Is everyone ready? I’m not. And probably never will be.
While I realize that holidays should be a festive time of joy and surprises, I can never seem to get my head wrapped around it. I see instead bad weather, congestion, bills, an over-infestation of cookies, dealing with family obligations, blah, blah, blah.
Yep, I’m all Scrooged out.
I began boycotting Christmas several years ago. My family has always been a bit boring. I’m an only child with distant extended family. There were just the three of us, staring at each other, eating dinner, and generally disgruntled about what we found under the tree.
There were things that I could count on:
1) My father, who suffers from gift paralysis (which I’m convinced is a clinical term), would wait until the last possible second to purchase gifts for my mother and me. And by “last possible second,” I really do mean 9:00pm on Christmas Eve, when he would brave the worst possible malls (or drug stores), in the company of the most befuddled fellow gift slackers.
2) My mother would hate whatever my father gave her. Because who wouldn’t hate a pre-packaged perfume set desperately plucked from the aisles of Carson Pirie Scott from piles of picked over boxes. (At a young age, I surmised that it added insult to injury that the fine holiday edition of Lady Stetson was given to her by the man who’s supposed to know and love her more than anyone else on Earth. At a young age, I also realized that it was a bad idea to introduce my theory.)
3) I would inevitably hate whatever either of my parents gave me, except for the rare occasion when I would ask for something very specific (in which case, there was absolutely no mystery in the process). As if he didn’t know me at all, my father would give an assortment of small, weird things, like outsized candy canes (that I’m almost certain he procured for 2/$1.00 at Walgreens) and books that I would never read. Unlike my mother, I accepted such gifts gratefully (largely because it made him feel good, and they were always accompanied by an envelope of cash). My mother would always seem to retrofit something that she’d bought me over the course of the year as a Christmas gift. “Remember that coat I bought you in June? That was your Christmas present.”
3) Marginal, if not bad food. My mother wasn’t the best cook, but she was Ina Garten in comparison to some of the culinary skills displayed by the others that were on her list of people to visit. I threw in the (tacky holiday) towel after one fateful holiday visit to her friend’s house where I was duped by a gorgeous triple layer chocolate cake that sat majestically inside of an expensive crystal dome. It was beautiful, and could have been a contender for the cover of Gourmet Magazine.
Now . . . for those who don’t know me well . . . cake is a food group, in my opinion. I love nothing more than a succulent moist cake, and even though I’ve ironically developed a cake intolerance over the years, I will indulge in good cake, even if I’m pretty sure it’s going to make me nauseous.
My mouth watered for this cake, and I ignored the rest of food, eager for the large slice that was cut specifically for me. I imagined the melt-in-your mouth buttery flavor of the yellow cake, complimented perfectly by the rich, creamy chocolate icing.
Imagine my disappointment when I was met, instead, with a mouthful of sawdust, and an icing that had the consistency of spackle and forced me to drink about 1/2 gallon of water to flush it through. (If you know me, you’ll also know that as much as I love cake, I have equal hatred for drinking water.) And, to make it even worse, because my mother was a stickler for manners and etiquette, she all but insisted that I finish every morsel of food on my plate. But I digress . . .
4) Expectations. I’m a little obstinate, so being expected to buy things, be places and do things never resonates well — whether or not it’s holiday season.
The cake episode was pivotal, and after it, I embraced my free-thinker persona, and made the executive decision to abandon my family celebration and opt instead for television marathons, thai food, a movie (at the theatre), and lots of wine. These activities became my own personal rituals that I grew to love. I felt like I was stealing time from the world, and while everyone else was ensconced in holiday angst (except for the Jews and Muslims, who were my kindred spirits in pad see eiw), I was the genius who was having a fabulous time in a home that didn’t have tinsel strewn about the floor and tacky flashing lights. My parents were a little irritated initially, but probably because I had the courage to opt out.
Oddly, I participate happily in gift-giving – mostly because my Godchildren would throw fits — and because, despite my Christmas uneasiness, I’m actually a good gift-giver. As proof that we’re not always products of our environment, my gifts are typically thoughtful and useful. (Another personal tidbit is that, as much as I love giving gifts, I’m extremely uncomfortable on the receiving end. I’m a horrible person to buy for anyway, because I indulge myself often. [I just realized that learned this behavior in retaliation to the heinous gifts that I expected from my parents. Hmmm. Maybe I AM a product of my environment!])
Since my mother passed away, my father has come over to my side of the camp, and would be happier’n a pig in shit if he were allowed to cook his own food, and just be left alone to watch football.
And then, along came the BF to attempt to add some normalcy to my life. I’m determined to bring him over to my sedate holiday darkside (because, really? When you dance with the devil, you don’t change the devil. The devil changes you.)
But seriously? Don’t mind me. I’m just bitter, and upset that the holidays can’t be more like last year.
This time last year, I was in a dream state, anticipating my pending 12-day Jamaican vacation with the BF at a beautiful resort. Lemme tell ya . . . if you haven’t experienced Christmas day on a hot beach, drinking from a coconut, you haven’t lived. It was absolutely incredible.
There was no tug-of-war for my time. All of my friends knew that I would be out of the country and therefore unable to do whatever the hell it was they wanted me to do.
Granted, it wasn’t perfect. There were little things, like the BF forgetting to pack ANY socks or underwear, and allowing himself to be SO overworked prior to our departure that he spent the first four days under the weather (and by “under the weather,” I mean “near death”). But? The bigger picture is that I was able to escape all of the typical holiday nastiness and return after all of the Christmas craziness.
This Christmas? Sigh. No planned vacation in paradise – time got away from me this year. No imminent getaway or well-timed escape hatch.
But . . .the good news is that I have plenty of time to plan for next year, and I get to resume my ritual.
I might even do a little shopping, and I’m definitely baking my own cake!