Now, typically, December is just "one of those times" for me. It's probably something to do with my basic misanthropy that makes this holiday season a time when I get a little snappish. Too many people crowding too many places, doing too many stupid things, all while striving to outdo each other on the most bone-headed thing to do. So, I stay home even more than normal. This doesn't prevent me from experiencing the insanity, though. After all, I do have to go out occasionally, and each time I do, I have my desire to stay home reinforced.
Holiday cheer is a tough one for me. Partly this is due to the above misanthropy; it's hard to feel goodwill towards people when you mostly just want to set them on fire. Another factor is my own seeming lack of sentimentality. Oh, sure, I'll get choked up at a movie scene that is powerful and poignant, but I can't seem to give a shit about general events. There are plenty of things that people take very seriously and are meaningful to them that I just blow off. I'm also willing to bet that part of my lack of Christmas Spirit is due to my position with my family. For all that my extended family was large and we all got together for holidays and they were all into it, etc., I just never saw the use of it.
Don't get me wrong, I can see why people do it, and I can see why they enjoy it, I just never got it with my own family. They really are like some sort of TV special: for the event, everyone's there and everything's just so, but it feels fake and forced, and as soon as the credits roll on the scene and Tiny Tim makes his comment about God blessing us, every one, then the actors go back to being themselves. Just boring, stupid, annoying, bigoted, wastes of flesh. Besides, getting into that holiday mode was always such a chore, that I had no desire to do it and was chastised and castigated for it, which did nothing towards making me want to feel cheery and part of the "festivities".
Besides, with a birthday halfway through December, I constantly got combination birthday-and-Christmas presents, and it was hard to get together any sort of party, since there were Xmas parties to deal with, and people are spending money on Xmas gifts for family, they don't want to buy a separate gift for some kid's birthday.
All this is pretty hard on a kid who is already singled out and weird and looking for his niche in the world. I was never a popular kid, or a well-liked one; when you are the super-intelligent nerd at a public school, you ain't making many friends outside the other nerds. No wonder I'm not a fan of sports, huh? So, here I am, in a family that doesn't understand half of what I'm saying and who thinks most of my plans for the future are "just a phase" (and not just as a kid, I got this sort of thing until I was well into college!), being punished for not immediately leaping head-first into the holiday spirit and simply drowning in the non-existent family-driven Christmas Cheer. I was too young to be an adult and be included in their activities, and I was too old to join in with whatever the kids were doing (my brother is six years my junior, and my cousins are 6, 8, and 12 years my junior).
Now, everyone says "I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas", and that's just kinda the way it goes. However, there's an art to gift-giving. When you give someone something, you don't go get them things you like, you get them something THEY like. After all, it's a gift to them, right? Again, Christmas, especially, it was a decent sized family gathering: my grandparents, my parents, my brother and me, my aunt and uncle and their three kids. Eleven of us on Xmas morning, half kids (mostly young, except for me, remember). Now, that's a lot of gifts to go around, and keep in mind that my grandfather was making a fat load of cash for a long time there...so it was a LOT of presents. Inevitably, I ended up with a fucking STACK of stuff, more than any person really needs. And yet, out of that stack, there might be one thing that I actually cared anything about and did anything with for longer than a day. I'd get books that I had no interest in, clothes that I didn't wear, toys that weren't anything I'd ever expressed an interest in or liked, and small gadgets or gizmos that were about as interesting as dryer lint...and out of anything that was what I had asked for, they usually got it wrong. There's nothing quite so depressing as looking at a huge pile of stuff that you've just received on Xmas morning and knowing that if it all went up in smoke right then you wouldn't even shed a tear. Not one. Not even from the smoke.
And, of course, you gotta play nice and act like you appreciate it all. So, you have what amounts to quasi-diplomatic pandemonium, followed by a massive clean-up, after which things return to boring, since the men sit down to watch football, the women do whatever they did, and the kids got goofy. And there I was, the awkward odd-man-out, alone again with nothing to do but stare at a pile of loot that I'd have given away for simply one minute's peace: after all, in that place, there was nowhere to get away. We'd driven for eleven-and-a-half hours to get here, we were here for 2 weeks, and we'd have that drive back. The house was full. Yes, it was Hell.
Let's explore that for a moment. I was born in Orlando, Florida, where my grandparents live (well, one does now, the other is a corpse!). At the age of 6, we moved up to Jacksonville. That's about 2 and a half hours away, not a bad drive. We spent a lot of time in Orlando: holidays, the occasional weekend, and a chunk of the summer. At age 12, we moved up to Nashville, Tennessee. For the purposes of this discussion, I'll ignore the culture shock, etc., I went through, let's just say it took some time to adjust. But I made new friends and settled down. Still, though, we had to go back to Orlando for every major holiday: Christmas, Thanksgiving, fuckin' Easter, even...and the entire summer break. Eleven and a half hours there, another eleven and a half back, non-stop, in a small car with my parents and my little brother. Cramped space. Little to do. Uncomfortable. And you've heard me rant about my mother enough to fathom that part.
