This year I will not be going home.
This Christmas is the first time in my life I will not see my family.
The combination of new job and shameful flight prices to Upstate New York is causing me to travel to Los Angeles instead to see my father. I’m very excited to see him, but considering the unconventionality of our relationship, it will be interesting to spend a holiday with him typically devoted to my mother and grandmother.
Before the arrangements were made to travel west, the idea of maybe being alone for the holidays struck me very hard. It made me contemplate what the holidays mean and made me aware of many newly formed realities in my life. Am I getting to the age where I should be creating my own holiday traditions? Am I at the age where I should actually be interested in finding a partner and having children to form these traditions?
Another reason why I was unable to see my family for the holidays is that my mother and grandmother could not travel down to Texas because of my Grandma’s recent, but chronic back pain. All of these observations have made me realize that life never stops changing no matter how hard one may try to hold onto the little girl who couldn’t wait to see what Santa left her.
Looking back, each year when I would travel home for the holidays, I experienced an array of emotions. My first year away in California found me feeling completely alienated from everyone back home in a self-imposed manner. I had just started working in the film business and was stressed and falsely believed I was somehow better than the town I came from. I felt that no one back home understood my daily struggles in LA, so what was the point of talking about it with friends and family? I found myself missing Los Angeles and wondering if the word “home” could be multiple locations.
After that Christmas in 2004, each subsequent holiday would be very good or very bad. Some years I found myself cursing the only liquor store in my hometown because it closes at 9PM. Some years I found myself care-free and enjoying each moment. Some years I yelled at my mother because I couldn’t yell at anyone else. Some years I just sat in my childhood bed crying and wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.
Other emotions and events started to trickle in over the years as well. Watching my hometown regress with intensity. Not recognizing the young people walking through our abandoned downtown with the look of complete apathy on their faces. Sitting in the only coffee shop on Main Street, staring at all the empty storefronts through the falling snow and wondering what town I was in. Realizing that my entire family consists of three people. Feeling Aunt Stella cling to my waist from her wheelchair because she knew it would be the last time she ever saw me. Watching a boy that I thought I loved act with total indifference towards me at our graduating class holiday reunion. Having the 19 year-old son of a diplomat pick me up from the front window of my Grandmother’s boarded up business that she had for 35 years and rocking me to sleep. Sitting at my Grandmother’s perfectly decorated dining room table, trying to drum up feelings of a time long past and wondering why they wouldn’t come. Feeling more and more disconnected from my childhood. Realizing that I am balancing the fine line between childhood and adulthood, even though I’m twenty-something years-old and can’t understand where all the time all went.
After moving to Austin, Texas in 2008, a sense of maturity and hope replaced the feelings of confusion and isolation I felt while living in Los Angeles. These sentiments trickled over into my visits home and with my family. Though dealing with life changes is a never ending battle, I’ve found a way to manage it better than before. This Christmas, being away from my family, will show me how true that statement is…or not.
What does Christmas mean to you now that you’re an adult?
Girl, it's all a part of growing up. At almost 36 and newly divorced, with only a mom and 1 set of grandparents, I can totally empathize. This year will be especially weird for me. Hell, it already has been. I didn't even decorate, and I get into Christmas, normally. I think that I've been working so hard to figure out what my NEW norm will be, that I forgot to hold on to the traditions that (I need the most) mean the most to me. Now that I am putting these feelings into actual thoughts, maybe after I clean my house, I'll bust out one of my fiber optic trees and have a little bit of cheer in the house. My mom is visiting me at my grownup house and it's the least I can do for her. For us. For me.
@April- Thank you for your comment. I know it's called "growing up", but man, it sucks! It doesn't seem real sometimes. Life just keeps changing and you step back and think, "What the f just happened?" I've definitely gotten better at handling it, but shit is only just beginning. I'm 27 and still have no idea what I'm in for. Have a wonderful holiday with your Mom.
