badatapologies: (home sweet home)
[personal profile] badatapologies
Christmas Eve. This used to be the big event for my family, which is to say my mom's side of the family, which was all the family I ever had for at least half my life. We always got together and opened gifts and had our big Christmas dinner and celebrated on Christmas eve, so much so that when I found out most people didn't open their presents until Christmas morning it seemed strange and bizarre and I didn't believe it. Opening presents in daylight? In the morning? How can you enjoy the tree and the Christmas lights in daytime? How can you have Christmas dinner at 10am? Doesn't make any damn sense. Oh, sure, on Christmas morning Santa (aka my Grandma) would have brought me maybe one surprise item, or some chocolates or a satsuma in my stocking, but nothing major. It was just a little bonus stuff. Later I came to understand that for most people it was exactly the reverse--maybe, maybe they'd get one gift on Christmas eve. When I was in my teens I reconnected with my dad's side of the family, and the wisdom of our Christmas eve family gathering became apparent to me. It freed everyone up to go spend Christmas day with another branch of their family. With all those broken homes and in-laws and whatnot, it was almost a necessity. I've had a lot of Christmas day events in the past 20-plus years, but none of them were ever as sweet, or felt more like Christmas, than those Christmas Eves in the trailer with my Grandma and the family.

How are you supposed to sleep with all those unopened presents? It makes no sense! Bah.

I was, and this should not surprise you at all, the Christmas Elf. Starting when I was about 7, every year on Thanksgiving night I'd wait until my grandma was fast asleep and put up all the decorations myself, haul the little artificial tree out of the shed, stay up til 3am trying every bulb in every string until I'd assembled one string of lights that worked. For you youngsters, in the olden days when one Christmas light would burn out, the whole string would stop working. This was to make you go buy new lights every year, but we outsmarted them by never having enough money to replace the lights, so I had to do some electrical engineering. The resulting fires were minimal and easily extinguished.

I suppose it does weird things to you when you're saddled with adult responsibilities (or adult indifference) at that age. I did most of the family Christmas shopping in the discount bins at the Revco or Ben Franklin, decorated the trailer inside and out, bought and signed and stamped and mailed the Christmas cards, sometimes even bought my own gifts, but I still believed in Christmas and Santa and all the magical things youngsters believe in. I used to obsess over how Santa would get in, since we didn't have a chimney. In fact sometimes I suspected that's why he didn't stop. But on the night of the 24th, every alley cat running across the roof of the trailer was a right jolly old elf and his eight tiny reindeer. Eight tiny meowing in-heat reindeer. I believed against all sense, against that nagging voice in the back of my head that says "no, you know, there's no Santa, there's no magic, you're it, it's just you." Same sort of voice that comes up when one's desperate nightly prayers to God are returned Attempted Not Known. Sometimes you need things to be true even when you know they're not.

In the intervening years I did my best to keep Christmas going, and in so doing, try and keep the family together, so that we'd see each other at least one day a year. But my grandmas died a couple of years back, and my young nephew died this year, which devastated everyone, and now the family's just fallen apart. My sister moved to South Dakota, and the rest of us--well. My mom pretty much canceled Christmas, though we're all getting together for some kind of a dinner tonight, at my aunt and uncle's place. I was admonished that there would be no gifts or merriment allowed, but needless to say I'd already got them all a few very modest items so they will have to like it or lump it. I doubt Cost Plus will take back the pretzels. But I get the feeling this may be the last time we all--well, what's left of us--get together for Christmas.

These things happen. Life is brief. You have to cherish the times you get. Etc. I'll be mumbling those mantras to myself later today. And there'll be Christmas with friends, with my sweetie, with my dad's side of the family, and lots of good things. Families of choice. Unwitting members of my karass. What-have-you. I'm grateful for all of it.

And I'm grateful for you, too, dear friends. Since I probably won't have another opportunity to say this, have a happy Christmas. In the words of Lou Reed, "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever it is you do--happiness, through the years, to you."

