Just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, I started writing this post, and from the git-go, it was going to be a pretty depressing one because I wasn’t looking forward to the holidays at all. I was going to write about how terrible it is when anyone asks what I’m doing for the holidays because, no matter how cheery I am when I tell them that I’m spending time with friends, they always want to know why I’m not going to be with family. Then, I either have to lie, or I have to tell them that I’m not really invited to the in-town family holidays. To be fair, there is only one faction of the family that’s really asked me not to come around, but that doesn’t change how dreary a conversation it is when, of course, a co-worker wants to know why I’m not welcome with the fam, and it quickly turns into the this really personal and painful thing for me, while the co-worker person is almost entertained, because he thinks I’m just a nice girl, who everyone would be happy to have around for the holidays. Unassuming. Polite. Then, co-worker usually invites me to spend the holidays with her and her family, which I have to decline because I already have plans, although co-worker clearly thinks I’m just pretending to have plans when I’m really getting drunk and feeling sorry for myself.
Then, Thanksgiving came, and it was nice, but I still felt pretty cranky, so I did the Thanksgiving thing like usual, then proceeded to go home, eat a lot of pie, drink some wine, and try to ignore my birthday. However, it turns out that I have quite a few good friends, and every time I try to be cranky, they call me up and fix things. There were no less than seven people who made my birthday pretty amazing in spite of me, and they sort of hit me in shifts. Although I know they didn’t conspire to work things out this way, there was nary a moment for loneliness or depression because first was a morning thing, then an afternoon thing, then an evening thing, then another thing like a week later. So my bday was pretty jolly and, though I may have ranted a bit about the whole Christmas season and those Whos down in Who-ville, it all went just swell.
I think part of the problem is that Christmas is like a movie that’s based on a book you love. You know there’s potential for greatness, but it’s still just a normal thing that people have to “put on” and it doesn’t always live up to your expectations. So with Christmas, as with movies based on books, I try to have low expectations. I went into today feeling certain that it was just another normal day.
Turns out, though, that Christmas still contains a pinch of magic, “so long as we have hands to clasp.” It went by a bit too quickly, and my tummy wasn’t big enough for all the food I wanted to put in it, but all-in-all, it was a pretty perfect day. And although this may be the toughest holiday season I’ve lived since the dis-invitation, I believe it was also one of the best, because I think previous years have been bearable only because I ignored the sense of betrayal, injustice, and just general hurt feelings that came with being told I don’t live up to the family standard. I just went about my time, thinking of my holiday benefactors as a replacement family. Of course there doesn’t seem to be much harm in that because they’ve been stability, wisdom and affection far exceeding what most families provide, and I’ve certainly put those Christmas ninjas down on emergency contact forms far more often than I’ve written anyone with true blood ties, and yet, there’s something important about being true to my self rather than erasing the pieces that don’t fit my preferred puzzle.
Because, honestly, if I could rewrite my story, I’d erase the first twenty years or so. Stories often start with twenty-year-old protagonists, and we accept them with all of their virtues and vices as they are, regardless of what went on in the years prior to page one. We trust that the author will tell us what we need to know, which is often very little about the past. In fact, we English teacher/writer types have a term to describe stories that start in the middle of things. Beginning a story en media res is often advisable because it grips readers’ attentions. But life isn’t quite like fiction, because our vices and virtues are often a direct result of the first twenty years. And this particular Christmas can’t be lived in isolation from the previous twenty-eight, no matter how desperately I’d like to believe such a revision is possible.