I’ve written before about how little family I have, and how holidays equal family. I mean, after all, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Except for Easter. Which is all about the Easter Bunny. (Just kidding.)
This is what I have done to get ready for Christmas. Nearly nothing. I have not bought one gift. I bought two cards to send to my kids whom I won’t see. I bought a small turkey breast yesterday which my son may smoke on his grill, like he did on Thanksgiving.
For the first time in my life, the only tree I have is the same small one I bought years ago when we had lost our home and everything was packed away. My husband (at the time, and soon to be ex) and I lived in a rental and my youngest son was nine years old. We had to make an attempt at Christmas for him. His father wasn’t about to do anything, so I bought a little tree with lights attached. It was the first year we had no money, and I can’t even remember what I was able to buy for the kids. I liked that little tree and it came with me from house to house as I moved around New Hampshire.
After that first poor year, I was on my own and bought a larger fake tree because of my son. I still tried to make Christmas Christmassy for the sake of my kids, but I have never really been able to feel the same excitement I used to have. And eventually it simply became a dreaded chore.
Now that big tree is just in the way. No place I have lived has had the space for a big Christmas tree. And once Skittle the cat joined my household there was no reason to decorate the tree. She climbed it and played with all the ornaments until they fell to the floor! I was afraid to put lights on it for fear she would chew them and get electrocuted. So I would set up the plain old tree, which would serve as a playground for the cat, and a place to put the gifts Christmas morning.
Now, after 40 years, all my kids are grown! It’s about time. None of them are married and there are no grandchildren. Holidays are quiet. One thing I began doing on holidays was take a walk. I didn’t have much else to do, so I would take a stroll, and see all the visiting and partying taking place at various houses on my street. Back when my life fell apart it made me unbearably sad. Now it gives me a feeling of peace. Acceptance, frees you… believe me, it does.
But, aren’t we brainwashed into thinking that EVERYONE spends Christmas doing happy family things? Of course we are. Many people have normal lives and look forward to seeing mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, new babies and relatives from far away. They have super-decorated homes and spend lots of money on everyone from their boss at work to every single family member. They are like the commercials we see on television. Do they really gift each other with CARS? Maybe. I know they are out there. I was like them … before.
These days I refuse to buy into the commercialism and load up my credit cards buying things no one needs. Those who are alone may wish, for a moment, that we might, by some miracle, receive a special little gift, but it’s more likely that we don’t. The special things that make life grand can’t be put in a box and given as a gift. You are either blessed with them, or you are not. For us, they are elusive.
We did nothing wrong… unlike what the movies will tell you. Lonely old people quarreled with their kids and became estranged from the family (Home Alone). We are miserly with our money and have never bothered to help anyone (Scrooge). We lived, we loved, we tried, but it all just went so wrong.
Is there hope for us? Always. But I don’t fool myself any more. Be happy for what you have, and if you are blessed to have a big family gathered together this Christmas, know that others in this world do not. Family is a gift in the luck of the draw. Family is your safety net and connection to this world. Can you imagine a life without that? Of course not. I no longer expect you to.