Christmas, huh…

For a lot of people, Christmas time is family. Whether you’re really close or all meet up for this specific event, you all actually stand each other and huddle around and watch each other open thoughtful presents, or you’re family communicates in underhand remarks about what each other is or isn’t doing (“So when are you going to college?”), everyone has their own experience of Christmastime.

For me, I don’t like it. In fact, I hate Christmas.

You can think of me as a Scrooge McDuck, that’s fine. “Surely as a kid you were excited for Christmas?”. True, I think the last and most vivid memory I have of actually being excited I was 11 or 12. I was aching to know what I got for Christmas. We had a tradition in our house that after we went to Christmas Mass (which was on Xmas Eve), we got to open one present. Even after opening just one I wanted to know what were in the others. I barely slept. Waking up that morning, my sister and I eagerly wait for the parents to slowly wake up, get a coffee in them, get their bearings then move to the lounge room to start the mess of wrapping paper. All that time we waited with as much restraint as dogs obediently sitting and waiting for the go signal to swallow a treat whole.

The more complex explanation would be that my disdain for Christmas is layered.

Yes, I find the capitalist culture around Christmas to be gross at best and soul-sucking at worst. The embedded guilt of having to get a present is ridiculous, and the giving of a gift – and by extension, the amount spent – is a measure of how much you care for another person.

In a similar vein, the obligations around it made me uncomfortable as a kid and as an adult, that sentiment hasn’t changed, in fact I’m less patient and understanding about it now. To go to multiple destinations is something that still throws me off to this day, to be put into positions where I need to talk to people I hardly know or have anything in common with. If an alien was staying over for the holidays and I told them “we do this because tradition, no it doesn’t really hold any significance”, “we have to”, “to make [someone, usually an older family member or your mum] happy”, I’m sure after just asking ‘why’ a load of times they’d just say it’s the most idiotic thing they’ve ever heard. Of course, if you enjoy dropping into different houses, catching up with everyone and meeting new people, I’m happy for you, but I’m certain a majority of you right now think of it as an obligation that doesn’t really make your life any better – and since I’m a grouch right now, I’m really feeling this!
Thankfully in later years, family has had the usual cast of characters and a set place, where all of them usually know the stuff happening in my life. I guess for anyone else, here’s a list (and this is usually how it goes):

– Yes I’ve gained more weight
– Yes I’m getting to the bottom of it
– Yes I try to eat well
– No I don’t have a job
– No I don’t want help looking for one
– I’m on the fence about returning to studies because I’m not sure what I want to do
– Yes I’m still trying to get my license
– Yes I’m hoping to do something with this acting and writing “thing”
– Yes I look exhausted because doing things like this drain every bit of energy I have and I’ll probably need two days – but if we’re lucky, one – to get back to some sort of normality

I guess the biggest gripe I have with Christmas is that I’ve had some bad at best, traumatic at worst experiences. At a young age, I’ve associated family get-togethers with good ole wog guilt, arguments about the smallest, pettiest things – with the occasional actual big important things – to what is the worst, violence.

A golden example of wog guilt, usually performed by a patriarchal figure.

For the past few days, I’ve been unsure how to explain this story and how much detail I should get into. The person this involves as ‘the bad guy’ isn’t a bad guy, he just had a lot of … stuff happening at that time in his life.

Here goes… [trigger warning for violence]

Georgio* was in his late 20s, early 30s. He can come off very intense and intimidating to others, but after you cracked the very hard, serious, angry-looking shell, you saw it was really a shell to protect the incredible soft and caring parts of him. He was a great protector in every way. Georgio had vices though; he was using drugs (mostly speed at this time, commonly known how as amphetamines), and when mixed with alcohol, Georgio turned into someone I can only describe as Mr Hyde. An overused analogy, I know, but it fits.

This happened when I was around 5-7 years old, so there’s a lot I don’t know because I was doing kid things, but I know the adults were drinking – as you do at an Australian Christmas gathering – and I heard commotion from outside. My worry kicked up when I heard my mum’s “desperate voice”; a shaky voice trying to keep firm but calm as tells Georgio to not do something. This was followed by my grandma’s own Desperate Voice.
Something was different and very wrong.
Georgio, after something had been said, had changed to Mr Hyde. When the kids had come out to see what was wrong, I saw my grandpa’s face covered in blood coming from a slice below his hairline.
The kids, now terrified, were ushered by the adults, with my mum trying to tend to my grandpa’s face and I suppose in a way trying to protect him from anything else. One adult, Antony*, piled the kids into a car. One of them was screaming for their dad. It was a guttural, raw, desperate cry-out. I looked back at the house and Georgio came out, yelling about where “the knife” was. Everyone kept their distance but tried to talk to him. I didn’t see my grandpa… then I realised I didn’t see my dad.
I hadn’t seen my dad since I saw my grandpa’s face.
I realised that the kid screaming for their dad was me. And I still couldn’t see him.

Antony and Lisa* were trying to reassure me that he was fine, and Georgio was just very upset right now and everything will be okay, all the things you should and could say to kids that don’t know what’s happening.

Antony and Lisa were right though, my dad was fine. He was helping to calm Georgio down and wasn’t hurt in any way, with my grandpa being the only one who got physically hurt.

This Christmas was many, many Christmases ago. All the kids are adults, Georgio’s clean from drugs and only drinks a little. While he’s still an intimidating-looking, intense man, he’s still got the caring centre, which now peeks out a bit more when he allows it.

Coming up to Christmas in a few days, rationally, I know something like that is very unlikely to happen and, I should continue to heal from things in the past like this. Yet it’s always kept me on guard ever since (as it’s the same core people and the possibility of an argument always hovering between 80-99%). My sister and I always talk in the days before about our concerns and a ‘plan’ for if things go wrong, yanno, like traumatised kids do. Even as I’ve typed this out, my hands are shaking, my eyes burn, and I’m finding it harder to breathe. Even after all this time.

So Christmas, to me, is never one for complete relaxation or celebration. It’s not just one day. It’s planning, reliving, accepting (for now), more planning, calming myself, experiencing, then decompressing.

I don’t really know how to end this post except that if for any reason you feel the same, I hope you know you’re not alone, even though you might seem like it. If you feel like the season is a farce, you just don’t celebrate it for any reason, or it brings back experiences of dark times, I can tell you right now you aren’t alone, you can make your own special event if you want, you don’t deserve giving people an explanation if you choose.

And on that note, I hope you all look after yourselves, get to have some fun, and I’ll annoy you with another post soon!

* Names has been changed.

One thought on “Christmas, huh…

  1. Pingback: Picking At Old Wounds – Behold! A Mythical Creature

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