn to like sloths too.
She also got this artwork with two of her favorite cats, the Russian boys, Yukos and Tolstoy.
I think she got a little misty-eyed as she stared at it for a couple minutes.
And this is also when she got her second Bruins jersey. Her first one was way back in 2014 when she got a Zdeno Chara jersey for her birthday. On this Christmas, she got a Jaro Halak jersey. I often joked that she might be the only person in the world whose last name isn’t Halak to have one of these. And if that first name sounds familiar, it should! We named our dog after him!
A jersey that she proudly wore while watching the next Bruins game two days later.
But a Christmas Day wouldn’t be complete without the tradition that we started together, Winter Walking, this time just around the neighborhood.
For this year 2020, I’d planned to keep doing the Winter Walking tradition, in hopes of taking Jaro for a walk around Lincoln Woods, but the driving rain stopped us from doing that. So instead I’ll just conclude with a picture of the day that Erika and I took Jaro for a walk to Rome Point.
At my weekly appointment, my therapist asked what were our Christmas traditions. So I told her. Just like our first Thanksgiving together, for our first Christmas, I had to wait to be with Erika. She spent Christmas in Albany, NY at her sister’s house, with her family. We’d only been together a little more than a month, so she kept on with that tradition. When she got back, we celebrated together. I still remember it fondly. This was when Erika was first re-learning how to ice skate so she could play hockey. She didn’t have any hockey equipment, so I gave Erika her first hockey stick. Even better, I wrapped it, which was of course ridiculous, because it’s impossible to hide what a hockey stick gift is when it’s wrapped. She loved it and used it when we played. She even showed it off after a few beverages at one of her house parties.
After that, we started merging our family traditions. I had often gone to see my family in northern MA on Christmas Eve, and Erika started coming with me. It looks like that next year in 2014, was the “Zdeno Chara” year, getting her a new hoodie and a little figurine.
For Christmas Eve with my family, there were always four kids there, my daughter and three of my nephews. They got presents from each of the aunts and uncles and grandparents, but the adults found it harder each year to find a good gift for each other. So we decided to try a Yankee Swap. I have fun with them but Erika HATED it. The part that she hated was the option to take a gift away from someone else. To be honest, it did put her in a tough spot as it was generally all my family and her. If the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t take away someone’s gift either. So she stopped participating individually and she and I played it together.
There isn’t too much else that really stands out about the Christmas Eve traditions, so I can just share pictures of her from each year.
So that was our Christmas Eve traditions. More later on the Christmas Day and after traditions.
I don’t know why I keep thinking about this, but I have a few times lately, so I thought I’d share it. I keep thinking back to this one moment during our first date. I think it was the moment when we both really fell for each other. I know it was for me and the fact that Erika remembered it years later when I asked about it, said that it meant something to her too.
I’ve told the story of our first date with the Bruins game and how she drove me home after. We were on our way back in her car on the highway, and just talking about who knows what. For those who knew her, you might have seen sometimes when she was nervous or deep in thought, she’d bite on her fingertips. She was doing it just then. I also noticed that one of her curls had drifted over close to her eye. So I just reached over and gently brushed it to the side, away from her eye. She turned to me slightly, with a look that she had. It was a shy, nervous glance that she’d give, a little sideways, still biting on the tip of her finger, but also withe the cutest little smile and beam in her eye. I don’t know what it was, but it was just that look. I was done. Hooked.
Like I said, I mentioned that moment to her a few years later, and she remembered it as clearly and as fondly as I did. I’m missing that way she would look at me.
This isn’t “the look” but it is the curl drifting into her eye.
Some people have asked if there are any updates about services for Erika, and I’m sure there are others who were wondering but didn’t want to ask. I can appreciate both as I’d be wondering too. The short answer is no, not yet. I’ll explain.
We’re not waiting until COVID is over, we’ll have something remote using video meeting software. This is because Erika has people who care about her from literally all over the world. In recent weeks, I’ve been contacted by her friends in Russia, in Abu Dhabi, in the UK and from all parts of the US. Even if there was no COVID, I’d still want these people to be able to attend. It’ll be a celebration of her life with her friends and family telling remembrances of her.
So what are we waiting for and when will it be? I don’t know when, but hopefully within the next couple months. The thing is, we still don’t have answers on specifics about what happened to her and we’re still waiting for those answers. I know that she had what appeared to be a cold. She had multiple negative COVID tests, I’ve had multiple negative COVID tests and I’ve also tested negative for COVID antibodies. That doesn’t definitively rule it out, but it makes me think that she didn’t have COVID.
We went to the hospital on September 30th for what we thought was dehydration. I thought she would just be there for a few hours, but they admitted her that day. Two days later, she was gone. I know what happened to her, but I don’t yet know why. It’s the why that I’m still waiting for. I decided that I wanted to wait until we know why, and have had time to understand it before being able to have the event for her.
We are told it can take up to three months to get the information we need, and the end of that three months will come at the beginning of January. We’d hoped that it would have come sooner than this, but it could, and should come any day now.
I do look forward to hearing from all of Erika’s friends and their memories of her, and also meeting some others (virtually) that I never got to meet. When we know a day and time, I will let everyone know. I plan to go back through all the messages I’ve received, the emails, the direct messages, and also to use her email contact lists and use her Twitter account one last time to let people know. And then when there is a “normal” time again, post-COVID that we want to share a bottle of wine, watch a hockey game, go for a bike ride or have another of her famous (infamous?) MoFos parties, we will do all of those again, in her memory.
I’ve received many notes and cards, and each one of those does make me smile, knowing how much you all care for her. She was just such an amazing, strong, incredible person who was unfairly taken from us way too soon.