Christmas is supposed to be a joy and a celebration right? Then why does this time of year have me all knotted up?
I long for the memories of a white Christmas past. Like the story I shared in my book…
It had snowed like crazy in the middle of the night. The branches of towering Ponderosa Pines that lined their property sagged under the weight of the snow. The five ton granite boulder that sat outside the dining room window, looked like part of a gigantic snowman. A blanket of virgin white snow surrounded the ground and patio outside the cabin. Untouched—it was calling our name. The gifts would have to wait.
My brothers, two cousins and I couldn’t wait to make tracks and have a snowball fight.
After we pelted each other a few times with snowballs, my Grandma Pauline beckoned us inside to breakfast and then to open gifts. We inhaled our bacon and eggs and pancakes and took turns shredding open our gifts. All the boys got Pogo sticks and my cousin Sheila got a bike.
“Let’s make a snowman!” Aunt Bonnie suggested to my mom…
Kelly started to make a snowman, but thought it would be better to chuck a big snowball at Seth—“Snowball fight!” Kelly cried out as he pummeled Seth in the back.
We laughed and giggled chucking snowballs at each other.
My cousins, Michael and Sheila, joined in, while my mom and aunt finished their snowman. They had already made arms with branches and put a carrot in the middle of the head for a nose.
“Hey, want some coal?” my grandpa asked as he handed them two lumps of coal—he had disappeared a few minutes earlier get some from the big sack that sat near the pot belly stove used to heat the upstairs bedroom area.
That was one of the best Christmases ever!
I have been blessed with so much. More than I ever imagined as a teenager. Then why do I feel empty inside, like something is missing? Perhaps its tough because I miss those who are no longer here to celebrate the holidays and life: my dad, my grandparents, and my brother, Seth. Perhaps it’s residual feelings I’ve held onto like this story of my early teens that I shared in Beyond Recovery
Lost Christmas Joy
I have spent many years trying to get past my hurt and anger, primarily toward my father for leaving us. As a kid from a broken family, it was hard to not hold a grudge. Especially when the rent was due, my brothers and I had to wear hand me downs and needed new shoes, and there was barely enough food in the fridge. Early on, there were times when we’d open the cupboards and they were practically bare.
People step up when needed—my dad’s parents always gave my mom five hundred bucks at Christmas so we could get clothes. I took on more responsibility. Her boyfriend helped with more firewood. We made do. We survived. However, winters were difficult for me, especially around Christmas time. What once brought me great joy with food, family, presents, and at least one snowball fight, became a day I dreaded. Most of this was perpetuated by an overwhelming lack of gratitude and focus on what we didn’t have rather than being grateful for what we had. We could only afford a small four-foot tree that we propped up on a coffee table to make it look bigger. To make matters worse, our sole heat source was a wood burning stove upstairs and a toxic kerosene heater downstairs. We had no money for firewood, so my two brothers and I cut bay trees that were so green they hissed when we tried to burn them. Pat, my mom’s new boyfriend, would collect scrap lumber he found in dumpsters for us to use as kindling, and my grandpa let us use the discarded oak parquet tiles from his work. Those would burn hot enough to get the green bay going, but the tar backing and finish made some nasty smoke while the fire was starting.
I’m grateful that our home was not condemned. It had been built as a summer home and had no insulation. There was no bathroom downstairs and the single wire, ungrounded 110 amp electrical almost killed me; I was taking a bath one day, and while standing in a tub full of water, reached over to turn on the electric heater—bad idea.
Our roof was shot. It leaked like a sieve, and we had no money to get it repaired. Instead, we stapled plastic sheeting to the ceiling to collect the drips, then poked in the low spots and placed buckets underneath to catch the drips in four spots instead of twenty. If my dad were still around, we could have fixed all these problems. But our limited resources stared us in the face anytime we needed repairs, new clothes, or saw how many presents our friends and relatives got at Christmas. How could a mother not feel resentful about the lack of child support? How could us kids not be pissed about a father who was not there to take us to baseball, basketball, or soccer games? I missed my dad. It sucked.
I don’t share this to be a downer. I share it to let others who may also wrestle with joy and discontentment around the holidays, know they are not alone. On one hand I want to be cheerful yet on the other, I wallow in grief over family members, and sometimes feel all alone.
The struggle is real. Talking helps, so does writing it down. I figured if maybe I shared a little of my heart, it may help another realize that they are not alone.
So what do I do to get out of the holiday blues? I try to smile more. I give more. I try not to think so much about myself. I give more hugs. There’s something magical about smiling at someone that lifts their spirits and in turns lifts mine. Hugs do the same thing. Physical contact is known to improve mental well being and health.
So for the next two weeks I am going to try and smile more and give more hugs.