My Christmas is very understated. I have no children. I'm single, and a real loner, so I don't go to parties or Christmas concerts. I buy a gift for my mom, and one for my Christmas box person (one of my sisters or a niece whose name I chose from the pile of names, on Thanksgiving Day). I might make gifts for my youngest nieces and nephews, if I come up with ideas. And I make a gift for my great friend. My ideas for home made gifts are always spur of the moment. Some years I don't think of anything. I begin to wonder if this will be a year when I don't make anything, and that's okay, I don't stress over it. But then I suddenly think of something I'd like to make, as I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep. I'm always glad when I think of something to make, because I consider this act to be a vital part of my Christmas celebration. Making the gift is as much for myself as for the one receiving it. I make a point of going to the mall a few times each Christmas, even if I don't have any reason for being there. Even though the mall is notorious for its mindless tackyness with the canned music and plastic junk for sale. Somehow I feel an exitement for the Season as I wander around the mall. At home, I enjoy the Christmas specials on t.v., I bake some cookies. I light my fireplace, and play Christmas carols on my record player, or sit at my piano and make my own Christmas music. On Christmas Eve this year, as I did the first time last year, I'll join my sisters and their families at mom's condo for a little get together. I'll join some of them at mom's church beforehand. On Christmas Day I'll join the family again, at my youngest sister's home for a big Christmas dinner and opening gifts. It will be my second year doing the family thing, after many, many years of not seeing them at all.
I find that my love of Christmas is mostly inside my heart. I find that it's very precarious, and easily disappointed. And ... I have a secret I've never shared with anyone ... Christmas has, for years and years, been a little bit sad for me.
I didn't enjoy a happy childhood, but Christmas was a time when I felt a special difference in our home. Somehow the tide turned each year at Christmastime - my childhood Christmases were wonderful. Then when I was about twelve, something changed, and Christmas was never again the same for me. I don't know what caused this, I believe it was more than just the fact that I was twelve and beginning to leave childhood behind. Suddenly we didn't join our many relatives for Christmas dinner anymore. On Christmas Day our family was alone, bored, begging our parents to do something special with us, but they didn't want to. Mom, who had always made each of her daughters a new Christmas dress, no longer made one for me, though she continued to do it for my sisters. I wore the same hand-me-down for years in a row. When mom made us gifts, she announced several times "Marian's has mistakes in it, it was only a practice, but the rest are perfect". I didn't enjoy a happy relationship with my mother as I was growing up, but Christmas had always brought about a change in her treatment of me, that lasted until the New Year. Then it stopped. Somehow, the Christmas spirit no longer came to our house.
During my teens, I was no longer living at home. For a time I lived with a foster family. That year I made the bus trip from the town where I lived, to the city to see my family for Christmas. It was then I understood that my family Christmas memories were truly a thing of the past. The following year I was back in Vancouver, living as a squatter in an abandoned house, and I met Doug (known here as x) and began my life working on the streets. Every year I returned home to see the family on Christmas Day, loaded down with bags of gifts I'd made. Every year my sadness in the season deepened. At home in my little apartment, I decorated a tree, I listened to carols on my player. Nights I stood on my corner where I worked, and looked at the Christmas displays in the store windows. Every year I insisted more loudly that I LOVED Christmas.
Now I'm living my brand new life. I left the streets behind fourteen years ago. I left x behind two years ago. I've reestablished ties with my family, after I learned that forgiveness does Not mean I must forget, or never again mention, what was done against me. There is nothing tragic about my life anymore, and I'm happy. And ... I think it's time I admited the truth, that Christmas is still a little bit sad for me. I understand that it is this way for a lot of people - it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with a person's lot in life. People are feeling lonely, and remembering loved ones who are no longer here. People are feeling left out, ignored, forgotten. Some, like me, remember wonderful Christmases of the past, that will never, never again exist.
It's precarious, this feeling of joy at Christmastime. It comes over me unexpectedly, and I embrace it, and then it's gone. That's what Christmas is like for me. It's time I said it, it's time I was honest. I didn't want to admit it before, because I believed that the admission would break my tenuous hold on the little bit of good feeling I have managed to retain over the years. It's precious to me. The idea of losing my Seasonal joy completely is frightening, and so I kept my secret. But now it's out. Maybe it will be okay.