Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's Not Christmas 'til Somebody Cries

Ah, the Holiday Season! As everyone knows, it's supposed to be a time for giving, sharing, rejoicing, loving, and being with your family, but once translated through our own imperfections, it becomes a hectic time during which we're dragged down by obligation, consumerism, attempts at perfection, and whatever kind of dysfunction is created by the gathering of our family or friends.

"It's not Christmas 'til somebody cries." I heard my mom say this a couple weeks ago in response to some Christmas-themed television show. Today, she informed me that she thought it came from parents whose children cried from crankiness because of a lack of sleep while attempting to wait for Santa or whose toys got lost or whatever. But at the time she said it, all I could think of was my pre-teen and teenage years, when my step-dad (a grinch by upbringing) and I would always get into a fight, which ended in me crying and running out of the room. The fights always revolved around his desire for me to be more "sociable" with our family. Now, I'm an only child who's always been a bit introverted. I was being as sociable as I felt comfortable being. I was never rude and I attempted conversation with everyone, but I never had anyone my own age in our family, nor anyone I really had a great deal in common with, so, eventually, I'd end up sitting in a corner, reading a book or watching TV, though I always jumped right up to help do anything the adults needed, like setting the table. Looking back, I think that, as my step-dad and mom were usually cooking at holidays or doing some kind of work, my step-dad thought I should be doing the entertaining of our relatives, so they weren't as bored as I clearly was. But I didn't get that at the time and he didn't say it that way so.... we fought. And I cried. Which then made him look bad in front of our relatives, which made him more mad and grumpy, which then might lead to aftershock fights. For so long, I really hated holidays with my family because I thought there was no way around those fights. I don't think I came around to trying harder or just living through the fights until, after another fight with my uncle, during which he got so upset with me that he walked out, I realized how much Christmas, and all the other family holidays, meant to him. But it really has come to mean alot to me.

Last Christmas was full of a great deal of crying. It was the first Christmas without my Grandfather. Now he really loved Christmas. I don't think he was much for the smaltzy, sentimental side of Christmas, but he loved funny Christmas movie (Christmas Vacation especially) and tv specials. He liked Christmas music, always turning the cable tv to the seasonal music channel. He liked watching people open gifts, though Grandma always did all their Christmas shopping as soon as she could pry a Wish List out of us, and she started asking in September. But, from what Gram told me, which I'm not sure how reliable of a narrator she was, every year Grandpa would get gussied up and go shopping on the last possible shopping day. He liked to do it during the day of Christmas Eve, but that wasn't always possible, as we had several Christmas in Very Big Midwestern City, when I lived there with my mom and step-dad, as that was also where the rest of my step-dad's family lived and we were all friends. Grandpa liked watching the people though. Usually, he only bought one present, always for my grandma. Sometimes it would be something he knew she or they needed but that Grandma kept saying they couldn't afford yet, though it was quite often jewelry. Never costume jewlery either, but real diamonds and rubies. When he had had his fill of humanity, he'd come home, wrap the present, scrawl out the gift tag in his shaky hand, and set it carefully under the tree. (Well, except the tv. That he covered with a blanket in the guest room until Christmas morning, then he took her in the room to show her the present.) But, whether it's true or not, I still love this story about my grandpa. So it was hard last year to celebrate without him, without his cheer and his sparkle. Without the ham we had to have because Grandpa wouldn't eat any kind of fowl. Without his skiing Santa animated toy. Both sides of the family were at my step-dad's parents' house. I was in pain from falling on the ice the day before. I was angry that my step-dad's parents had invited a friend from their church to what was a very emotional Christmas for those of us on my mother's side. I went out to the garage to smoke and ended up crying, though I tried to be careful not to mess up my makeup. My grandma came out to have a cigarette as well and she said that I couldn't cry because then she'd cry and if she started crying, she might not stop. She also pointed out that Grandpa wouldn't have wanted us to be sad on Christmas, but to celebrate the family, the funny and weird, and even the consumerism of contemporary gift giving. She also reminded me that it wouldn't do a damn bit of good to try to tell my other grandparents anything because they wouldn't understand, they'd do what they wanted to anyway, and I'd be the only one upset. Of course, on this she was right and I didn't say anything, though I didn't really enjoy the time anymore than I already was.

Which brings me to this Christmas. No one in my mother's family seemed to really feel like celebrating, with both Grandma and Grandpa gone and my uncle in the middle of chemo. Also, no one has a great deal of money or wants any gifts. As my maternal uncle can't really travel, we decided to skip the trip to my step-dad's parents' house. But, well, I can't help trying to push for a bit of the holiday spirit. I offered to put up and decorate our Christmas tree, if my step-dad would be so kind as to bring it out of our storage shed, and Mom asked me to put up garland and bows on the patio fence. Doing that spread the holiday spirit, which we've all managed to pump up in each other since then. Even the shitty "blizzard warning" weather couldn't dampen my spirit. I was all smiles on my drive home from last night, hanging out with TyRoy and getting showered with gifts.

Until I didn't get friended on a stupid social networking site. I set up a new account last week when my original one was disabled. During the original setup, it took "possible friends" from my email account, a different email account than the one used to setup the first page. The possibles included Sir. I was in such a hurry that I just allowed everyone. It wasn't until a few days later that I started to wonder. Well, seeing him on there made me think about him, at which point I listened to some music he gave me. When listening to Counting Crow's "A Long December," I got stuck on "And if you think that I could be forgiven / I wish you would." Now, I know that we "lost touch" because, after I revealed on my blog, which his girlfriend read, that he was seeing someone else as well, he texted me that I had "burned the bridge with him." But isn't Christmas and New Year about catching up with people, about forgiveness, about figuring out why you lost touch in the first place and fixing it? So I periodically checked all my friends, to see if it still showed "request pending" or not.

Well, I got my answer today. He had disappeared from my "All Friends" page, which includes the pending requests. As he wasn't a friend and he wasn't still pending, he had denied my request. Maybe I would have had better luck if I'd thought about those song lyrics and included them in my request. I try to keep reminding myself that he's from one of those Italian families where someone becomes dead to you when they wrong you too many times or too severely. Even if he wanted to, he probably wouldn't go against that. I try to remind myself that he doesn't know that I'm not completely that same person, that I'm on better drugs, that I've gotten used to being alone and keeping a great deal more inside, that I've found a level of compassion I didn't know I nad. I try to remind myself that I'm not sure I really want to be friends with him, in a reality kinda way, as I don't know who he is anymore and I was starting to realize that there were things I really didn't like about him when we were still friends. But all I feel is that I got the ultimate "coal in my stocking" Christmas present, that I wasn't good enough, then and I'm not good enough, now to be friends with. Happy Christmas to you too, Sir.

It's not Christmas 'til somebody cries. I just wish it wasn't always me.