Holidaygasm: I'll Have What She’s Having

A woman watches fireworks.
Members of Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Central (EURAFCENT) staff and family watch a fireworks display. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Haydn N. Smith)

Meg Ryan’s got nothin’ on me. When I fake a holidaygasm, I can easily fool an entire restaurant full of strangers that I have reached angels-we-have-heard-on-high. Apparently, I can also fool every family member, friend and neighbor in a 30-mile radius.

I am just that good.

I found this out last week when I wrote that the loneliest day of a military marriage is the day you deliver a baby while your service member is deployed. The second loneliest day is Christmas Day during a deployment.

“But that wasn’t you, Mom, right?” my daughter asked after reading it. “You were never like that.”

I stared at the girl. She was present for three out of four of our family’s deployment Christmases. Surely she recognizes I was faking my holiday spirit most of the time her dad was gone?

She was the 7-year-old in the flannel nightie who came padding into my room when she heard me sobbing with loneliness into my pillow. She was the one who witnessed me pregnant and cursing over luggage and car seats and gifts and a vomiting dog in the minivan. Just two years ago, she was the one who noted, “Wow, the present opening went so fast this year, didn’t it?”

That’s because Mommy was rushing it, Honey. Yes, I wanted us to have a Christmas. I always want us to have a Christmas. It is just that I secretly want the day itself to be over without looking like I want it to be over. Christmas isn’t Christmas without my husband in it.

So I faked it. Just like Meg Ryan’s famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, I faked the whole holiday spirit thing. I did the presents and the school concerts and the church services and the tree decorating and the holiday travel and the care packages because they had to be done.

I fielded the calls from my deployed sailor with all the love and care and devotion I could put into my voice because that is what he needed. I never want him to need anything.

On Jan. 2nd of every deployment, I enthused to my neighbors about what a lovely holiday it had been. And I danced a private little jig as I dragged the tree to the curb.

My husband says that I am in good company while faking my Holidaygasm. He says that on deployment, Christmas Eve is an empty time where you are glad if you have some work to fill the hours. Christmas Day is a time of faking it, of giving the holiday ‘the ol’ college try.’ Where you put a smile on your face and partake in the special holiday meal and participate in whatever game they have going because that is what is best for everyone around you.

The thing about faking it is that it does tend to make the people around you happier. However, it does not make you particularly happy. 

That’s OK with me during a Christmas deployment. Some situations simply do not have a lot of happiness on offer. Yet I’ve always found that faking it works. Faking it puts me in the way of happiness. It has me in the right place at the right time to catch any stray flakes of happiness floating down upon me.

If you are doing a deployment over the holidays this year, all of us at wish you and your servicemember the absolute best. There will be another Christmas next year, and it will surely be the real thing all the way.

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