A Christmas Carol of My Very Own…


RbP - Ghosts of Christmas Past

I’m not sure I have something illustrative to say about the season this year, but I do hope to have produced something along those lines by the end of this post.  It was messy, like this post is going to be and I’ve been a bit stuck. But part of learning about the experience of this blog is that I’m going to have to post through these moments, when my thoughts are less than perfect and I can’t seem to get the salient points nailed down…Here’s my less than perfect post. It matches my less than perfect life ☺

The way the season went it turns out I didn’t have to read Dickens this year. I was visited by all the ghosts of Christmas anyway. So let’s hope that, like Scrooge, it will finally help put some things into perspective and release me to move forward.

CHRISTMAS PAST

This year was flavored with more memories of the past than usual, which didn’t thrill me. It felt entwined with spiritual reminders of my teenage Christmases, where I felt very much on the outside looking in, and as a result I just couldn’t seem to get into Christmas this time around. The financial terror at the beginning of the month seemed to just consume all my energy. Then having the older 3 kids gone for the week leading up to it was sort of the coup de grace. And as I drifted, without plan or energy, I was easy prey for a visit from the ghosts of the past, days where Christmas routinely felt like it belonged to everyone but me. For a very long while, light years from where I stand today, it was the loneliest time I ever knew. But for 11 years now, the warmth of all these little bodies and souls has driven those feelings far, far away for the most part. (do I really need to insert the kind of words of gratitude here that I feel? There aren’t enough.)

And so, it was no wonder that I felt removed from it all even while I tried to have Christmas for the little ones. I was only marginally successful I feel, but I don’t think they noticed it too much. Not enough anyway, that it can’t be recovered with a better effort next year.

With that as the goal, what’s the take away from all this? I’m still not living the life I envision for myself. Not really. I think the answer lies in what keeps me from completely inhabiting my own life? Who am I still trying to please and what choices and steps do I need to take so that by next year I am writing a post about how we found our own way through Christmas…and how much better it was.

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Which brings us to…The ghost of Christmas Present. He came wearing a chauffeurs hat again, as this season found us once more driving the freeways of SoCal trying to make sure everyone was seen by everybody who needed to see them. 6 kids, 4 different houses, numerous relatives, 48 hours. Hard to believe the suicide rate jumps during the holidays, right? You know, if the parents and families of all my children decide to check in someday, I could find myself trying to negotiate 4 fathers, 2 mothers, and an absolutely endless number of other relatives. Hard to believe the suicide rate jumps during the holidays. Oh, wait…I mentioned that already.

I can see things could get even further out of hand and it is too much, for sure. But, to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure how I can possibly edit it. I wonder if the trick won’t be more about crafting the days leading up to the 24th so that we feel we have a greater ownership of our holidays. And then I wonder how many other people talk about having “ownership” of their holidays…is this common do you think?

We opened a “Box of Grandma” again this Christmas, and I found that with it, I opened a big box of resentment I didn’t realize I had been carrying around – ever since “The Phone Call”.   These boxes come at least twice a year and they are huge. I mean H-U-G-E.  As in, “How much guilt can you pack in a box?” and they come for one child. That sounds mean, I know, but so have all her phone calls to me – all 2 of them in the last year. It is certainly their prerogative to send their gifts to only one child, I see a lot of this and it is nails on a chalkboard to me. I admit that I bristle at any attempts to draw lines through my children, and although I will likely never be able to avoid the carving up of my family completely, don’t ever expect me to be ok with it. And so, by all means, you don’t have to concern yourself with my children, but if nothing else, she has a brother who is biologically hers . Not so much as a matchbox car for him. Wow. I mean, WoW. Oh, and also, if you could stop packing that stuff in those Styrofoam packing peanuts? Cause that shit gets all over my living room.

So never mind her brother, or that the other families who have been enmeshed in this through no fault of their own managed to include the other children, or that you are sending items to a child with hoarding instincts, resource hyper-vigilance and material goods issues, just keep serving your own feelings and making yourselves feel a bit better. I wish my guilt at the uncharitable feeling I have towards you could be bought off as easily…but hey, I haven’t tried yet, so perhaps they can! (kthxI’mdone – dusts hands)

But, to get away from all of that (and it’s best we try), this Christmas also brought an opportunity to give hope to someone else. The opportunity to tell the father of my youngest daughter that there is still every reason to believe that he can have a successful relationship with his daughter in the future, despite my move to adopt her. More will be revealed on that front in the future, I’m sure, but even if it never happens, I felt it was of great worth to be able to tell him that he could walk toward a future that would include her as long as it included healthy decisions. Santa likes it when you can reach out and give hope, so I’m trying to build on that moment in hopes that the “Box of Grandma” will get smaller, both physically and metaphorically.  And so, this brings us to…

CHRISTMAS FUTURE

Am I the only one who feels so out of control of their holiday season? Is that more the norm than the exception? I don’t know, but I don’t think I want to spend another holiday feeling like this. I keep coming back to the same word: SIMPLIFY. The fact that our finances dictated a leaner Christmas for us this year is something that I’m hoping to springboard off of in the future. I’ve long been feeling harassed by the uber-commercialism that has become Christmas, as have so many of our friends. I don’t feel that the kids are getting what I want for them out of the season and that we can do much better about discovering the true meaning of the Season.

