There was a Facebook hoax that went around a couple years ago proclaiming that due to an update, Facebook had made a number of old private messages public. This was mostly in service of getting people to complain so Facebook would undo it’s update — because people HATE updates. Just ask anyone with an iTunes account — but ended up being a real blessing for some. See back when Facebook first started it was kind of a fun platform and nobody took it seriously. One of my first posts is about wondering why someone is dry humping me, preceded by months of… me complaining about fortunes in fortune cookies? I dunno. Anyways this fake “copy and paste this” nonsense actually ended up serving people who realized that they had said some stupid things and they tidied up their walls. I never did of course, I don’t put on filters — or pants — for anyone. My wife stumbled upon some old stuff though. My Bio hasn’t been updated in a long time and the top entry is “Not a huge fan of Christmas.”
Christmas is a complicated and tumultuous thing for me bringing about a mix of joy, pain, and shame. When I was a kid Christmas was one of my favorite times of the year. First, it’s cold. I love the cold. I. Love. The. Cold. It is not uncommon to see me in a T-shirt anywhere between -10° — 10° while others are throwing on sweaters or jackets, and it’s been this way all my life. There’s a fat joke brewing within you, but even when I was at wrestling weight… I still lived for the cold. Second was family. When I was younger… between ages 5 — 11 big family get-togethers happened almost every weekend with all of my extended family and close family friends. We’d play games, listen to my uncle — to this day one of the funniest men I know — tell jokes — there was no better time. The third, tying right into the second, were the family traditions. Baking cookies, making poppycock, deep frying wontons and meatballs, decorating the tree, and endless weekend meat, cheese, and cracker trays. These were great times and I relished them. I was never a kid who rushed home to school, but on the weekends in December, I couldn’t get home fast enough.
That changed though.
I’ve never really known why — not to say I don’t have my theories — but once I got into my teen years, this time together started to lessen. The extended friends and families didn’t come around as much, some stopped coming altogether. And the family get-togethers that did happen were tense and always filled with one drama or another. It got to the point where one year my uncle stopped by just before Christmas to drop my grandma off, then pick her up and some wontons after. Christmas wasn’t happiness and togetherness anymore. It was endless fighting and demanding that things be “perfect”. Of course it never was. I’d find excuses to stay after school. I got into clubs I didn’t care about, hell that’s actually how I got into wrestling. Practices twice a week for two hours, plus all the walking back and forth sheltered me from home at war. Home became a place to avoid for Christmas, and that was before the big fights that lead me not to be home for Christmas.
I was ejected from my home 4 times, the second time was for Christmas, and the third time was not only again for Christmas, I was ejected straight into homelessness. I know what it’s like to sleep in my van, and I did it the first time on Christmas Eve after finishing my shift at Wal-Mart.
Of course, the joy wasn’t just in my younger years. The first time I was kicked out of my house my brother eventually found out. And by that I mean he’s probably one of maybe 6 people who can read me consistently and instantly detected over the phone that something was wrong. He then gave me two options: come spend Christmas with his family willingly, or be kidnapped and spend it with them hog tied because either way I was going to his house. His whole family welcomed me in with open arms, and brought me to tears when they offered to pray for mending in my family. I have spent Christmas every now and then alone, but I’ve often spent it with families that have been gifted to me along the way.
Which has always brought about a sense of guilt. Not guilt over betraying my family — that’s not been an issue really. It was the guilt over other people having to make me a part of their family. I’ve been told before that this is silly, and in the abstract I recognize that, nevertheless there’s still a lot of guilt associated with it. It’s my own knot I gotta untie. But every time I think about that first Christmas with my family — the family that found me — and mom filling that stocking with stuff for me… I cry. I’m crying right now. I’ve taken three breaks to write this thing.
So those are the problems… what are the solutions?
The truth is I dunno. This came at me sideways much the same as realizing things were happening with my PTSD. I don’t know what the solutions are, but I do know what I’m going to try. I’m going to try and re-ignite those traditions that I held so dearly as a kid. Spend more time with friends and family, bake more things, make more wontons, throw more snowballs at young children; whatever it takes. Today I made Tiramisu (be warned, the written recipe lies) My wife loved it. It’s a small step, but still one in the right direction.
Doesn’t she look so impressed I’m making her take this picture?
– Have a good’er