Bad Christmases

by - 4:46 PM

I'm going to do something weird right now, okay? Just to try it, and maybe a little because I've been struggling with some kind of block on my words, and yet, the following just keeps forming in my head as I drive and right before I fall sleep -- like some of my best writing often does.

Ready? Okay. Let's talk bad Christmases.

(and as a side note, the pictures that illustrate this post are from a rather good and recent Christmas memory. Just FYI.) 

Once, when I was a little girl, I wanted an American Girl. Specifically, I wanted Molly. She wore glasses just like me and she had the best stories. I had her Christmas book and felt really connected to her variety of adventures. She didn't like turnips and she had a snarky older sister. I felt like I was Molly. I may have become an expert pigtail braider because of her.

But, long story short, I never got an American Girl.  I guess it didn't matter, I grew up, ceased to care and moved on to greater Christmas troubles.

My sentiments exactly. 

Years later, while I was brazenly braving the traumatic years sometimes confused with "the best years of one's life" -- otherwise and more accurately titled simply "the teens" -- I stumbled into the worst Christmas misfortune: ungrateful jerks.

I'll never forget that year. Proudly, I presented my friend with a gift that I had joyfully and carefully chosen just for them. I can still remember the shopping trip and feeling so festive and warm as I picked things up, touched them, smelled them, and imagined the faces of the people I loved opening them. I imagined surprise and happiness. I don't think life prepares you for callousness. Experiences prepare you for that, but nobody is inherently ready to face plain selfish meanness.

I bought the wrong gift, and even now, I can still feel the sting. I remember the shame and embarrassment, the letdown, and feeling stunned. And then I remember my reaction. The things I said and the way I raised my voice.

And you know what, I remember never having the desire to see that person ever again. And I didn't. Not ever again. And maybe that was a Christmas gift from the universe.

Let's see, what else can I dig up from the fiery pits of Christmas Hell. There was the year I cried because, as my cousin showed off the pearl "promise ring" he gave his girlfriend, I remembered that I had nobody to love. (I cried about nothing, they broke up.)  Another year, I got inebriated on Christmas Eve and stumbled around on Jesus' Birthday, still dazed and concerned that 1.) I was still drunk and 2.) I might die from alcohol poisoning and finally 3.) Who would know if I passed out dead since nobody but me knew how much Peppermint Schnapps I'd consumed twelve hours prior? At least I had minty fresh breath. How about the year I got annoyed with my Oma, furiously backed my car out of the garage and managed to wedge it under my uncle's truck? That was a real winner, dusted with fairy dust and sparkling Christmas magic. I'm pretty sure I was on the naughty list with those last two.

Oh Christmas. You devil.

I'm not sorry about a bad Christmas thrown in here or there though because as I dug through the 'bad experiences' folder, filed way in the back of the cabinet, I shuffled through an alarming number of good Christmas memories. Like the year my Opa and I shopped for a camera for my Oma for her Christmas surprise. I could feel his excitement. Or similarly, the proud way he led me up the stairs to my bedroom to surprise me with my own gift: a TV. You guys, a TV IN MY BEDROOM. Every wish I ever had came true in December 2006 when I watched Seinfeld while lying in bed.  Another highlight? There was the Christmas when Ryan, feverish with excitement, gave me a diamond ring and a cheerful reminder, "that's a right-hand ring, Jennifer."

There is so much positivity in the good Christmas memories that I have, the bad ones are merely the dark contrast, defining the light that filters in on December 25th. And for the record, I like contrast. Furthermore, those bad things, those silly stupid bad memories -- they are so inconsequential, I can't believe I even remember them. The sting, the nausea, the fear -- absolutely none of it matters. When I open up my boxes of Christmas decorations every year, they are the furthest thing from my mind. Instead, I remember the way a kitchen smells when cookies are baking in the oven, and the squeaky stair to hop over when going for an innocent trip to the bathroom at 3am on Christmas morning. I remember the way it feels to spend the entire month of December with my favorite people, eating too much food and watching Home Alone a thousand times. I remember sprawling out on the living room floor, shreds of wrapping paper and ribbon around me, with curious dogs sniffing at my every move.

In short, I remember the good stuff. And isn't that was Christmas is about?


And can I tell you something totally cheesy? I met Ryan when I was nineteen and maybe it has something to do with the way that he is so many different kinds of wonderful, but I've not had one bad Christmas in the past six years. Not one.

I mean, that face!

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