three kinds of Christmas

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It’s just after 9, I’m drinking my morning coffee, enjoying the last few bits of my solo vacation. Part Two begins in about an hour. I’m going to the ocean with Cyndi, Charlie and Andy for a Christmas getaway. It’s a strange thing, really. Strange enough not to be back in the South this time of year. Still very uncomfortable to not be with Scott right now. I’m not really celebrating anything this year. There’s nothing to celebrate (oh, sure, you could say I have my health and a handful of good friends and a nice job and a pretty cozy apartment, but that’s not the sort of celebrating I tend to think of when it comes to Christmas.) I’ve been feeling jaded and, I admit, pretty angry about all the stuff that goes on around me this time of year. The mass consumerism, the faux (and temporary) tendancies toward love and kindness and giving. It’s fleeting. Come March they will have all forgotten about it. We’ll all be back into routine, whatever that may bring. Those feelings that were stirred up in these weeks will have been muted.

But before I get into stuff that should go in my private journal, let me try to make my point: I’m coming to realize three different kinds of Christmas.

When I go back to SC (or NC), it’s out of habit, obligation. I can’t even say it’s ritual. I go because that’s where my family is (and aren’t we supposed to be with family at Christmas?). I go because I haven’t seen them all year (and shouldn’t I see my family at least once a year?). I go because I hope, every year, that things will be different, that I’ll have a crack at the sort of relationship I’d like to have with my family. (Again, I’ll stop here; no sense for me to go on about what I’d like on that front.) Even the acts of Christmas seem like just that–acts. We go out and buy gifts because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to want to give and you’re supposed to (secretly) want to get. In this kind of Christmas, you don’t think too much about meaningful gifts; you just get gifts. In this kind of Christmas, you don’t talk too much about what you want out of life or how yours has been, nor do you ask your family about theirs. Instead you wait for someone to piss you off and then you lash out at them. Later, on Christmas morning (or sometimes later, sometimes not until the plane is about to take off), you make up with those you pissed off. You exchange ‘I love yous’ and that’s that. A family Christmas.

For Scott and I, Christmas was about acting like a kid, buying way too much stuff for each other, combining memories and creating new traditions. We had a tree. We bought ornaments. We made fires and were cozy. We spent time alone, searching for the perfect gift for each other. We wanted to be together, and we were—as much as we possibly could be. We wanted to give each other everything we could. We were (almost) always happy. In spite of whatever flaws there may have been, it felt perfect enough. And that was fine by both of us. It was the kind of Christmas that felt right, and that’s all that mattered. We had a chance to spend just one Christmas together.

And now I’m getting ready to go away with three people I met not two years ago. They’ve taken me in and invited me in to their Christmas tradition. No presents, just going away to be together. I’m feeling like a new sister, a tag along and a good friend all at once. It is, indeed, a strange thing. I’m feeling guilty for not seeing my family, I’m feeling a lot of deep, deep sadness for not being able to see Scott. This is the third kind of Christmas. One where the holiday itself isn’t what’s important. And we can do what we want, be however happy or sad we want to be. And we’ll play Scrabble and walk on the beach and I’ll make big southern breakfasts. And Cyndi will teach me to knit and I’ll try to get her to write and Charlie and Andy and I will joke and poke fun at each other. And I’ll feel bad for not being with my family. And I’ll miss Scott.

Author: Kim Sharp

more later

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