The Meaning of Christmas

Anger is power, perhaps. What the body wants is to hate.


Christmastime finds me even tenser than in years past. It’s always been a period fraught with worries and low points, because my entire life, Christmas has been controlled by my mother. Not only is she the one who decides where the tree goes and when the lights and knickknacks go up, but her mood determines, at every moment, whether Christmas is even happening or not. Good mood, the cookies came out nice-looking – Christmas is on, peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. Bad mood, she can’t find the exact present she was thinking of – Mom goes to bed, pulls a blanket over her head, and if you ask her, it’s whatever, you guys celebrate, I’m not.

This year is extra maddening. My mother’s been unwell for months, with headaches and decreasing vision, and after putting it off far too long, she got checked out, and subsequently in the last two months has been more in the hospital than out, having two brain surgeries to resect and remove a pituitary cyst. It was touch and go for a while, and a few days ago she was finally declared okay and sent home. I am so, so grateful she’s still with us. But right now, I also want to scream at her.

She keeps saying we all don’t understand. My youngest sister, the one always closest to our mother, bought all the gifts for my mom that she had the understanding my mom wanted to give to her grandkids for her. But for Mom, they’re just not good enough, because nothing is. So, I lent her a bunch of money and she went out today to shop, came home moody and complaining that she couldn’t find the EXACT RIGHT THINGS. I keep telling her her kids and grandkids just want HER. She says, you don’t understand.

Maybe not. Her eyesight is going, and unless a miracle happens, this may be the last Christmas she can see at all. Not being a grandparent myself, as far back as I can remember (no living descendants from before), maybe I really just can’t understand. But a little while ago, in the dark, with little eyesight, Mom decides to go walking to a nearby store. My dad and Youngest Sis go after her. They all finally returned, and since then Mom has said almost nothing, but she’s storming around accompanied by an air of tension I remember well from childhood.

I feel almost like I’m back in that home I grew up in. That house where, according to my old therapist April, I developed PTSD from the constant warring between my parents. I tried to fight her when she pronounced that diagnosis, no, that’s for soldiers and severely-abused kids. But the edge I feel myself on…maybe she was right. My home was a battleground. That’s where I fought. That’s where part of me died.

I’m stronger now, in every way. I used to curl up and gasp for breath when I heard the phone ring. Today, I actually tried to call a Walmart in a panic when my mom went shopping there having forgotten her cell phone. (Evil empire – no answer.) I’m a sort-of functional adult. And right now, Mom is trying to be calm, and looks like right now, Christmas is on. But…

Well. Any of you who read this (why?) – please know that I’m sending out into the universe a hope that you all have a peaceful, safe, warm Christmas and New Year. I will be spending the secular new year (I celebrate in November) how the gods intend me to – drinking wine and watching survival-horror playthroughs. Sometimes you just need to see someone having a worse time than you.

Be safe. Be well. Whatever your true meaning of Christmas is, fashion it like a shield over your heart. Little annoyances pass. The things that matter are eternal. Watch for signs. The gods are awake.

Author: athlynne

"From mirror after mirror, No vanity's displayed. I'm looking for the face I had Before the world was made." - W.B. Yeats

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