The way I see it holiday edition: Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

We introduced this series to give our writers an opportunity to share their own experiences and stories with you. Each one will offer a different perspective from the phrase, “the way I see it.” Even after vision loss, Bridgit enjoys the holidays and making memories with her family. She has no intention of letting her blindness define her life.

As my vision narrowed into shards of light and pixelated objects, I realized I needed to find a new way to enjoy the holidays. The holidays, which for me means Halloween through New Year’s, have always been my favorite time of year. I love celebrating the holidays, and this didn’t stop when I became blind. Here are ways I celebrate the holidays even though I have not been able to see for the last 16 years.

I bundle up in my warm, fluffy jacket and bare the brisk December night. I feel the crystalline clearness in the chill of the air solid around me. I climb up into my dad’s van and huddle, sitting on my hands. The van vibrates to life as he puts the key in the ignition. A blast of cold air hits me from the vent before a steady stream of heat fills the interior. We lurch forward and begin a slow crawl through the neighborhoods to peer at holiday lights. All I can see now are twinkling snaps of color, but my memory sustains me along with descriptions from Dad to fill in the blanks. My husband Ross, also blind, and I chat with Dad as the van ambles down the street.

Despite being blind, I still love easing by houses that are decorated for the holidays. For me, the memory of what Christmas decorations look like is enough. My two sighted children now share this love with me. During October, we joyride through town with family or friends to look at all the spooky decorations set-up for Halloween. And at Christmas time, we do the same. Since neither Ross or I can drive, we do a holiday lights tour. I find a Groupon and get a great deal for the four of us. The last two years, we have done the Arrow Stageline tour. I can no longer see, but I still enjoy doing this. And it’s even more special now sharing this excitement with my boys.

Confectioner’s sugar is sprinkled on the counter. Grabbing the rolling pin, I roll cookie dough out in even strokes. My seven-year-old and three-year-old rifle through cookie cutters and cut haphazard shapes in the dough. We gently transfer reindeer, Christmas trees and gingerbread men to the cookie sheet. We occasionally end up with a misshapen cut-out, but the smells of baking relieve us of our worries. After the cookies cool, we ice and decorate. Sticky icing is dolloped all over, and sugar sprinkles coat the counter, but we love our baking tradition.

For me, baking is one of my favorite pastimes year-round. I give goodie bags with my bakes as gifts. I have favorite standards I make every year like my pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake with white chocolate mousse, sugar cookies, white chocolate mint cheesecake with white chocolate mousse and peanut butter fudge bars. I like trying new bakes like chocolate truffle cookies, cherry cheesecake cookies and lemon cranberry glazed cake—all shaping up to become a part of the annual repertoire. The aromas of ginger and cinnamon and chocolate permeate the house. Combined with our garlands of holly and pine cones, wreaths of fir branches and ribbons and holiday classics crooning out of the Amazon Echo, it creates a cozy, cheery atmosphere for us.

Christmas. Just. Threw-up. Around. My. House! Decking the halls with boughs of holly is a must for Ross and me. Before we had kids,  on Nov. 1, I hauled out the boxes of decorations and went to town. Now, our boys are a part of the festivities. Declan, our oldest, loves Halloween. So, we have decorations for inside and outside the house. But for me, Christmas is it, man. And Duncan, the youngest, is as obsessed with Christmas just like his mommy!

Years ago, we started our annual Black Friday  tradition of watching holiday movies, eating pizza and putting up the decorations. We have lights stars and snow globes and snowmen and of course, the tree. Ross and I put them up by ourselves. Our kids help because it’s a family activity but not because we need their eyes. We have our non-visual methods for decorating inside and out. The garland and mistletoe hang in archways inside and lights line windows. There are special holiday tablecloths blankets on the table. It’s about creating special moments and traditions.

Giving gifts, picking out just the right item, spending time to find it, is an aspect of the holidays I revel in. Dressing up for parties and having get togethers is equally fun. Omaha hosts a variety of holiday events and activities to get you in the holiday spirit. Another annual tradition for Ross and me is to attend a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Declan, our oldest loves this play. Of course, we have to visit Santa at one of the many locations around town. Especially if you have a family, a great resource is Family Fun in It lists events and activities year-round, providing a holiday guide this time of year.

Little has changed since becoming blind. I use a few adaptations and accommodations to enjoy what I did as a sighted person. The holidays will always be a special time of year for me. I have vivid memories of the visual world around me which helps, but there’s so many ways to create new memories and traditions and enjoy them non visually. Blindness doesn’t have to add a damper on festivities during any holiday you celebrate. This is how I see the holidays and my life.