christmas season is when the populace really becomes beastly.
someone once called my family the cornucopia of dysfunction, and i often think about that comment around this time of year. definitely the most festive, colorful and downright fun way that i’ve ever been called fucked up. not that i disagree—actually, the twisted competitor in me took a kind of demented pride in it. i mean if you’re going to do something, you may as well do something.
the cornucopia of dysfunction. my cup runneth over.
running cups aside, this time of year is a very conflicted one for me, made all the more so by its ever-increasing length. the holiday season (aka countdown to christmas) was once bookended very nicely by thanksgiving on one side and christmas on the other. now, it begins the moment halloween ends, and i do not appreciate it. one month’s worth of tidings of joy and idealized standards of familial bliss is quite enough, so i say we take back november.
this is how i’ve come to see the holiday season: it’s a long hallway with funhouse mirrors on either side, lined with all kinds of music boxes and chortling santas and carol-singing elves. and all of these adorable little noisemakers have motion sensors in them so that as you pass each one, it begins to ho-ho-ho or ring its bells or hum “oh holy night.”
and here’s the rub: there are no off buttons—each sound just spreads itself out over the last one, and every step you take sets off one more layer of noise, until, by december 23rd, you’re in a cacophony-induced insanity—a glazed trance lined with norman rockwell images of children exclaiming with glee as they open their perfectly chosen presents while mom and dad lovingly exchange knowing glances, and oh my god does everyone else have a perfect family except for me?? until you finally fall across the finish line of december 25th in a sweaty heap, feeling like alex from a clockwork orange, nauseous at the very thought of anything familial or festive.
but if i didn’t also love this time of year, that walk down the hallway wouldn’t upset me so much. if i didn’t see it as something potentially wonderful, it wouldn’t affect me so much when it failed to live up to that. some of my best memories are from thanksgiving, when our jersey cousins would make the trek up into the tundras of upstate new york. i remember spending the afternoon of their arrival waiting by the window, watching the empty driveway for their car. i remember long icicles dripping under the white winter sun, and our red runny noses after a long sledding session at cobbs hill. i remember clumps of snow tracked over dark green carpet, and the smell of newspaper on my fingers after my dad let me help him build the fire. i remember the smell of turkey and my mom’s perfect carving job. i remember something that felt like home.
but now, all these years later, there’s a sadness that comes with those memories, because nothing is what it used to be. people have changed and things have been broken. real damage has been done in ways that couldn’t be undone, and even when it could, the undoing changed everything anyway. and i spent a very long time focused on how i wanted things to be and what i wanted my family to look like. i pined and i wished, and as all that wishing was failing me, it was also depleting me of the strength that i could have been using to make my life exactly what i wanted it to be. i gave away so much time and so much self to those holiday images that are about to come cascading down the mountain. it should look like that, i thought. i deserve a family that behaves like this. i want them to make me feel that.
more recently i’ve learned to tell that picture in my head of how it’s “supposed” to look to go fuck itself. it’s taken a lot of work but i finally like the picture of what is. i’ve made my own family, which has taught me how to love my first one. we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have, and expecting anyone to be anything besides exactly who they are is a soul-crushing endeavor. i know this. i know this. i know it so goddamn well. and yet, the holiday season zeroes in on the cracks in my newfound appreciation for what is. i become convinced that everyone except for me is hugging in brightly colored christmas sweaters in front of a roaring fire while singing carols around the piano. in harmony.
it’s during these last few months of the year that i find it the hardest to yield up that picture of what my life should look like. i’m a stray—an other—and the holiday images that club me over my head for months on end remind me of that otherness, despite the fact that my better self realizes that my dysfunction only makes me belong more.
i know i’m not the only person who feels like their present can’t compete with either their past or the images swimming across all our screens. so i can’t be the only one who thinks that christmas should be left to december, right? don’t you want to re-claim these next few weeks and stave off the incessant prodding to prove your love by spending an ass-ton of money? don’t you want november back?
i’ve included the link to the blog’s facebook page–click over there and tell me that you’re with me on this. i want to hear your real feelings about this time of year–i want to hear about your holiday truth. before we all start posting pics of all of our perfect families, let’s do this first. stand with me, people.