Can I be frank? Christmas has a history of being an emotionally loaded holiday for me.
My mom lost her battle with cancer on December 21st, 1979. (To my knowledge the Mayans did not predict that event.) I was ten.
It immediately became clear after Mom’s death that she had been single-handedly holding the entire family together and making Christmas magical. Without Mom’s deft talent of redirection, I discovered that we were ill-suited to handle family togetherness and joy.
For one thing, my father hated the holiday. He was a social worker with Child Protective Services and, as any social worker or police officer can tell you, Christmas is a time for killing your loved ones. He spent the holiday marinated. Everyone else was just as miserable.
I tried my best to slip into Mom’s shoes and resurrect the Christmas spirit, but those shoes weren’t made for a ten-year old. I started finding ways to desert my family during the holiday. When I got older I would often spend Christmas alone watching depressing foreign films and thinking deep thoughts while wearing a beret.
Reality check: I’ve never worn a beret. They don’t fit my head. However when I picture that time period I see myself as a sad mime with a beret and white gloves, trapped in a box—not a real box that would spare the world the horror of a mime performance but a pretend box so that everyone could suffer through my melancholy along with me. Because I’m a giver.
Then I had kids and rediscovered the magic of the holiday. There is nothing more satisfying than hoodwinking a trusting child into believing in that magical bearded toy schlepper, Santa Claus. Against all odds Christmas came from dead last to miraculously take first place as my favorite holiday. Disney could make a movie about that sh!t…oh wait, they have.
But this was a weird Christmas. I’m 43, the age my mom was when she died and that fact took some of the sparkle out of the holiday. Perhaps due to this fact, my current family decided to do a serviceable impression of the dysfunctional family of my youth. They were probably trying to help me work through some stuff. It’s sweet really. Sweet like a bottle of Vics 44 with a rubbing alcohol chaser.
Picture Hubs watching a UFC match while we decorated the tree, complaining that we were blocking the fight, Riley ditching me at the city’s tree lighting ceremony to spend time with her friend’s family, Riley and Conor yelling at each other and slamming doors, Hubs complaining that I was trying to kill the whole family during a manic drive to look at Christmas lights (in his defense it did cross my mind). It was all so achingly nostalgic. And through it all I kept my teeth clamped together in a pained smile and trudged along, determined to make it a joyful holiday.
And it was joyful at times. We had some good moments. Moments when I didn’t feel like Chevy Chase right after he received the certificate for the Jelly of the Month Club instead of his Christmas bonus in Christmas Vacation.
Sure most of my planned activities backfired, Hubs bought himself a
midlife crisis motorcycle as if the audio book he received from me was insufficient and Riley lamented immediately that she didn’t get everything on her list which read like War and Peace (seriously, Santa would’ve had to rent a semi to deliver all of her requests). The important thing to remember is that we were all together, nobody got arrested or “voluntarily admitted” and we didn’t actually kill each other.
And one day all of the insanity will make for precious family memories. Like when I tried to explain to Riley why her friend wanted to hang out with her own family instead of us, even though Riley had no problem dropping us at a moment’s notice to spend time with them. I was trying to explain it in an upbeat I’m-too-cool-and-self-confident-to-mind kind of way with just a splash of guilt thrown in because I actually did mind when Riley responded in a stricken voice, “I didn’t realize that I didn’t like you” and then I nearly drove into oncoming traffic. We laughed about that later. Some of us more than others.
See what I mean? Precious.
Anyway, I hope your holidays were also filled with precious memories or at least adequate Zoloft and I hope this new year is filled with more joy and less sensationalist tragedies. May we all find a way to nourish our creativity and still get the laundry done.
As usual, regardless of the gravity of the topic, your blog makes me laugh and smile. I consider myself fortunate and enriched by your contributions to my day. Thank you for sharing all that you do.
Wow, James, thank you for such a lovely compliment. That’s really nice to hear. I feel as though I should reward you some how…perhaps with a large money order.
Your continued writings would be reward enough. Keep on keepin’ on.
Well thank you. I will. Still, if I happen to stumble across a Playboy bunny, I’m totally going to send her your way.
Far be it from be to say no to a Playboy bunny gift. (AWwweesomme!)
We’re kind of leading parallel lives. I remember the Christmas after my mom and sister died. Lawd, it was awful. Fast forward to this one, about 2 weeks after my surgery. I honestly think it was worse than the original worst Christmas, yet somehow it was amazing. You managed to capture that sentiment way better than I just did. Plus, you made me laugh and that’s always good.
