Merry Christmas Tree…What Does Christmas Mean To Me?

Some years I’m all Scrooge, “Bah Humbug!” and what have you. I refuse to be touched by the holiday season for any reason. I get angry seeing Christmas displays up one day after Halloween. Personally, I’m not a shopper. I hate shopping. I hate parting with a penny for any reason. I grew up frugal with a mother who had beer money and champagne tastes but made that work for us. My mother taught me to buy quality over status and to bargain shop for things needed over what is wanted. As a result I still practice these habits today.

Clothes, well, when I purchase clothing I look for things that will last for years. I’m the same with shoes. I don’t wear jewelry, except earrings from time to time. For the most part I live pretty minimalistic. My worldly possessions would have fit in the bed of my truck when I got ready to move. I only used the trailer so I didn’t have to unpack my truck every night while I was driving across the country.

Once upon a time the holiday season was all about family. For me that meant my mother and I. We had our traditions that we cultivated over the years. When she was with my father and stepfather this meant extended family, cousins, grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. When I was younger I bounced back and forth one year with mom, one year with bio dad, splitting Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break, and Summer vacation.

My favorite aunt loves to remind me of the Christmas I asked for a walkie-talkie. I asked my mom, my dad, and her for the toy. It was all I really wanted. My best friend lived across the street from me and we figured that way we could chat at night. So I wanted one. I got three sets that year. The nicest part, they all worked together so guess who was able to hook up the entire neighborhood with them? Me.

The year I begged for a CD player for Christmas I only got one from my father. My family had learned how to divide and conquer my Christmas wish. Anyway, I got CDs from the rest of the family and my friends so I knew a CD player would be under the tree. Only my father left it in the trunk of his car making it the last gift I received. So after opening a pile of CDs with no more presents under the tree, I knew one was on its way. He kept up the charade trying to convince me he hadn’t bought me one.

I wasn’t fooled. He swore up and down for about twenty minutes that he didn’t buy one. I was like sure, right, whatever. Finally he fished the CD player out of his trunk and gave it to me while calling me ungrateful. I was about as grateful as a teenager could be for an expected gift, not so much, but just enough. He’d wanted to surprise me, only he always bought me what I wanted for Christmas, so really where was the surprise?

That also happened to be the first Christmas to follow when I stopped speaking to him for the first time. I chose to stop speaking with him for four years after he’d told me he wished I’d been an abortion. My father was an alcoholic, only I didn’t realize it at the time. He appeared quite successful despite his illness. He was a very proud man who felt he didn’t have a problem. I once told my father he was the most functional alcoholic I knew. He heard ‘functional’ and assumed it was a compliment. I meant ‘alcoholic’ and wished he’d obtained help for it before it killed him.

I didn’t spend many Christmas’s with him after that one. The argument that resulted from whether or not I was grateful for the gift left a bad taste and impression on me so after that, I spent the holidays with my mother until her death.

My mother and I did sushi for Thanksgiving and cornish hens for Christmas. Turkeys meant leftovers for weeks and unless we spent the holiday with friends, it was just too much work. I could cook some things but it wasn’t like we needed that much food which we would have wasted anyway. My mother and I eventually got into a few habits, traditions as a result. We’d go see a movie after eating and spending the day together. We didn’t exchange gifts. We just hung out and enjoyed the time off together. That was it.

After her death I had a hard time celebrating the holidays. Sometimes I’d go over to a friend of my mother’s house, but nothing replaced our special time together. Eventually I was just too depressed to do much around that time of year. Today, I don’t look forward to the holidays, at least not to the degree I did as a kid. The magic of the holiday season has been missing from my life for quite awhile. I get depressed when they are coming around and spend a lot of time writing, missing my mother, and now missing my father, too.

My father passed away December a few years ago. At the time we weren’t on speaking terms again. His alcoholism killed him and damaged our relationship beyond repair. I’m grateful that I chose to visit him when I knew he was about to die and we did have a forgiveness conversation the day before he died.

I guess what I need to do is start a new tradition this time of year. One that doesn’t include so much mourning of my past. Letting it go and letting the promise of a new year be the key to moving past my depression and into a new course for being the best me I can be. It’s great in theory, but how do I practice such a thing and break a bad/not good for me habit?

First off, I moved across the country this year. I’m in a new place mentally and physically in my life. So I guess that’s a huge stepping stone to changing my habits for the holidays. I’m trying to see things a bit different than I did in prior years. So hopefully this year won’t be so much about mourning and all Bah Humbug as much as what’s new.  I can’t wait to see what will happen next.

Merry Christmas Tree and may the best of my past be the worst of my future...

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