When I was a kid I looked forward to holidays with dread. With dripping bittersweet feelings, and anticipated remorse. The memories of over-indulgences; good food, desserts, antipasto, bubbling libations, pretty, festive decorations, freshly roasted chestnuts (really!) and all the other enticing aromas of an Italian-American holiday. The excitement from waiting on the arrivals of people who I dearly loved, was unbearable. That special day of the year when we could all be together. To enjoy ourselves and each other But it never happened that way. Not for me.
I suppose some family members enjoyed eating, drinking, laughing, cajoling, being loud, argumentative and the center of attention. Center stage. Bringing up past hurts and personal traumas, seething with resentments. Festering. An entire year to stew, brew, and maybe even rehearse for the event.
The glorious annual-only opportunity to sling the arrows drawn back and held for eleven months. Oh, the relief they must have known, in the brief chance to spew their hurt and pain. Like popping a great big boiling pimple. The pressure and poison finally released. And owed to the glory of wine and alcohol; relieved of any conscience they might meet in the mirror, on the morning after.
Today, as an adult with three children of my own, two who are adults, and one young daughter, I sit, I stand, I walk from room to room. Frequently visiting outside to pace the driveway, using a cigarette as an excuse to escape the emptiness I feel inside. We are alone together this holiday. Myself, my daughter, and mother.
I think about my youngest daughter and whether or not she is missing her father, and our past Thanksgivings together. I think about my mother, and know that she is reliving every Thanksgiving she can remember, with all the ugly bits intentionally extracted. I wish I could see the movie screen of her mind, to witness the good and happier parts of those days, too. My mental movie projector has no such editing or censoring features.
This separation is so new and fresh, I cannot even force myself to construct future lies: Next year will be better. Secretly, way deep down I see my daughter spending next year’s Thanksgiving with her father. And it will not matter where I am, who I’m with, or what I’ll be doing. I’ve been long ago tricked into believing that holidays should be something, anything, other than what they are.
The very best that I can do today, tomorrow, the next, and next year is to just get through it, to try hard, and hope that I don’t bring the ones I’m with into the abyss with me.
“There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of sorrow.”
- Dante -