I know this guy. His thing is that every Christmas Eve, for like 40 years, he does the Salvation Army thing. He prides himself on raking in a lot of money for them. Today he was doing that and someone did a snatch-and-grab on his bucket, causing him to lose all the money people had donated.
I know the Salvation Army is flawed. (They hate homosexuals, apparently. Google it.) All charities tend to be flawed somehow. That’s not the point. The point is that this man in his late 60s (at least) gets a real sense of purpose from collecting money for them. He thinks it’s something he can do to help the world.
And today someone took that from him. On Christmas Eve.
People talk about Christmas like it’s the time of year you can forget how crap everything is. Christmas is supposed to be the time of year that the world can be a Hallmark Movie. Miracles happen and families realize how much they need each other. Everyone sits around a table and laughs; people gather together to share feelings of goodwill. This isn’t the Christmas I’ve ever known.
When I was a kid I loved Christmas. It still wasn’t a Hallmark Movie, but I loved it. In my mother’s crawlspace, right this moment, is enough Christmas stuff to open a seasonal retail store. We went all out for it. We put up a tree and decked it out in all these ornaments that we’ve collected over the years, and we put lights up outside, and it was a magical kind of day. I woke up to a living room full of boxes and bags, and stockings full of weird little awesome things that I didn’t even know I wanted. I got toys and clothes and electronics. Every year I got a storybook of Lifesavers.
As I got older, of course I received less things, but I still liked Christmas. It was a day that I got to spend with Mom, and even though we were both tired we tried to make it nice. We’d have good food for grazing, and we’d watch all the Christmas movies on TV.
For a few years I would go to my dad’s for Christmas Eve. I didn’t like that because they did Christmas at Midnight… and it was a pretty far drive for 16 year old me to traverse in ice and snow. It was never worth it, anyways. I never felt like I belonged there, and no one ever really knew what to get me that would indicate any kind of understanding of my personality. The closest they got was the book The Ruins by Scott Smith that my step sister bought me second hand from a library.
Now, of course, I don’t speak to them, so I don’t have to do that, but it also means I have nothing to do on a Christmas Eve. (I kept waiting to see if I gt some scathing text for sending my stepmom’s mother a Christmas card this year and no one else. Her husband died this year, and they were always very nice to me, so I thought it would be the nice thing to do. I didn’t receive any kind of response to it, so that’s good, I guess.)
So what are the holidays now?
Mom and I don’t really do anything. We don’t put up decorations anymore. We don’t go anywhere. We do buy food. Tomorrow we are eating shrimp and crab, because we like seafood. I made salsa to snack on chips with, because I thought… I dunno what I thought. I volunteered to do it in a particularly festive moment, but it doesn’t actually mean anything and we didn’t really need it. Before we left work this afternoon a manager gave me an apple pastry braid, so I’ll make that for breakfast. Then we’ll do our meager present exchange, both of us thinking that the other person is probably going to hate everything. We are going to a movie, as an excuse to leave her house, and then we’ll just watch TV and wait for the day to end. It’s about the most un-festive Christmas you could probably think of for a middle class, white, suburban family.
Christmas, at this point, means nothing to me other than feeling like a failure at shopping for my mother. It’s a day off of work before we fall into the horrors of year end. Just like Easter and Thanksgiving, it’s just a day I’m going to spend with my mom where we try to find something to watch and try not to focus on the fact it means nothing.
My friend says that my lack of Christmas spirit is sad. Granted, he’s also the guy that can be so pessimistic about life that I sometimes wonder how he even gets up in the morning… so I take his criticism with a grain of salt.
Still… Let’s review how everyone I know is spending Christmas.
Racist and/or homophobic relatives that like to talk about politics, and at least half of them want to vote for Trump.
Siblings being awful to each other, even though they’re all grown and don’t see each other but once or twice a year.
Adult children being awful to their elderly parents because somehow being 90+ doesn’t entitle you to miss ANY PART of Christmas.
Dodging questions about marriage and kids, especially if your significant other happens to be an ethnic same-sex-as-you person you’ve been dodging telling anyone about. (Or, if you’re me, dodging the “I never intend to get married or have kids” conversation with your deep south family that all had their oldest kids in high school.)
General discomfort with visiting relatives you either don’t really know or don’t like being in the same room with. (Especially if they’re staying in the house…)
Those distant relatives that don’t know about affection consent and insist you hug and kiss them, even though you feel really uncomfortable doing that to people you don’t know.
I have one friend whose’s handling his mom’s funeral and estate this holiday season. He’s an orphan now. My mom said that when her parents died, too. People don’t realize we all end up orphans in the end. Maybe that’s why they can be so awful to their parents.
Maybe it’s hypocritical to say, since I cut all ties with my dad. I can see how you’d think that.
No. That’s not my Christmas, so in comparison a quiet gift exchange with food at my mom’s place shouldn’t really be that bad. And yet, here we are. I’m sitting here at 11pm on Christmas Eve, listening to old Christmas albums I loved as a kid (A Very Special Christmas & A Very Special Christmas 2), and instead of feeling full of joy I’m close to crying. I go through a lot of the year trying to be okay. I can’t afford to lose it, because if I lose it then mom will too. Something about this Christmas, though… It’s hard and it hurts and I’m just so fucking depressed.
I can’t draw.
I can’t craft.
I can barely clean or do laundry.
I don’t want to see anyone.
I barely bought any gift this year, because there’s no point getting gifts for the meager number of people in my life at this point.
I don’t even want Christmas to happen.
And then there’s this little piece of me, that still hurts, but it wants to make cookies and sing carols and decorate a Christmas tree, and then shove an ungodly number of well thought out gifts for people I love under it. I want to wear Christmas sweaters and sit around a table with a family and laugh as we all enjoy some superfluous meal it took two people and three days to make.
I want Christmas to be a Hallmark Movie.
And it just won’t be.
Even if I tried to put some meaning back into Christmas… insisted that I make dinner, that we put up trees and lights, handmade all my gifts for people and wrapped them in brown paper with colorful handmade bows, invited people to a Christmas Eve party… I don’t think Mom would get on board, and my friends, historically, don’t show up to my parties anymore. (I’m still depressed about that picnic I planned that 1 person and my mother showed up to… I invited over 50 people… I have not tried to have a gathering since.)
I hope that someone out there is having a nice Holiday Season.
I hope that someone out there is having a Hallmark Movie kind of Holiday Season.