I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays and each year when November rolls around I am struck with this mixture of giddy depression and a longing for my childhood years before my family started breaking apart.
While my family (my wife, children and I) don’t celebrate Thanksgiving now because of what it truly means, when I was growing up my family (my mother, father, siblings and I) did. The memories of my mother cooking all evening the day before Thanksgiving and then most of the morning and afternoon the day of Thanksgiving are still etched into my mind.
If I close my eyes and try my best to remember I can still see my mother making pies from scratch while cookies and cakes baked in the oven, or can smell the turkey while she mashed potatoes. I can feel all of this like it’s happening around me, a sense so overwhelming that I feel if I opened my eyes I’d be eight-years-old again standing in the kitchen begging to stay up just one more hour so that I could help finish the deserts the day before Thanksgiving.
I feel a twinge of guilt because of what Thanksgiving means to the Native Americans, and being part Cherokee, what I means to the Native brothers and sisters I never had the chance to grow up with. These are my memories though, and they are not forged from hatred, they were a time for my family to all gather together and to spend time with one another. It was a time of love and caring, something that I can never have again, because I am not welcome in my parents or my sibling’s lives. Sometimes I wonder if transitioning and becoming more comfortable with myself was worth the loss of my family, but then I remember where I was mentally when I started and how far I’ve come. The loss wasn’t worth it, but becoming myself and being more comfortable with myself has been.
I feel like I’m about to get over the emotional roller-coaster brought by November and then I’m struck with December which brings Christmas. Christmas is my favorite holiday, tied with Halloween, but still my favorite. I love the lights, decorations and the music, especially the bells. I’m sure I’ll never live it down, but I really like Carol of the Bells played with just the music. (My wife reads my blog and that’s her favorite Christmas song. I like to tease her all month about it. She likes the choral version though, and for me just the music alone is enough.)
For children though, Christmas is all about presents, and while my children may not be the most materialistic kids, that isn’t always necessarily true of their classmates. Children can be cruel to each other, especially those without a lot of money. This is painful lesson that I learned growing up. Without a lot of money presents aren’t as fancy or plentiful as other better off families, and when kids return to school after the break they get picked on if they didn’t get the latest or coolest gifts.
I can’t begin to put to words the amount of guilt I feel for this. It makes my depression even worse knowing that because of my disabilities we struggle each and every day which makes Christmas even worse. Often we’re lucky if we even have a tree while other people go crazy and spend thousands of dollars for one day. So I’m left with that feeling of giddy depression for the entire month of December with the hopes that the following year will be better.
I feel lucky that I have a family now to spend these holidays with even if they can be mixed bag of emotions for me. I think of all the people that don’t have someone to spend these times with, times that from grade school are so ingrained in our lives that we feel like we are horrible people if we don’t or can’t be part of society’s idea of holiday normal.
It’s really tough.
Though over the past several years I’ve seen more people coming together for some of the holidays that don’t even know each other. Businesses are opening up and inviting anyone to come together for a meal regardless of anyone’s ability to buy gifts or pay for food. It may seem like a small act, something trivial to most but for some people it’s all the family they have and it can make all the difference in the world.
Seeing things like this, give me hope that one day, we as a people, can finally come together as one race and live in unity and understanding.