Christmas this year is ... difficult.
It's always a stressful time a year, a time that we struggle over what to buy and who to buy it for, a time to panic over last minute gifts and DIY decorations. We both dread and look forward to holiday gatherings--family dinners that may or may not include tears from laughter ... or frustration.
I do enjoy my family, and I love Christmastime. This year, however, Christmas is a bit gloomy. The celebrations are marked by the absences of others; rather than gather around a table filled with Christmas delights, my mother and I will be in the living room, alone, watching T.V. and pretending that today is just another day, that our neighbors aren't hosting feasts, that we're not alone.
I'm also fearful. Monetarily, this year has been incredibly hard. My mother lost her job and, as a sufferer of multiple sclerosis, she has been unable to secure an available position. Because finances are so tight, we are "not" exchanging presents this year. I don't mind; it's not about the presents, or about the getting. It's not about the appearances of boxes. In fact, I think the purchasing of a gift solely for the reason that someone can "have something to open" is a ridiculous excuse to purchase a gift. It's not about sitting in a circle and making a show of opening a gift, one at a time, and fawning unnecessarily over an item that you, in fact, picked out.
To me, the art of gift giving is the abstract art of making others happy: of buying presents for the children of underprivileged families; of donating a dollar to a worthy charity; of baking cookies for your neighbor, of mailing ornaments to a stranger, of hugs and smiles and laughter and love and memories of being "there."
This is why I have bypassed the "not" giving a gift; I have decided to make for my mother a book--a book of memories and photos and words and thoughts. I want her to be happy, to read my thoughts and understand why I am so fearful.
To be straight, I accepted a job just last week. I had spent several months seeking employment. I was discouraged, desperate. I wanted publishing but settled for newspapers, an industry with which I am entirely too familiar. I start in just a few days, and it scares me. It scares me that I must be an adult, that I must transition from "house-girlfriend" to adult in a little over a week ... a week that includes two family Christmases.
I am scared of being alone. I have a few great fears, loneliness and abandonment being two of them. My heart is easily broken by the actions and words of others, and--no matter my location, Iowa or Indiana--I ache for people whom I am not with. When I first transferred to Purdue, my soul had been shattered by a long-term boyfriend who had ended our relationship just five days before Christmas. I was fresh, vulnerable, raw and empty. My mother helped me move into my dorm in early January, and she stayed with me for a few days. When I left her at the train station, I cried. I cried and cried and cried, watching the train sped up and curve north to Chicago, to Iowa.
I was alone.
I was alone at the University of Iowa, alone at the hotels at which my dad used to abandon me. I'm alone late at night, alone, save for my thoughts, which go unanswered and un-comforted. I hate being alone, and I dread the evenings when I will come home from work and open the door to my tiny-even-though-I-can-barely-afford-this-too efficiency and greet the darkness. No hugs from a loved one, no friendly words. No kisses, no laughter, no food, no welcoming bed. Good days or bad days, it doesn't matter ... there will be no one there to share my joy or sadness.
I am so utterly fearful; fearful of the benefits that I cannot buy into, fearful of the budget I cannot afford. Fearful that, like my mother, I will have to debate between purchasing food or gas ... or bills. Fearful that my relationships will deteriorate. Fearful that I will do what I always do when I am scared and alone--that I will curl, curl and crimp myself into the gray mold of depression that I've struggled with since high school.
I must be an adult soon. I must get up, put on clothes, put on a face--both a literal and figurative face--and drive to work. Drive and work, edit and design and talk and plan and think. In five days, I must be an adult. In four days, I must move to my efficiency, must swear at the mattress I take up the three-turn Victorian staircase. I must say goodbye to my family, goodbye to my uncle and brother and mother, to the ones who insist on helping, but dread abandoning. In three days, I must celebrate Christmas with my family, celebrate and smile and laugh. I must play cards with my uncles, trade swear words and smack as we banter our pegs up and down the cribbage board.
But today? Today I must wrap my "non-presents." I must wrap my homemade gifts, my homemade ornaments and photographs and books into boxes and brown paper. Simple, yes, but beautiful.
If only the same could be said for adulthood.