Thursday, December 24, 2009
I'm Not Going to Lie to You
However, my entire life I have refused to actually become apathetic about Christmas. Granted, Halloween is my favorite holiday, followed by Thanksgiving. Terrible things have happened in my life on and around Christmas, but I will not let them ruin it for me.
I worked in one form of retail or another for a total of 17 years in my life, and every year I would grumble about how much I hated Christmas. I didn't. I hated the shoppers, and the nastiness, and the lady that threw an ornament right at the head of one of the cashiers when I worked at Shoddy, Overpriced Decor for Your Home. I hated that it took me 30 minutes to walk from the only parking spot I could find at the mall to We Suck Records where I worked. I hated the woman who was shopping at Very Large, Now Defunct Record Store who walked up to me at 11pm and asked me if we were going to have extended holiday hours. I hated the woman who threatened my mom in the parking lot at the mall because Mom had taken "her" parking spot, and when she called my mom a bitch I launched myself at her and her two overdressed, overmadeup, overhairsprayed friends and my mom had to physically hold me back.
But I didn't hate Christmas.
In January of 1983, January 15th to be exact, my father died suddenly. Our tree was still up. His presents were still under the tree, as he had not taken them home yet. Our usual tradition was to put the tree up on December 11th, Mom's birthday, and take it down after January 5th, Dad's birthday. For some reason we had not taken it down yet. When my mother came home that night and told me he was gone I flipped right the fuck out and started throwing every gift he had given me, and I even kicked some of them for good measure. I did actually ask my mom if we were taking the gifts for him back to the store, and she said some of them.
I didn't hate Christmas.
When I was 19 years old my grandmother had been lying in a nursing home bed for 5 years. Christmas Day 1990 I went in to visit her with my mother. I hadn't been in for quite some time, as the whole situation depressed me utterly. She hadn't spoken a word in 5 years, and she spent her days sleeping or staring into space. We walked into her room and I walked around her bed to her right. Christmas cards were all over the bulletin board above her head, not that she ever saw them. As she cast her eyes in my direction her entire body stiffened and she went into arrest. A nurse ran in and shooed us out and called a code. A few moments later my grandmother was gone. I was directed by my mother to call some family members to help us out, and I spent my day deflecting family holiday greetings with, "Grandmom just died."
I didn't hate Christmas.
I have no memory of any Christmas Eve that didn't take place at the Neale residence. Mr. Neale had passed away the year I was born, but he had been my mom's boss at Giant Soup Company with Amazing Stock Returns for 20 odd years. My parents were very close with his family, and every Christmas Eve my mother would haul me to 5 o'clock Mass, we would grab something small to eat, and then we would head over to the Neale house. Every year Mrs. Neale would have the TV set tuned to the burning fireplace thingy with the carols playing in the background. At the Neale house I was introduced to caviar for the first time. My verdict was that it tasted like wharf. Easy Cheese in a can every single year. I think she kept it on hand for me. I loved pushing the little sprayer and making designs on my crackers. The adults sat around and had adult conversation that went over my head, but everyone always made sure I had a good time since I was the only child there. When Mrs. Neale's son was 44 he finally met a fantastic woman and got married. We loved her, and seeing him so happy was just an amazing thing. Her son, Roy, was one of the quiet types who only opened his mouth if he had something worth saying, and in my memory most of what came out of his mouth was laugh out loud funny.
Monday morning my mother called me to say she was getting on the road to head down here, and she choked up. She said she had checked the obituaries, as everyone over the age of 50 is required to do daily, and Roy was dead. I was utterly devastated. I sobbed off and on for hours. Christmas week? Seriously?? That man is in every memory I have of Christmas until I was almost 20. I called his older sister to let her know I was thinking of her and to let her know I love her. She told me she thinks about the Christmas Eves of the past every single year. We cried together.
I still don't hate Christmas.
I have had a tree every single year that I've been an adult, even when I had no one around and no plans. No matter what has been going on, no matter how shitty my life is at the time, I decorate. The first year I was divorced and spent the day by myself eating cream cheese frosting from the can and every other crap thing I could find, I still had gone to a local tree stand and found a very small, live tree and decorated it. I can't believe how quickly the holiday comes and goes each year now. It seems to blow past in a hurry and there hasn't been much time to savor it. I told Rich last night that Livvie is going to be very surprised to discover that it actually ends. I'm pretty sure that the day the tree goes out there will be tears. This year I have started the new family traditions. Cookies again after years of not going near the oven. Making crafts with my mom to decorate the house.
Someday I would like to have the house where small children try new things to eat and are warmly embraced by the adults who don't find them annoying. Someday I would like to be the destination spot for many families to gather every Christmas Eve while I put on the ridiculous burning fireplace on the TV. I want to walk people to their cars after midnight and tell them I'll see them next year; hopefully sooner, while gleefully yelling, "Merry Christmas!!" to the small ones.
This year, though, I am content to make a new batch of chocolate chip cookies, make sure the turkey is thawed, start the stuffing for tomorrow, get my kids to bed, and put the absurd amount of presents provided by the grandparents under the tree.
Merry Christmas, everyone. Stay warm. Stay safe.