For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to Christmas. In my previous 40+ years of having Christmas happen to me, I think I’m ready to celebrate it this year.
I’m the child of divorced parents. I don’t have any memories of my parents being married. I was too young when they split ways. By the time I was old enough to remember things, my dad had started living with my step-mom, and my mom was remarried as well. By the time my family settled into the groove that would exist for most of my life, I ended up with the following list of places to be on Christmas:
- Mom’s house
- Dad’s house
- Mom’s parents’ house
- Dad’s parents’ house
- Step-mom’s mom’s house
- Step-dad’s parents’ house (Sometimes optional)
Yeah. That’s six places in one day. We’d organize things to have some of the gift exchanges happen on Christmas Eve and others on Christmas.
I was somewhere around ten or eleven years old when I realized many different families scheduled their holidays around me. I was the crux. The center of the chaos. It hurt me. It stressed me out.
I know. I know. It showed how much these wonderful people loved me. I felt the stress (internal and external) of the racing from location to location and spending “enough” time at each place at such a high level, the love and companionship felt, well, distant. In a way it was. It was a distant second to the requirements of shuffling me around between all of these people.
When I got my driver’s license and could handle getting myself between points A and F, the stress amplified. Instead of being told, “Time to go to the next place” and being pulled away from grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, and other family, the responsibility of telling loved ones that I had to leave them behind to spend time with different loved ones landed on my shoulders.
I hated it. To my core and with a passion, I despised telling someone I loved that I had to spend time away from them at this time of year. It made me feel like I loved some more than others. I felt that was the absurd message I sent.
By the time I was 22, I hated it so much, I just stayed at home, unplugged the phone, locked the door, turned off the lights, and hid. That was the year I didn’t see anyone. I opened no gifts. I bought no gifts. I just sat in my shack in the alley (literal there) behind one of my grandfather’s rental properties and cried for two days. I knew I was letting dozens of people down, many of whom had traveled to see family, including me. I was part of that family, but it broke my heart to have to segregate my time into such discreet chunks. I heard later that a few people thought I was dead because I was a no-show.
My dad showed up on the day after Christmas to scream at me being a hermit. I just stood there and let him unleash on me. I had no words for the depth of despair I was in, and he couldn’t see it. I didn’t know what to change. I didn’t know how to change it.
Before my 23rd Christmas rolled around, I’d moved away from my hometown and had landed in San Antonio. For the first time in my life, I only had to be in one place to celebrate the season. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember nervously checking my watch over and over. My subconscious continued to scream at me, “It’s time to go somewhere else!” I didn’t know what to do with that. There was nowhere else to go. There were no other people to go see. I was a mess of frayed nerves the entire night despite being with my mom, step-dad, and little sister in a warm and caring home.
So… that is the story my ghost of Christmas past can tell.
Since that time I’ve only had to be in one place for this special time of year. I’m 42 now. It’s taken me almost 20 years to untrain my brain from something that I grew up knowing as “normal” for the first 21 years of my life.
I have a new “normal.” I have a loving family. I’m looking forward to Christmas. I’m eagerly awaiting tomorrow.
Christmas will no longer happen to me.
I will enjoy Christmas as it happens with me and my loved ones.
My ghost of Christmas present is a happy one. Content. Warm with an inner glow. At peace.
I can’t wait to see what my ghost of Christmas future brings to my life.