Monday, November 9, 2009

True Confession

I despise holidays. There. I said it, and it felt so good I'll say it again:
Thank you; I feel better now.
It's not just despair over the material exploitation of the season. I just never have had good ones.
Well, not quite that long. Since I was ten. 
The previous summer, my mother unexpectedly passed away.  Christmas had been her show. She loved the decorating, the music, the hiding of gifts, rising above the running battles between other family members to bring a better than Disney holiday to fruition. Now we reeled and staggered in a pale imitation of her effortless dance to pull the thousand tasks off by December 24. My father (posthumously diagnosed with Aspberger's syndrome) unsuccessfully cauterized his wounds with Scotch. A question about Santa lead to being dragged out to the kitchen by my forearms and reprimanded in a cloud of fumes. I stuck close to my sister the rest of the night.
As the youngest child and the last one at home, more and more of the responsibilities were dumped on me along with admonishments that Grandma would be so hurt and disappointed in me if I didn't have the decorations up and so on.  Couple that with ongoing quibbling between siblings and father, and the season lost any meaning or spark beyond a huge stress trigger.
So for years, I took on the task of dinner and gatherings. I tried to hold it together, I tried nontraditional menus and unconventional celebrations. I struggled to be a good hostess even though I lost too many Januarys to emotional exhaustion. I tried to keep going with it despite the siblings having the same fights they've had since my brother was conceived. I struggled to be a good hostess despite feeling as if our hospitality was never quite enough, despite the old friend of a feeling of not really being a part of things.
The breaking point came when my niece and nephew reached the same age I was when the holidays had been jettisoned into my lap. The usual round of never resolved fights and explosions swirled around our heads. They had fun, still. I watched and wondered why they didn't have to do what I'd had to do, and then I was jealous, and then I wanted to stand up and yell, "WAIT A GOD-BLESSED MINUTE! ENOUGH!" 
The Spouse and I went for a quiet trip the next year. Not perfect, but walking and watching movies does have therapeutic value. Another year I took Orion to visit at a nursing home where we volunteered, garnering a big hug and a "God bless you, honey," from one of the cleaning ladies on duty.  
Since relinquishing Christmas, I haven't lost days crying after New Year's. The sky didn't fall down; in fact, only one relative acknowledged my absence. When it's just me and The Spouse, we go shopping on Amazon for each others' gifts (we've been married long enough to have no secrets),we eat a simple but festive dinner, and watch movies quietly. I go out in the yard with Orion at dusk as daylight starts to dig in its toes, providing a couple of more minutes of sun. 
As the shadows grow across the yard, if  I can still my heart and mind enough, I can hear my mother whispering across the veil, "Good job, honey; good job."

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