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It’s Impossible To Be Grown Up About Some Things Or Bah Humbug

December 24, 2012

I don’t celebrate Christmas, at least not as a religious holiday. For me it’s always been about family and food and loot.  In my family gifts are love. Yes, I know that’s not any kind of healthy but that’s the way it has always been growing up.

Every year mom insisted that this year she wasn’t going to be able to get us much and every year we got a pile of presents because my mother is a little crazy in the clinical sense. So no matter how sincerely we told her that we were fine with not that many presents or no presents at all, she decided that we didn’t mean it and must have presents. That’s part of the way she tells us she loves us and I accept that for what it is; the attempt of a fairly emotionally closed off person to express love.

Then she met my stepfather and though he isn’t the most demonstrative person either, he did his best to shield me from the more vitriolic of my mother’s outbursts. And every year we made cookies.

They weren’t some special family recipe, just the ones from the back of the Nestle package. But he makes them gigantic and I get special ones with no nuts in them because I don’t like the nuts . We always make a different, nut free batch, just for me. Sometimes tiny things like that are all that is necessary to make a kid feel special and loved.

When I left home and went into the Air Force, those cookies crossed continents to get to me and I always shared them with whoever I was stationed with. Once they even found their way to Turkey.  No matter what, no matter how alone I felt, every year I got a box of “you matter,” from home full of presents from mom and cookies from him. I love those fucking cookies.

Now they’re divorcing for reasons. Those reasons may be valid. As I mentioned, mom is never going to be on the cover of Sanity Fair. Don’t get me wrong, I love and admire the woman, but she has faults and I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

As a result of the divorce and as a continuing result of her stroke last year they are very short on money. Mom’s super upset because she can’t afford to buy me presents. I honestly am fine with it. I understand. I’m not in any way upset by the lack. But for some stupid reason, I thought I would still get my cookies.

I was wrong and it wasn’t until last week that I realized it. It was kind of tickling the back of my mind, “I should have gotten my Christmas box by now. It isn’t here. I wonder what happened.” What happened is that they are divorcing. And for some reason that means that box of “you matter” isn’t coming anymore.

We got a package yesterday. It’s sitting at the apartment office. We can’t get it until Wednesday and the kid part of my brain thought “Yay! They came!” But they didn’t come I know that. I can’t even express how much that hurts.

Yeah. Not my best holiday season. I’m just not feeling it. I’ve tried. I really have, but it isn’t happening.

That’s really the point of this, by the way. I know I’m not the only person not feeling the holidays. It happens to a lot of us for various reasons. People get lonely, they miss their families, or they’re just sad around this time of year. Watching other people be happy doesn’t help much. You know what helps even less? The phrase “oh, come on! It’s Christmas!” That’s never the correct fucking answer. We know it’s Christmas, that’s why we’re sad. Being the odd man out emotionally is never easy. Being the odd man out when everyone else is so militantly happy is harder. Being singled out, when you already feel like you belong on the Island of Misfit Toys? That’s even worse.

So could you cut us some slack, please? We’re not Grinches. Our hearts don’t need to grow any sizes and we’re not out to get Bedford Falls. We’re not trying to ruin your holiday by not displaying the same feelings in the same way that you are. In fact, what we’re feeling is not about you at all and attempting to cajole someone who is already not feeling great into feeling better for your benefit is a shitty thing to do.

I get the good intentions from which that behavior stems. You see someone you care about not enjoying themselves and you want to fix it. Asking what’s wrong, if you’re really willing to listen, telling random sad person you care and hope they feel better? These things are good. Bugging them because they aren’t happy on Christmas? Not good. Shitty. Stop doing that. Failing at the expectation to have a wonderful, magical time or to have a heartfelt family reunion? Those are just more things that hurt. Not pointing that out is the way to be a good friend.

I know you want to help and you can. You can help by caring enough to be there without trying to diminish what the person you care about is going through. Eventually, most of us will get over it and we’ll go back to our normal selves. I know within the next couple of days I’ll be fine. That recovery will be easier if nobody bugs me about why I’m not having a “good enough” time.

I still want my damn cookies though.

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