When Your Family Is Dysfunctional


308703_671778478707_371556720_nIt’s the holiday season folks, which means it’s time for Yuletide gayness, pretending you like to spend time with your family, and depleting your resources to buy gifts for people that don’t just include you, your dog, and your cat. Okay, maybe that’s just me – and I don’t want to be a Grinch, my heart is way too big for that comparison, but I am here to appease the people that such as myself; didn’t quite get an upbringing that included holiday spirit and had to try to attain the magic of Christmas in their adult years. My Mother grew up as part of an Irish Catholic family, which meant a lot of drinking and a lot less birth control. She ended up being child number 5/11, and I can’t imagine that Santa was plentiful or had quite enough energy to fulfill the dreams and desires of each and every soul in that house. She’ll tell the story always about how she opened a gift of a gold watch, and was so happy – until her Mother snapped and told her it wasn’t for her, but her sister Sherry. This story legit haunted my sister and I all of our lives and after sixty-three years, I’m not really sure Roseanne’s gotten over it.

My Father grew up in a Conservative Catholic family, where they certainly believed the Lord was greater than any bounty of gifts underneath your tree, and if you thought otherwise; you were surely in for a spanking under the mistletoe. That being said, I appreciate both of my parents and where they came from, but it didn’t exactly set me up to have the normalcy and enchantment other children experience around Christmas. They did great for a few years – we had an old Lionel train set compete with a Christmas village. There was always a tree and lights, and every gift we ever wanted underneath the tree. We were brought to see Santa and left cookies for him, and there were always reindeer prints on the top of the roof outside my window. It was majestic and unexplained, left no room for questions, and those first few Christmases I remembered, were some of the best memories I ever had.

However, once I passed the cusp that brought me out of childhood and into adolescence, everything changed. My Mother knew I had the deductive reasoning skills and logic to understand that maybe Santa didn’t exist, and what was once a special time became a burden. She didn’t want to get a tree because it was too messy, so we settled on a fake tree that may have been two-feet tall at best, with filaments that changed colors and rotated – set atop a pedestal that usually housed a lamp. Creative gifts were replaced with checks, and she seemed to always find a reason to not attend our traditional lunch with her in-laws, who were certainly not the most bright and happy people; but this is what we did, and they were our only Grandparents.

So I found myself in my twenties, struggling to grasp onto that holiday spirit that all my friends had, trying to pretend that Mariah Carey’s Christmas album was the best thing ever created, that I longed for snowfall and a tree wrapped in garland and lights, that I’d gather with every blood relative I had and eat sweets and share in the joy of festivities – but that had never been my reality. When I had girlfriends, or even friends, who invited me to share in their times, I was sort of shell-shocked. I didn’t know how to act, or what a Yankee swap was, or how to  handle the fact that there were functional families who had a good time together and appreciated that.

I still have a hard time with the holidays, and this will be the first that I haven’t returned home in nearly a decade. Choosing a life that exists nearly 2,200 miles away from where I grew up was not intentional, it just kind of happened. And every year despite my apprehension, I would return and spend the holidays at home. It’s always the same – stress flying over the holidays, not enough time to see all the people I want to see, the resounding guilt from my Grandparents, who literally know nothing about me, and would collapse with even the thought I was gay – it’s not enjoyable in the least so this year I said ‘Fuck it.’

I’ll make it back there at a more reasonable time, when it’s good for me work wise – and I can actually show up and be present without the duties that come along with the holidays. In the meantime I am working on my Christmas mojo, of which my Utah family are a great help. I have a Fairy Godson, his name is Sammy. My best friends, that I married, live across the street with their wonderful boy and when they were picking out their Christmas tree, he was so set on getting a miniature tree because then they didn’t even have to put it in the living room, they could just put it in his room.

Needless to say, he was so bummed when they chose a six-foot tree that looked lovely in the front window of their living room, but very much foiled his plan. So I went to the store. I bought a four-foot-tree with lights already embedded in the body, chose some Nutcracker ornaments because I knew he was super into Nutcracker’s these days, and used their spare key to set it up when he wasn’t there. Since it was a surprise I didn’t get to see his face, but I hear he was ecstatic when he got home and discovered it. This is how I know I haven’t become a complete Scrooge.

Because all I wanted was to see the look on his face. Because I wanted him to believe in magic and that if he wanted something enough it would happen. Christmas is a time of awe, and wonder. It’s a time to reflect before the New Year and count your blessings. It’s a time for those of us, who may have not grown up in the space of Yuletide cheer to find some. We have friends who are family and we should not be shorted on that account. I am surrounded by the best people that have truly become like kin to me and despite my best efforts – as a result, I have never been allowed to be a Grinch. But if my heart grows three sizes? At this point? It just might burst. Because I am that lucky. Whether I spend Christmas here or anywhere, I’ll be content and I will forever have so much love behind me and so much cheer! Happy Holidays, to you and yours. Even if you and yours are simply you, a chihuahua, and a fluffy white cat.

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