The trips were an exercise in torture. Frankly, I've learned I can deal with anything, after surviving them. My Dad drove a lot with his job, so jumping in the car and going 12 hours was no big deal for him. Mom was/is picky about everything, and frankly travelling with her is a chore. My brother was a kid, and we were stuck together in the back seat...draw your own conclusions.
This is what we did instead of taking a vacation, we made these trips. In fact, I can only ever remember two real vacations taken with my family, and both of them were to Washington D.C. to wander around and see all the tourist sites and buildings. While they can be interesting, wandering around with my parents was not. Mom can't just relax and enjoy things, she makes a production out of everything. Dad just couldn't relax and enjoy it, because of Mom.. My brother and I were kids. Oh, wait, we went to New Orleans once, but I don't remember doing anything, just being there.
Anyway, we'd travel. Summers sucked, we'd leave the day after school was out, make the long-ass drive, and stay there for the next three months, returning the day before school started again. In all my childhood, I never had a summer vacation to be at the house and hang out with friends all day, never. I was stuck 700 miles from home, in a house without my things (except the small bag I had managed to bring), no friends, with my family. True, we had the pool, but there's only so much fun you can have alone, or with kids 6+ years younger than you. Christ, I hated that.
The Xmas trip was consistently hideous. Mom found this book one year, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever...don't get me wrong, it is actually a cute and funny book, and worth reading (short blurb: basically, think of a family of like 7 kids, all mean, nasty, and low-class, getting all the parts in the Xmas pageant). Mom, though, decided to read it out loud to us all as we drove down for Xmas. I'm sure she thought this was a real Norman-Rockwell, family-holiday, Hallmark-card kinda thing to do, and that's pretty much her M.O.; do something that she thinks is the cat's pajamas without ever seeing if any of the rest of us give a shit. The first time, sure, it passed some time, and like I said, it was cute. But then, it became her thing to do every fucking year. After a couple times, I couldn't stand it, especially since she'd get mad at me if I tried to read something else to myself at the same time. Hell, one year, I think it was the fifth year she did this, when she whipped it out, I must have been occupied, since I wasn't able to shut my mouth in time to stop "oh God, this AGAIN" from escaping my lips. Yeah, that went over well. That earned me another hit from Mom.
No, I don't mean she spanked me, I mean she hit me. I'm not crying abuse, here, it's just a fact. Short fun fact: it was one of the Xmas "vacations" that she first balled up a fist to slug me. She had actually been going to slap me, but I blocked her from doing it (by this time, I was well into Tae Kwon Do, and a simple outer block was second nature). She was so livid that I hadn't allowed her to haul off and slap me that she made a fist and started swinging. I'd just pulled back my own to cold-cock her when Dad walked in. Seeing me about to hit her, I got in trouble. Go figure. She was good at this. Her main answers in any argument we had depended on how mad she got. If it was really aggressively angry, she'd slap me, if it was just matter-of-factly, her favourite answer was "I am your mother", as if this made any argument obsolete. Apparently, she felt that gave her carte blanche to be a bitch about things. I remember the day I answered that comment with "So what? You're still wrong." Yeah, that was a bruise.
She's very much a "if I don't see it, it's not happening" type of person. She had the way she wanted things to be, and she set them up to be that way. if you didn't fit her paradigm, she just ignored you. Needless to say, I got ignored a lot, and bitched at a lot when I couldn't be ignored. She told me what I was going to do when I grew up. She signed me up for sports, every year, no matter that fact that I didn't like them and didn't want to participate. She openly refused to knock before entering my room. She dictated which walls I could have posters on, so that if anyone happened to walk by my door, it looked a certain way. The shit-list goes on and on, but I've already said more than enough. Hell, I could fill volumes with things my Mom did over the years that make me hate her.
Cripes, I've now been writing this for the better part of an hour. Yikes.
Anyway, back on track, no, I didn't and don't get along with the family down there. This is all just as well, seeing as how my uncle cut off all ties with me after my not coming there for my grandfather's funeral. In fact, since that time, Mom has only called me twice: once right after (where she hung up before I answered, and when I called back said something about still being disappointed with me) and once half-drunk and depressed. Didn't call on my birthday, which I was surprised by, frankly. Not complaining, of course, just surprised.
There's also my long ago ex-girlfriend that committed suicide in December, but there's nothing to say about that. It happened. It sucked. It took me a long time to get over it. Anyway, I only even bring it up as another thing that has historically made December a time I look forward to passing on and being over with.
You know, I didn't start this out with the intention of prattling on this long.