It’s Christmas Eve and the first thing I did this morning was find out that I’ve upset my mother. … It’s the Holidays. I’m 24. You’d think I know this is par for the course through this season, but alas. I find myself thinking about it almost 12 hours later and I feel bad. Still, always, with all this guilt.
I love my mother. I love my mother, and my sister, and my grandmother. For all the ribbing and needling and hurt feelings and bruised egos we pass through the bloodline, I really, truly do love love love my family. Because they’re the people who taught me that yes, you can be so annoyed with someone that the thought of seeing their face makes your stomach sour, and still be willing to run into moving traffic to protect them from harm’s way. That’s real love. Love unconditionally, uncircumstantially, through it all. Even bad birthday dinners.
I hurt my mother’s feelings, a little bit on purpose, you could say, because I know comparing her to grandma (the Queen Needler, if you will) is something that creates a quiet level of anxiety with her. She doesn’t like the idea that she could potentially become a woman that her children deign to tolerate, instead of lovingly embrace. Mom, hear this now: We will never, ever love anyone the way we love you. You are our mother, our first, only and lasting source of life, sanity and helpful makeup tips. That will never fade, dull or tarnish. We promise, with all our insubordinate, stubborn little hearts. We love you the way you taught us to love– wholly and passionately and with a generous sense of humor.
So this morning, my mother told me on the phone that I hurt her feelings with what I wrote on my website. I immediately told her I was sorry for hurting her (I was, completely), that I had never meant to offend her (I hadn’t) but that I meant what I had written, and that this website is my place to vent out about my life. This writing, it’s my sanity some days. I haven’t been writing lately and I’m so high strung that James looks at me sometimes like I may or may not have explosive devices strapped to me.
And he knows it takes precious little for me to pull the detonator out and leave everyone else praying for the best.
I apologized to my mother, and then repeated back to her everything that I had said in my last blog post, because she raised me with integrity, and I wholly believe that if I’m going to say something about somebody here, I had sure as shit better be willing to say it to their face.
James, I love you. Mom, I love you too. Kar, you’re the most ideal little sister I could ever hope for. Dad, your sense of humor and increasingly cool personality are things I hope to learn more about and adopt into my lifestyle. Grandma?… Dad was right. You really are the best boiler ever.
See. It’s not always easy, and it takes practice, but it’s something to live by.
It hit me this morning when Kristin e-mailed me that I’m homesick for people, not places. Kristin, Christine, Maxine. My parents. My sister. The smell of Christmas. I can’t get myself into the Holiday Spirit this year because instead of nestling into comfortable Christmas Routines (and yes, us Catholics thrive on our routines through this season) I am instead dealing with violent verbally abusive customers who are going to pieces in my store over $60 rain boots and $50 sneakers.
There is some good, sure– strangers reaching out to help one another, kind deeds being done, the love I see in James’ family– but this Christmas is my first year where nothing is familiar, and all my traditions are surging through the back of my mind, wondering frantically if they’re going to survive.
I don’t know.
It’s my first real Christmas as half of This Couple, and I don’t know if there’s enough room here for both of us to salvage Everything We’ve Been Used To For So Long.
… So you start to give, right? You give little bits of your past up to let new little bits of the other’s come in. James’ traditions aren’t by any means bad. They’re just unfamiliar. In that eerily familiar sort of way, where you know that this is all what’s supposed to happen around Christmas, but the little details are all different, and something feels amiss.
It’s the same for the people. I love James’ family, his parents and sister, in a way that I never thought I could love another family. It’s the same high regard and tender affection I feel for my own mother, father and sister, but not competitive or one-trumps-the-other. It’s easy, and warm. They’re my people now, too, and I know that. But in a perfect world, the new and the old would mesh together in perfect harmony. Maxine wouldn’t be in Spain, Christine wouldn’t be in Arizona, Kristin wouldn’t be so far away.
Then we’d all hold hands and sing Christmas Carols, like in the movies.
I hurt my mother’s feelings, and she called me out on it on Christmas Eve. And I’m too far away to hug her and tell her that I really am sorry, and that next year, I will try super hard not to be the one who cries at the birthday dinner. Instead, I have to go do my makeup and straighten my hair and get ready for Church.
Not my Church. A different church. Where I will pray for courage and strength and patience as I try to learn how to embrace change.
Not better, not worse… just different. And, still Christmas.