Date: 2008-12-24 11:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] toddalcott.livejournal.com
As far as I can tell, Christmas exists to prevent writers from getting any work done. The only way to combat the stress and loneliness of the holidays that I have found is to go see whatever prestige, splashy big-budget entertainment Hollywood has chosen to offer us. Try Benjamin Button.

Date: 2008-12-24 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] also-huey.livejournal.com
The dogs look at me funny when I sing. I recommend three songs: "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...") sung in Lounge Lizard voice, Dave Mason "We Just Disagree" similarly, and close with "Christmas in the bar", which scans well to "Whiskey in the jar".

Date: 2008-12-24 02:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] revme.livejournal.com
*hug*

That was a sad, poignant story. I just wanna give you a million hugs.

*warm smile*

Date: 2008-12-24 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/kimmykat_______/
Your story invokes many christmas memories: the outdoor lights on an indoor tree, opening presents at grandma's on christmas eve... and yes, even that one saved for christmas morning. My grandmother didn't live in a trailer, but it sure felt like it with all the family crammed into her 12'x15' living room!

Merry Christmas! *hug* I am grateful for you, too! Thank you for sharing your perspective of the world with me... us.

Date: 2008-12-24 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shegeek1000101.livejournal.com
Merry Christmas to you and Wendy! Loved what you wrote, and I too remember the light bulb being burned out being a bad thing. Oh the things the youngsters take for granted... ;^)

Sack-ryn warning

Date: 2008-12-24 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capsuper.livejournal.com
I only ever got to see the tail end of your Christmas eve get togtethers when I'd pick you up to bring you here for the Loon Christmas, or just stopped by. And even I miss seeing that little bit of it. I miss it for you, too. It bums me out to see Christmas traditions fade away.
I'm glad I wasn't part of it, though. Surrounded by strangers, and not being family I'd feel like an interloper, but, yeah, even to me it doesn't seem quite like Christmas Eve without it. Of course more so for you. I hope the Loon Christmas fills a tiny bit of the hole. That's the thing I look forward to most. My parents give big presents, and there's lots of food, but for me there's lots of tension. Childhood traumas still in me, an idiot sister who won't shut the hell up. Loon Christmas is the Christmas where I get to be with the people I care the most about.
And then I start pullin' my pud to fetish porn when everyone leaves!!!! WOOOO!!!! Sorry...things were getting too Hallmarky.

I had no idea you didn't do anything on Christmas day. I thought Eve was a party for the family, and on Christmas morning it was Christmas with your Grandmas.
I'd hate to have all of Christmas on Christmas Eve. Then what do you do the rest of the day?
Part of the fun of Christmas is the anticipation (and excitement induced insomnia.)
My mom makes an artery clogging breakfast of fried dough, bacon, eggs. We open presents, there's a snacks and goodies table. I play with presents during the day, eat. Dinner's at around 3, desert an hour later. Around 5 Diane shuffles in looking like she either just woke up or stumbled out of a bar (either could be accurate.) Ethan's with her. Around 6 I go home and start feeling depressed that Christmas is over, and I have to wait another 11 months for all this again.
Anyway, that's how we've done it since I moved out. Except for waking up everybody in the house at 6 AM to open presents, then breakfast, it hasn't changed much since I was a kid. Although, I do miss Gramma. She always came through with the presents. And I could cling to her when my dad's being a farting idiot.

Date: 2008-12-24 05:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mcpino.livejournal.com
Happy Crimmus, kiddo.

Date: 2008-12-27 05:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] noskilz.livejournal.com
Hopefully your holidays will turn out well. Was it Ben Franklin who suggested something along the lines expecting the worst but being pleasantly surprised if it fails to materialize? I'd double-check that myself, but when away from home I'm stuck on dial-up, and navigating the internet on dial-up is like trying to drink a milkshake with a coffee straw.

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