Saturday, December 16, 2006

The reality of my Christmas

Life has calmed down quite a bit from the melodrama of October. I am working and finding life relatively enjoyable. I don’t think I have life figured out any more now than I did before, but at least I have some clarity to think. I have a couple really good part-time jobs and I am getting myself out of the financial hole I put myself in back in October.

Part of my being hired though was the agreement that I would be able to work through Christmas and New Years. I agreed without much hesitation. I prided myself that I could put economic sensibility in front of holiday fanfare. Besides, I really like the job. It’s a lot of fun.

Earlier tonight when I went into work, there was no snow outside at all. It wasn’t until one of my co-workers went outside to empty the trash that he commented on how beautiful it was. In my mind I was dreading the pending season and was disappointed with the reminder that a cold, dead winter was just getting under way.“Is it sticking?” I asked. “Not too much yet,” he replied. “But it’s perfect! It’s the kind of snow you want on Christmas Eve.”

After work I went outside to my car. Most of everything was slowly disapearing in the white snow. The pavement, however, seemed to resist the snow and was more slush than anything else. I grumbled as I shook the sogginess from my shoes and climbed in my car. I didn’t feel much like going home so I went and visited a friend for a little while. He was excited about the snow that was coming down. We looked out the window. The pavement’s defiance to the snow had weakened and it too was beginning to disappear under the mantle of white.

“Do you love the snow?” he asked. When I was a kid I used to love the snow. I looked forward to winter just for the snow. Where I grew up we got snow a few times in winter, but it only ever lasted a few days or weeks at most and then it was gone. I always wanted school to be canceled so that I could go sledding on my oversized black inner tube. It was a great thing. I would take to the river in the summer and sled with it in the winter. It was an essential part of winter to play in the snow when I was growing up. I was the one that always encouraged my brothers to come out and play in the snow with me. It didn’t matter how cold it was, I was out there.

Things are so different now that I am an adult though. It’s not all fun and games anymore. Snow means getting out earlier to start my truck so that it is warm when I drive it, brushing off the snow on the windshield, driving through bumper to bumper mountain passes, bringing soggy shoes into the house and wading through puddles that my careless roommates created when they didn’t brush the snow off before coming into the house. Cold. Wet.

“I guess I like it all right,” I lied. “It is beautiful.”

“I love the snow.” He said.

I got into my truck to head home. It was remarkable how the landscape had changed so much in just a mere inch of snow. The night sky was lit up with the reflection of civilization against the snow and clouds. I guess I don’t mind driving in the snow since I have four-wheel-drive. I welcomed the strange hypnotic feeling of traveling through science fiction outer space as the snow flew over my windshield.

Shortly after returning home, I went back out into the snow to the grocery store with my roommates. Neither one of them has a car and one of them doesn’t even have a license to drive. So we always run errands together even if it’s late. The real reason we went tonight, in the snow, had more to do with my roommate’s addiction to Pepsi than an actual need for groceries.

We walked up and down every isle to make sure that we had everything we needed. Trips to the store are more difficult for them because of their mobility handicap so they are sure to take advantage of the store while they are there. I wandered around not really wanting to buy much of anything. Christmas paraphernalia was on every isle and the Christmas music blaring. I used to love Christmas music –to sing it, to listen to it. I just bothered me tonight though. It wasn’t even beautiful to me. It was obnoxious.

Last Christmas was probably the worst ever. My parents had found themselves in one of the most trying times of their lives. My father just a few months earlier had been diagnosed with late stage-three cancer. He had undergone major surgery and now he was going through intense chemo-therapy. He had lost his personality and sense of humor in the process. He was pale, grey, and wilted. Things between mom and dad had also not been the best over the last several months and their marriage was strained. To make matters worse, because of my father’s cancer, he was unable to work and the only way they could survive was to sell their home, their sanctuary of 14 years so that they could live off of the equity. They moved into a small rented house in town just 15 days before Christmas. When I arrived home for the break from university, everything was a mess, in boxes, and piles; my parents too emotionally exhausted to even face the work of sorting and unpacking their life. I wanted so badly to organize everything for them, but I just couldn’t do it all. I came down with one of the worst cases of the flu ever. I was out with a high fever for nearly a week. I hated being home unable to move in the midst of such a life-wreck. We didn’t even put a Christmas tree up last year. No one was happy.

