The Steel-Toed Boot of Sadness

I’ve never been really excited about holidays. Not since I was a little kid and looking forward to getting big boxes of presents. Religion passed me by, and I’ve always had a small family, which is perpetually shrinking, and has shrunk now to the point that the people I consider my family are not even related to me in the technical sense. It’s not just Christmas, either. Growing up, I never had a Valentine, and half of the kids in my class didn’t even give me the ones they gave everyone. As an adult, I’ve only been in a relationship at Valentine’s Day twice, and both times were rocky. So Valentine is out, Santa is out. I object to the celebration of Christopher Columbus’s men giving a bunch of Native Americans small pox, so Columbus Day is out. Aside from the fun of using explosives, the Fourth of July is out. I suppose what’s left is Halloween, Thanksgiving (which I celebrate merely for the gluttony), and April Fool’s Day.

Christmas is particularly hard. When I was living in California, I either didn’t celebrate it at all, or I celebrated it by drinking. It seems as though the past few years when I’ve been home, the drinking has followed me. This year, I have to do my best not to turn Christmas into a full-blown, sloppy whiskey jag. In the words of a dear friend, I want to crawl into a hole and pull it in after me.

There are multiple reasons that I dislike Christmas, some deep and some shallow. There’s the obvious sadness that accompanies a holiday that’s bookended with tragedy–my mother’s anniversary is January 9th; my dad died the day before Thanksgiving. There’s the feeling of an ever-shrinking family, the loneliness of surviving, the feeling that survival coupled with such intense loneliness is not survival at all. There’s the cold, and the horrendous bells, and the terrible commercials, and the commercialism, and the awful combination of red and green. There’s the theory that if you’re not well-behaved you’ll get nothing, which in my experience has proven just the opposite. There’s the smell of cinnamon, which makes my nose itch, and the knowledge that my favorite thing about Christmas–egg nog–will very rapidly increase the size of my posterior. There’s the memory of my mother slipping me slightly-spiked egg nog when I was ten, which reminds me of the first time my father gave me a beer, which reminds me how happy he was when I threw him that 50th birthday party, which reminds me that he just barely made it to 60, which makes me want to hurl myself off of something tall just so that I’ll feel enough pain to actually cry.


I haven’t bought most of my Christmas presents yet. I’m broke, and I hate shopping, and every time I go near a mall I have to restrain myself from bashing the bell-ringer (there is a less obnoxious way to do that, I’m sure of it). Most of all, though, the reason I’ve put it all off is because every time I’ve attempted, I find a dozen things I want to buy for my Dad. I want to get him something that will make him smile like the surprise party did, like the iPod I got him for Father’s Day did, like every semester I made the Dean’s List did. But it won’t work. I could spend a thousand bucks on things he’d love and I’d still have no one to give them to. I can make a hundred people smile, but it will never be his smile, and it will never make me feel the way it made me feel to see that he knew that I loved him, and he felt appreciated, and he was proud of me.

A year ago, maybe two, I talked with a good friend of mine about going to Mexico for Christmas, just us girls. It was to be an escape from family, a voluntary excusing of ourselves from the drama and bullshit. I wish that was what I was doing this Christmas. But it wouldn’t be an escape from family this time. It would be an escape from the steel-toed boot that’s been kicking me in the chest every five minutes for almost a month.

~ by saltgirlspeaks on 18 December, 2007.

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