Last year was the first year I didn't spend the night at my parents house for christmas eve/day. Because I was (and still am in, thank god) a pretty serious relationship with a man who's family is also close by. Now we have to do the fun game of trying to see both our families at the "same time." It's weird, it's like, once you don't spend the night at your folks house for christmas eve, you are officially an adult. And I totally understand the question of "do I start having my own tree? my own traditions?" This is my 5th christmas on my own, and I've never had a tree. I think putting up a tree with my own ornaments would also mean, I'm finally no longer a child.
"What does Christmas mean to you now that you're an adult?"
That it really sucks to go to the market when you only need one or two items.
Seriously, any holiday is difficult to deal with when we have expectations that aren't met.
A question with so many possible answers. Christmas is something I've struggled with since childhood.
I don't believe in the religious aspect of it and the commercialism makes my stomach turn.
(If interested, I've wrote about it last year, here).
I guess it is a choice. I can relate to these feelings but only objectively and intellectually as I rather like being to myself. On the holidays, my biggest concern is making sure I have enough of the right junk food and soda pop around.
My empathy goes out to you. Because even as a child (stopped having birthday parties as a junvenile around 9 or 10) I did not place much stock into holidays and because of the family I got, there was never a burning desire to be glad around them.
I don't know if I envy folks who have families that they long and pine for, even if it is just their Mom or their Nana. As far as having companionship and the sense of sharing holidays with a special person… eh, I have always been more of 'I'll be happy if you tell me to be' kind of guy.
Enough about me. I can't access how I felt at 29, not because of anything other than I never have had this kind of longing.
I wish you nothing but good things and hope that this is the year where things come together and this is you last anguished Christmas holiday.
I'm struggling with this too this year, trying to define what Christmas means as an adult. It makes me feel like a horrible person because I'm completely indifferent to a holiday that used to be my favorite time of the year. I used to think the world slowed down, things were brighter and magical. Now it seems like it's just a mad rush for nothing.
Glad it's not just me.
Christmas hasn't seemed like an important holiday to me for a long time now, but this year when I was possibly faced with spending it alone I got really sad. It's a nice tradition and good to be around the people who you love. Glad you won't be spending this holiday on your own.
Oh man…this is all so true. I haven't yet spent Christmas away from my family, but this year I spent Thanksgiving away for the first time ever (I know…sheltered) and it was surprisingly fantastic.
I wrote a whole post about the way Christmases change the other day. Check it out…
Great work, as usual!
Christmas isn't the same this year for me, either. My family has grown apart and become more cold, and all I think about are those times when I was little and we filled up our house with family and laughed and unwrapped presents and my cousins and I giggled under our covers when we were supposed to be asleep.
I guess growing up means realizing that things don't always stay the same even though our hearts want them to. When I was younger I just wanted to grow up and be an "adult." Now that I'm approaching adulthood, I just want to go back to my days of awkward braids and matching tops and bottoms.
@halis- it must be nice to have a partner to spend x-mas with. makes the holiday a little more interactive, i'd imagine.
@IT- agreed. now i understand why they say people get depressed this time of year. i never felt that way before. i'm not depressed, but i definitely feel a little lost without my family.
@jessica- i will check out your link! thanks!
@mark- don't make me older than i am! 😉 i'm only 27!! i really think that you should write a book. you have so many wonderful stories.
@miranda- you worded it perfectly. it's sad how christmas going from being so exciting to just…whatever.
@tsaritsa- are you spending the holidays with someone??
@adria- i will check out! i'm interested in knowing why it was fantastic!
@tara- awww…tara! your comment made me well up. i really don't have a family outside of my mom & grandma (in ny) and my dad (in la). having VERY small holiday get-togethers gets sadder as i get older.
Christmas has never been stable for me, but I don't feel like it's a bad thing.
It was funny reading about a Jew getting presents from Santa. I used to do that, too, but on-and-off. If we visited my grandma around that time, I celebrated it, but otherwise, I didn't. We'd just go to the movies or eat Chinese or Indian food or something.
The biggest change I've noticed, and I feel like you definitely talked about this, is that when we get older, it hits us at some point that we have a choice as to whether or not we want to do anything on the holidays. The first time that I neither worked nor visited home on Christmas was a big surprise to me, b/c I realized how weird it is to be alone and have no plans, even if the holiday doesn't mean much to you personally.