Here I was moping around and I didn’t even have a drain in my hip. What a pussy, I am.
We do have a lot in common. Maybe that’s why I find your stuff so funny. I hope you’re feeling a little better than you were and that you’re enjoying your yoga pants.
Well I don’t have the drain in my hip anymore! I got it out this morning. I am still enjoying the yoga pants, but happy I can change it up with a pair of shorts now.
Fantastic! I plan to enjoy a pair of yoga pants today too.
I had to laugh. That was your intention, right? If not, then I was laughing at something else. Really. The part about the mime was my favorite funny or sad part. Take your choice.
By all means laugh. That’s how I know everything will be okay. When the laughter stops we’re in big trouble–or at least I am.
ugh. your mom. ten. that’s too much. too young. ugh. this is beautifully written tho. you perfectly capture why having kids is great – you get to fix the things that got broken for you…and why it’s hard – only the ppl we love the most – especially those w/ brains, and emotions, and limbs (i suppose) still growing – can hurt us the most. ugh. anyway, a great read. xoxo, sm
Thanks, Sweet Mother! Someone once said, “Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, but trusting them not to,” which is a terrifying thought if you’ve ever seen my children dismantle a room.
lmao. that is both hysterical and a great quote. xoxo
I’ve been thinking about you all day, ever since I read this this morning. Sending hugs yours way, and hoping you’re enjoying a big ol’ glass of wine (or a shot of tequila, whichever you prefer!) right now. Also: really?! A motorcycle?! Holy wow. When’s he getting YOU a Porsche? 😉
He bought me a Flex to assuage his guilt. I didn’t realize what he was up to until afterward. He’s clever. And thank you, I have enjoyed my share of wine and spiked cider this season. Thank goodness for the medicinal properties of wine.
Ah Kelly. I love you so much. You make my heart sing.
I love you too, Allaire. What a lucky girl I am to have met you.
Another awesome story–thank you, Kelly, for sharing and making me feel a little less alone in the dysfunctional, dys-satisfying festival of emotions that is Christmas.
You’re welcome, Courtney. Nobody makes stories of dysfunction funnier than you do. Between that and your cooking ability I think you may be the ideal woman or at least my own personal hero.
“The important thing to remember is that we were all together, nobody got arrested or “voluntarily admitted” and we didn’t actually kill each other.”—That is all we can ask for at Christmas. 😉
Sorry that you lost your mom so young and so close to the holiday. I’m sure it wears like a heavy cloak around that time of the year.
i totally came here to say something profound and wonderful and all that and then i read the comments. your husband bought you a FLEX? totally my dream car!!! not even kidding!!! what color did you get??? i would get charcoal with tinted windows!!! i would drive everywhere!!! all the time!!! with room in the back for other people besides my four person family!!! the whole family plus groceries not on laps!!!!
(insert something profound here.)
I got the white only because that was one of two lower models they had available and the other was a silver gray which would blend right in to every other silver gray car in the parking lot and I’d never be able to find it. Filling the tank hurts me but I love it. The room, ah, the room. After 8 years of getting kicked in the back and trying to find a spot for my purse, it is glorious.
What an equal parts sweet/sad/serious/funny post Kellie. Kind of like Sea Salt Caramel froyo, a perfect combination. I’m sitting next to my 10 year-old daughter right now. She just got eight teeth pulled, is sad, sore, and I’m nursing her back to health with hugs and ice cream. To think of her, without me, at this age is impossible. I like you in a million more ways today than the billion that I already did. xoxo
Thanks, Stacie. I hope your daughter feels better. That’s why I don’t smoke and do eat so much kale–I want to watch my kids grow up.
I nominated you for an award because you’re one of my most favorites. No pressure, just wanted the excuse to share your awesome blog with my other followers. 🙂
Thank you! I appreciate it.
loved this.I lost my Dad when I was eight and this post reminds me so much of me that first Christmas without him.I now try to be the do all be all for everyone at the holidays and it can be trying but also fun.You made me laugh.Thank you.
Thank you for reading. I’m glad it spoke to you. Isn’t it funny how that loss can drive us in so many ways?
Next year I’m going to work on finding a balance. I think I pushed too hard this year and gave myself a mental hernia.