1. SIMPLIFY

2. PLAN EARLIER

3. MAKE SURE TO PLAN ONE EVENT THAT’S JUST FOR ME AND THE KIDS

4. JUST SAY NO TO CRAZY

5. HAVE DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS

So, come November 1st 2011, my job is to have a plan in place to make the holidays more organized, affordable and enjoyable…but mostly, to make it far more full of the kind of meaning I always wanted the kids to think about.

What do you think? If you have any ideas about things I’ve missed or that might help, throw them out there. I’d love to see them.

Cheers!

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4 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. I wish the conversations in my head were as complete as yours.
    As far as the lean Xmas goes… I love it. LOVE iT!!! Millions, maybe billions are spent every year to separate me from my money, sanity and good sense. I will not, WILL NOT make it easy for them to ruin the Holidays for me… I can do that myself without anyones help, thank you very much.
    You my dear have had a Holiday Season to remember. In the face of Scrooge you have held Tiny Tim in one arm and held a fist with the other, ready to beat back the intruder. Courage, conviction, and strength was your gift to yourself and your children.
    …Merry Christmas.

    December 30th, 2010

  2. Evan

    OOOhhhhhhhhhwwwwwwwweeeeeeeee Ms. Waggoner . “You use your mouth prettier than a $20.00 —– (BS reference)
    All kidding aside. You are a wonderful writer . I have always enjoyed our conversations and now I see that if I had just stopped putting in my two cents long enough I would have noticed much sooner.
    I look forward to your posts.
    I hope they are as cathartic for you as they are enjoyable to me.

    December 30th, 2010

  3. admin

    *Mwah!*

    January 1st, 2011

  4. Sharon

    We put up 1/4 of our decorations. We would drive by houses with beautiful displays, and a child in the back seat would sigh, “We didn’t even hang lights this year.” On Christmas Eve, I had a heck of a time finding our stockings (I finally did). I’m usually done with shopping – DONE, finished – by Thanksgiving. This year, we bought our last gift on the 24th. I usually have cards addressed, stacked and waiting to be mailed while it’s still November. This year, I finished the last card – I hope I’m finished, but I may have forgotten people – on the 27th. We never watched half our movies and specials. My oldest daughter was 2,000 miles away. Nobody liked the Christmas Eve dinner, and we never made it out to see in person the house with thousands of lights synched to music, the one that made it on the national news.

    And you know what? I still loved this Christmas. I love Christmas in general. Just love, love, love it. Always. I love it in ridiculous, probably irrational, profound ways. The music makes me cry. The decorations make me giddy. Putting it all away depresses me. I irrationally asked my husband yesterday, “When all the kids have moved out, can I take over an empty bedroom and leave the Christmas stuff up all year?” (He very rationally said, “No.”) I can’t believe that I’m supposed to cram all the Christmassyness into a month – isn’t that a waste of the other 11?

    I, too, send a Grandma Box, but it’s to a child I have no blood relation to. (Her mother says, “I should have hyphenated her name and given her your last name, as well. I can’t believe I didn’t.) And in my defense, if (or when) she has siblings, roommates, neighbors, classmates who need such indulgence, I’ll send them one, too. In the last month, we’ve had so many instances of people I consider family needing help of one kind or another. Occasionally someone has said, “Well, (insert name) isn’t actually part of your family,” and I think, “What? Huh?” Don’t people think that I know who my own family is? Yes, modern life can make things unclear and messy if you subdivide, segregate and assign everyone – “yours, mine and ours” doesn’t do it for me. The adults in my childhood life never drew a dividing line between me and my siblings with a different father. Nobody cared that my cousin Phil is actually the ex-stepson of my uncle – he was always just one of the cousins. I’ve never worried that my nephew is biologically “not mine,” being the son of my brother in law (and said brother in law being married to a sister from whom my husband is deeply estranged at the moment.) He is mine. And he knows it.

    And this is why I applaud, loudly, with cheering, standing up in my metaphorical seat, the family you are creating – and, it should go without saying, all of you are my family as well. My kids tell stories of “my cousins in California,” and they’ve never even met the baby.

    None of the stress, the mess, the busyness, the inequity, the alienation, matter. You matter. Your kids matter. You go, girl. It won’t matter if your tree was gorgeous or non existent, or if the car trip to some relatives’ house induces vomiting. This is not The Big Picture.

    Even if I can find no wrong in Christmas, and you can find little right, we both agree on what matters.

    January 2nd, 2011

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