Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Freakin' Ho Ho Ho

I hate the holidays. Just hate 'em. Can't exactly put my finger on why. I've given up the whole Norman Rockwell-esque dream of cozy family dinners and opening homemade presents created with care and love. It just doesn't happen in my existence. And I have yet to meet anyone who has an "ideal" holiday at home. I am getting dangerously close to boycotting the entire holiday season entirely.

Not that that would be unheard of for a Jew. We, after all, don't celebrate Christmas. For us, it's just another day on the calendar. Hanukkah, which usually happens to fall near Christmas, is a minor, minor, minor Jewish holiday compared with the other biggies on the Hebrew calendar--namely Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Purim and... well, I'm sure I'd think of others if hard-pressed. But growing up in the U.S., and raising my kids here, well, it might be cruel and unusual punishment to deny them the glory of the commercial season. I don't know, though. The rabbi at our synagogue marks the passing of Hanukkah with his family by doing acts of charity. I think, rather than gifts, his family donates money that they would have spend on gifts to the needy. That sounds like a good idea to me. I mean, in my family, do we really need another book, sweater, gadget or toy? Need is the opportune word.

Not that I'm not grateful for the gifts I receive. I do enjoy presents as much as the next person. I just hate the annual stress of having to decide how much to spend per person and figuring out what to get everyone. The most difficult people to buy for--my dad and my husband--don't make lists. Everyone else in the family fills out a wishlist on Amazon or on My Gift List. Because of their lists, shopping was a fairly easy assignment for me this year.

And no matter how much I try to have no expectations whatsoever for the holiday season--and I do mean none, zilch, zero--I always come away feeling depressed and somewhat empty. This year, I realized that subconsciously, it might have something to do with my mother. Now there's a sentence Freud would have a picnic with.

My mom's birthday was Dec. 23. So is my brother's. I don't know how he gets through the season. I thought I was over all of this. I thought that I did my mourning in July, on the anniversary of her death (called a Yahrtzeit in Hebrew or Yiddish, I'm not sure which). But apparently my subconscious has other ideas.

On the morning of the 23rd, I burst into tears after dd threw her bowl of cereal on the floor. Normally, her mess would not be enough to reduce me to tears. But the slop of milk on the side of the garbage can, the television droning in the background, the mess throughout the house and the fact that my mother would have been 60 that day--together they added up to one big meltdown. I removed myself from the room before I could say or do something I really regretted, and tried to cope as best I could.

Underscoring all of this is her absence, I guess. The holidays have never been the same without her. Try as I might, I just feel her lack of presence underscoring everything I do. Would she take me to task for spending too much on my kids? Would she have recipes to pass down? What traditions would she have wanted? Would we be throwing her a big party for her big day? Or would she have wanted a low-key celebration--dinner with my dad at the now defunct Maisonette (where they went every New Year's Eve in my memory).

I try to tell myself that I'm over it. That she's been gone for nearly 16 years and soon, she will have been absent for more of my life than what she was actually present for. How could she possibly have had so much influence in such a short amount of time? She was my mother. I guess that's it.

I am starting to sound dangerously close to my aunt, who regularly gets teary over the loss of her parents. In my family, it's the whole "stiff upper lip," "never let them see you sweat," "that part of your life is over, so move on," philosophy. I've never been very good at that. It's too easy to give into my emotions. It's always been too easy to do that.

I hate this time of year. It dredges up way too much that I try to keep below the surface the other 11 months of the calendar. It rears it's head and I am left spinning, feeling out of control, turning to food to try to soothe the pain (which is another issue entirely).

I guess it's a lie to say that I don't have any expectations for this season. Each year, I expect to be able to get through the holidays without feeling the loss and the emptiness. Each year, I'm disappointed--in myself and my lack of mastery over my emotions.

1 comment:

Applecart T. said...

it's already fading in my head, this past weekend.

it's in the emotional, post keyed-up-for-event stage, the bittersweet, sentimental-yet-hating stage.

i'm sorry you're missing your mom.

my mom cried when g. and i left yesterday, saying something about fearing the dissolution of amtrak's missouri route, "because i can't drive that far."

holidays are a time to miss people who are not even yet passed away, like grandparents who are in their 70s and for whom the whole christmas eve of 45 people is staged.

like dad, who is already 69 and not taking congestive heart failure seriously, preferring to concentrate on "life failure" which he's orchestrated through addictions and negativity he's still dragging around as pitiful baggage.

like mom.

and anyone you send off on an interstate highway or airline journey.

it's just weird, and i am torn between wishing holidays would go away and knowing that there are good things that come up, like seeing people you never see. (which is bad really, because i get sad that my cousins are growing, my aunts/uncles are interesting, family-bonded and i never get to see them.)