Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh Tannenbaum.....

Before you ask, no....this is not my tree!! :o)
Maybe I'm just filled with the spirit of the holidays or the hope of a new year and things to come....
We set up our tree last week when Bianca was sick with the stomach bug. Forced to stay home, it gave me a good project to work on while she rested.
Christmas has been a bit of a thorn in my side for a long time...... I mean, as a child, naturally I enjoyed the gifts, the getting. As we grew into older kids, like teen years, and knew ours was not a happy family, Christmas became so forced. Trying to pretend we were something we were not. My mother was hell bent on materially overcompensating for what we lacked and every Christmas, she would spend roughly $20-$25,000. Yes. You read it right. Every Christmas from probably early teens through mid-20's. It would literally take us all day to open gifts with breaks for meals. And then what? At the end of the day, we'd all retreat to our own spots to be away from each other again.
I got married in 1999 and my XDH, Walter, was a BIG kid. Despite the fact that he was 35 years old, Christmas was about toys, frivilous items and sheer volume of gifts to open. I remember one Christmas, we sat down to open gifts. He looked at his pile of presents and sullenly asked "That's IT??" Jerk. Even though I'd sworn I would not repeat the absurdity of materialism on Christmas, I found myself doing just that. Walter would buy me so much crap that I didn't want or need. And would sulk if I was not ecstatic about it. I'd ask for something practical like a crock pot and instead he would buy me stuffed animals and gag gifts. Nevermind the fact we lived in a 700 square foot house with no where to put this stuff....
I digress.....I didn't even want to put up a tree when I lived with Walter. I was unhappy and, again, I felt the meaning of Christmas was lost amid all of this. He *made* me put up a tree. He knew I always had when I lived alone. In his mind, if I didn't put up a tree at his house then somehow he was a failure (?) and "ruined Christmas for me". (I could write an entire blog on the man's issues....) He was going to force me to enjoy Christmas on his terms. So I had to smile and pretend, again, just to keep the peace.
When he and I divorced and I moved back to my Mom's house, I told her under no circumstances would this continue with the outrageous gifts. I put up a tiny tree. We had stockings on Christmas morning and made breakfast. It was just what I wanted. Then she left for my brothers house and I was alone for the rest of the day. I thought I wanted it that way....but I was miserable.
Bianca came along by the following Christmas and, though it changed the holiday for the better, I've still been somehow dissatisfied every Christmas. I find myself, as I'm putting up the tree or doing something Christmas-y, ruminating over some aspect of my life that makes me unhappy. How Christmas just isn't how I planned or wanted. It's been bittersweet every year. Remember the Carpenters song that goes:
"Greeting cards have all been sent.
The Christmas rush is through.
But I still have one wish to make, a special one for you.
Merry Christmas, darling. We're apart, that's true.
But I can dream, and in my dreams,
I'm Christmasing with you.
Though the lights on my tree, I wish you could see.
I wish it every day.
Logs on the fire fill me with desire to see you and to say
that I wish you Merry Christmas.
Happy New Year, too.
I've just one wish on this Christmas Eve
I wish I were with you."
That song has made me sad as long as I can remember and I've always attached it to either a person or even the idea of a person. An ex-boyfriend, someone I had unrequited feelings for, a father figure, a real family, the idea of a loving significant other. There was always someone I wanted to be with instead of being where I was or with the company I was in. I have a very vivid memory of driving home one Christmas Eve. I was probably 20. It may have been the last Christmas before my father moved out. We used to go to my grandparents house for a big party every Christmas Eve. My father was driving, mom in the passenger seat and me in the back. It was snowing. This song was on the radio and I was silently crying, just wishing to be anywhere, anyone else. And I had to just let the tears, and my nose, run because if I gave a clue that I was crying, there would be some sort of hell to pay.
This year, I noticed a shift. There was pure excitement in putting up the tree. Bianca and I pulled out every ornament and looked at it, oohed and aaahhed over it. I have a "family tree", a collection of ornaments from throughout my life. So does Bianca...though hers is noticeably smaller than mine!! But we talked about what every ornament meant, who it came from and why it was chosen for that year. We placed them on the tree (and I redistributed Bianca's since she hung 30 ornaments on 2 branches......) Then we put on tinsel and candy was lovely. I find myself so thankful this year. Thankful for what I have and not wishing for that which I don't. And finally that Carpenters song is just another song. I'm no longer longing for anyone other than who I've got. I'd call that a big step to living in the NOW!


Angel said...

That's great, Kim! What a great post.

I'm still in shock over how much your mother spent each year. I cannot imagine. In fact, I had to triple-check your post to be sure that I read it correctly.

Kim said...

LOL. That's why I added the "yes you read that right" line. Sickening.

Enola said...

That is awesome! So glad you are enjoying the holidays.

My father overdid it on Christmas too - mostly to "win" one over on my mother who couldn't afford to do so. But I don't think it was $20-25k.

Marj aka Thriver said...

Kudos to you, Perfect. What a wonderful progression! This is a great message and I'm so happy to have it in the holiday edition of THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. Thank you!