Even though I had a week and a half left before school started, I left to go back before New Years just to get away from everything. I sat on the edge of the futon packing my things, grateful to be leaving the horrible place that my parents were living in. My mom walked in and watched me pack. She started to cry. My mom hates crying in front of other people so she always tries to hold it in. She walked over and knelt down in front of me. Trying to sniff back the tears so that she could talk. “I know this hasn’t been how you wanted it to be –that it’s been hard for you,” she sobbed. “I just don’t want you stop coming home.” I wanted to cry, but I was too angry at life to cry. I just sat there paralyzed as her tears soaked my knees…

I continued to wander aimlessly through the grocery store amazed at the embellishment of normal products under the guise of Christmas spirit. I saw a display of Mother’s brand Circus Animal cookies. Ever since I was a child, these cookies have been a snack favorite of mine. The top of the display had the normal pink and white cookies where as the eye level and arm’s reach portion of the display had the holiday version of the same product in green, red, and white. I reached high for a bag of the non-holiday cookies. But before I could grab the bag I noticed that to buy the normal cookies I would have to pay nearly fifty cents more than if I bought the holiday version. I didn’t want the holiday cookies. I wanted the pink and white ones that I always ate, but the store probably realized that they basically had until Christmas to sell out the holiday cookies and consequently lowered their price to accommodate the upcoming deadline and to persuade customers to dish out their cash on the festive cookies alternatively.

I stood there and stared at the bag of holiday cookies that I didn’t want. The Christmas music played the worn out tunes and I subconsciously hummed along with it. Unexpectedly I was overwhelmed with the sadness realizing that I would be spending Christmas by myself in my apartment. There would be no Christmas decorations, no family or friends or even roommates to watch Christmas movies with, no feast. Nothing. I will spend Christmas all alone hundreds of miles away from those that I love most. I just stood there glaring at the stupid bag of holiday cookies. I tried to swallow the knot of sadness welling in my throat. I miss my family. And as much as I lie to everyone and tell them that I will be fine, the truth is, I will be lonely without them this year.

I continued staring at the cookies, the familiar Christmas feeling sweeping over me and leaving a heap of sadness in its wake. My eyes burned from not blinking as I was lost in my thoughts.

My roommate pulled up with our shopping cart. I continued staring. “You gonna buy some?” He asked noticing my fixation. I looked over to him, gave him a dry half-smile, grabbed three bags of the holiday cookies, threw them into the cart, and continued to wander.


Sir Robert Chiltern said...

That was a beautiful post. Truly.

I was reflecting on Christmas recently, and that I'm excited to spend it with my family. This was on odd thought to me initially, especially since I generally tire of my parents' nagging, their bickering between themselves over something. I frequently end up regretting stays at my parents' that coincide with my brother, as we tend to quarrel quite easily.

Yet somehow there are too many good memories of Christmas time that always make it wonderful. Downtown, stores, neighborhoods and my family's home dressed up in Christmas decoration and lights, beaming and looking happy. There's the feeling that pervades the populace, making strangers smile a little more, be a little more kind, help out someone one wouldn't normally help out, be more charitable and generous. There's time at home with family carrying on traditions full of memories. The whole month is one that, to me, stands out so different from all the others of the year.

Gay BYU Student said...

Okay, I'll admit, I got a tear or two in my eyes as I read this post

As much as I dread going home to face my family after another "unsuccessful" year of dating, I love the holidays. I love the kindness, the charity, and the traditions. I cheer up when our family sings together, eats a big feast, and play games. It is really a fun time.

Yes, Christmas is different when you're more of an adult, but it still gives me those childlike sensations of excitement. Especially when it snows, or when we open presents, or when we re-enact the Christmas story for the 22nd time in my life.

Anyway, I hope you find something productive to do over the holidays (besides work). Keep busy and it won't be too bad. Make sure to call your family and have nice long talks with them. Let them know you love them.