Growing up, many of my Christmases weren’t all that merry.
Essentially an only child, I was often lonely. My siblings were much much older than me, and while that meant no one to fight with, it also meant no one to play with, either. Christmas is one of those times that seems to magnify loneliness; its when the absences in our lives are felt more acutely.
Christmas was tough for other reasons, too. My parents never had a lot of money, and so I know that the holidays were often stressful for them. I felt this even when I was young, understanding from an early age that things like Barbie’s Dream House weren’t meant for the likes of me. I made my Christmas requests realistic for a family with modest means, with a tinge of sadness, even though Santa always managed to come through for me.
I’ve written before about my father’s drinking. He was a weekend alcoholic and Christmas usually provided him with a couple of bonus days in which to indulge. Alcohol often made my father moody and unpredictable; I never knew which dad I was going to get. His drinking almost always led to tension between my parents. My mother knew how to push his buttons and often did when she was upset with him. Christmas was often filled with tension and arguments — Christmas dinners spent in angry silence, me walking around on eggshells never knowing when the room might explode with anger.
Now, I’m sure there were lots of happy Christmastimes, too. But that’s the thing about childhood memories, we don’t choose the ones that stick with us. These are just the ones that happen to stick with me.
Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t a “poor me, I had it so tough” post. I understand that there were plenty of people growing up who had things worse than me. Children who lived through poverty and abuse and any number of other awful things. Relatively speaking, I had it pretty good.
What all of this has resulted in is that Christmas is still kind of a tough time of year for me. Because my own Christmases weren’t great, I often worry about making happy Christmas memories for my own girls. I often over spend, working to ensure that everything is “just so” for them. It was particularly tough when I was a single mom; struggling not only financially, but with guilt for the fact that my girls were growing up without their parents under the same roof. So much guilt.
This year in particular, I am struggling with finding my Christmas spirit. I’m not 100% sure why this is, but I can’t seem to work up a lot of enthusiasm for the holidays this year. Because of CBG’s lack of employment for a month this fall, Christmas shopping got put on the back burner until just this past week. We’re now at a week until Christmas and we still have a ton of shopping to do, no Christmas tree, and I don’t really have a huge desire to go out and get one, either. Christmas decorations around the house? Um…not so much. It’s not helping matters either, that CBG is suffering from his own lack of enthusiasm this year, too.
And then there is the guilt. I worry that that girls sense my lack of excitement and enthusiasm for Christmas this year. I worry that this year will stand out in their minds as “that one year that Christmas really kind of sucked”.
I’m experiencing this strange emotional cocktail — simultaneous lack of enthusiasm and guilt. Right now the lack of enthusiasm is winning, as I sit here and look around at our un-decorated house and have no real ideas about what we’re going to do in terms of getting a Christmas tree. I do know, however, that if I don’t pull out the big guns and create a Christmas Miracle, that come Boxing Day, the guilt will be all that I’ll have left.
So now I turn to you, dear readers…any suggestions on how I can find my Christmas spirit this year?