Before I started dating Mike, Christmas wasn’t a happy time for me. No holidays were.
In my family, holidays were occasions that magnified the underlying unhappiness of our family. Holidays were a reminder that our family was irreparably broken. That we were not as happy or perfect as we pretended to be.
They were days that we were forced to spend together because everyone else was spending the day with their family. And we couldn’t go outside because it was too cold. So we were trapped inside with a mother and father that didn’t get along. And that tension permeated everything. Even if there wasn’t an outburst or blatant fighting, I could feel the tension. I knew something was wrong.
I got sick almost every Christmas. And almost everything Thanksgiving. I’m sure it was all the stress built up in my body. I remember being sick for a lot of holidays–fever, vomiting. Ironic for the girl that didn’t miss a day of school from 4th grade through high school graduation. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got sick when I had to stay home for extended periods of time.
It wasn’t a happy occasion. We didn’t really have traditions. Activities that are typically fun holiday traditions like decorating the tree were just chores for me because they were painful.
Of course there were good moments: when I got Barbie roller-skates, extended family Christmas parties where the boys got Hess trucks and the girls got China dolls. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I all slept in the same room and read Christmas stories. We busted through stockings and presents within a half hour and spent the rest of the day playing with new toys and watching a new movie.
But overall I’d say I felt trapped.
I’m not sure how my siblings would describe Christmas at our house. I wonder if their memories are as painful as mine. If they have vivid memories. I really don’t remember the holidays. I really don’t remember a lot from my childhood.
Christmas at Mike’s house was a very different experience. Starting with Thanksgiving, his dad’s favorite holiday, the Christmas season is Mike’s favorite time of the year. They’d all decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies. It was definitely the most wonderful time of the year, a time of family, and joy.
So when Mike and I started dating, he shared his child-like awe and wonder and excitement about Christmas with me. And over the years, Christmas has slowly become a happy time. A time to enjoy the company of family and friends, to slow down and take it all in. I know that in the years to come it’s only going to get better.