Monday, December 29, 2014

O Tannenbaum: My First Christmas Morning Without Gifts

This is my first Christmas in my own home, and a few factors (like being broke and spending most of my time in treatment, work, or volunteering) meant that I didn't adorn my abode with very much festive cheer. Back in September when I had all the time in the world I dreamed about lights on the balcony and in the windows, an Advent wreathe on the table, tinsel, an evergreen wreathe with berries and a bow on it, and maybe even my first (small) real tree.

In the end, I put out my collection of snowmen and realized that between working overtime to cover all my hospital treatments without getting paid for it, and travelling to my brother's wedding in November, I was too wrung out to actually do a Christmas for myself.

I also decided not to go to my family's this year. I'd just spent six days trapped in a foreign country with them sharing a hotel room, and I didn't think I could bear any more of the old familiar patterns. I've also been doing a lot of difficult work in group and in therapy, and right before leaving for the holidays my psychologist decided to spring the phrase "your abusers" on me for the first time. Needless to say, this just wasn't going to be the year where I could sit around comfortably and pretend everything was normal, and happy, and that I have forgiven the hurts I've barely begun to acknowledge. 

Anyway, I realized about a month ago that the immediate impact of this decision would be that I wouldn't be able to have the traditional Christmas morning of everyone sitting around in their pajamas opening gifts. There wouldn't be a tree hung with ornaments I'd spent hours hanging, there wouldn't be stockings, or brightly colored ribbons, or arguing over how to fold the tissue paper. Most emotionally, I wouldn't have any presents on Christmas day.  At first I thought about buying myself some stuff and wrapping it up, but I decided that was stupid. I'm a big girl: I don't need gifts on Christmas morning. I'll just suck it up until whenever I end up seeing my parents. And anyway, I was going to church, and it wasn't like I'd be seeing other people receiving gifts to remind me that I wasn't.


To add to what my friend said when yet someone else gave him a gift: when you don't have a family, everyone gives you things, but if you choose not to see your family to try and protect yourself, nobody gives you anything. 

I had that sad, small, crushed feeling inside like a kid who finds out all their friends have been invited to a birthday party and they haven't. I've never been the most lovable person. I've never been the type to elicit unsolicited gestures of love. In my own family, I'm the one that everyone ignores, while my brother is the bright shining star. It's like that in every group I join -- some people help share the last of the Communion wine and I wash the dishes; I do the un-glamorous jobs without waiting to be asked and no one says thank you; I prepare the stuff for s'mores while other girls lead the campfire; I compose the prayer services and someone else leads them. I am the invisible girl, and I don't usually bring out the grand gestures in people without asking for them.

I thought it wouldn't be a big deal, but I went home and cried like a small child. This dovetailed nicely with the fact that I cry every time I come home from church now because I'm having some kind of crisis of faith. Only this time, it was all about Santa Claus forgetting to bring me anything. I know I brought it on myself by deciding not to go home this year, but I still couldn't help feeling sorry for myself.

At any rate, I thought I'd give you all a small gift this holiday season. I know it isn't much, but I'm going to share a little story about Christmas. When this happened I was about four years old, and this is one of my earliest memories.

My uncle R had come over to our house to celebrate Christmas, and he'd brought us presents. I unwrapped mine and saw that he'd given me a pair of brightly-colored Fisher Price roller skates that attach to your regular shoes. They were really cool, obviously. I said thank you while struggling not to cry, and then crawled behind the orange rocking chair to hide and sob. Since I was inconsolable, my uncle asked my mother what was the matter, and she had to tell him that they'd already given me the same pair of skates. My uncle apologized to me and said he didn't know. He promised to take me shopping at Toys R Us the next day and get me something else. Once I realized that he really understood that I was sad and wasn't angry about it, but wanted to make it better, I calmed down and stopped crying.

And he really meant it. The next day he took me to the store, and I made a beeline for the doll aisle. Faced with a dazzling array of Barbies, I picked the one with the long ponytail of hair that you could make even longer. Her hair was mesmerizing. It was one of my first Barbies and I was quite pleased with it. My uncle kept trying to convince me to get something else to go with it, but I was perfectly fine with my prize. They did eventually convince me to get her some accessories (sets of extra clothes and shoes), and I was really happy with her. I was excited that I got to pick my own toy, and I was happy that my uncle wasn't upset with me for being sad, and that he didn't think it was funny.

It was one of the best Christmases ever. And man, did I love that doll!

1 comment:

  1. That story is a perfect gift. Thank you for sharing it! :)