Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The most wonderful time of the year

Should I get a Christmas tree? Would that help any? Would that magically make me feel part of it all? Should I hang lights all over my house and tinsel and all of the things that I used to love? Not even when I was a child either, I used to love Christmas right into adulthood. Because it meant family, and safety, routine and comfort. I would go home always. Mum would cook dinner. We would eat it, cuddle the dog, open presents. All of that stuff. It was probably as close to the adverts as you can get. Obviously we ignored all the deep rooted issues going on. We ignored and ignored and ignored.

And for that one day, it always felt comforting for me. Even when was a horrific, drug-imbibing, selfish little twat at 16 and I was more concerned with getting shitfaced on Christmas Eve. To the extent that dad greeted me at 3am once with a clout round the ear. I think I would have been around 16. I was at the bottom of the drive at 3am snogging some guy and I heard his shout: "DEBORAH". I was all giddy with vodka and snogging and I figured, it's Christmas, how bad can it be? Well, he twatted me round the ear and, although it did shock me somewhat, I admit I milked it to make him feel guilty. And guilty he did feel. And I was glad. And Christmas Day was comforting and family-like, warm and cosy. I had my parents, even though I was horrendous, they were still there, I had my family home where I felt safe, I had an uneasy truce with my brother because he loves Christmas, I had my Poppy dog and endured my grandparents in honour of the occasion. It was all how it should be.

All through university, drug problems, men problems, endless endless life problems, Christmas was the same. And I loved it. The smell of it, the rituals of it, the gifts my dad chose for me, because he always, always got it right, which made me feel real, like someone really knew me. The feeling of belonging somewhere. I'd start to get excited in November, and I loved all the cheesy shit. The lights going up in town, the shop windows, the planning for Christmas parties, choosing presents. I loved it. Even in the middle of my worst teenage rebellion when I didn't like anything, I liked Christmas.

And so it went on for 23 years. Until it didn't anymore. In my 24th year, a grandfather died, shortly followed by my dad. Several months later Poppy followed. Christmas was with mum in the new family home on the Isle of Wight. They had moved a couple of months before dad died. Suddenly there was no dad. No family home. No ritual. No will to make new ones. We had a toast to my dad at Christmas dinner. Sitting around a table like mannequins. Eating food because it's there. Every now and again feeling shards of griefshock piercing our lungs. At least that's how it seemed to me. An almost horrified wonder at the fact that the world hadn't stopped. That people had the utter gall to celebrate Christmas like NORMAL. Didn't they know what had happened? Didn't they care?

Well. No. They neither knew nor cared. Because it's just normal isn't it? People die every day. Every single day. And the living just get on with it. But it's weird how it changes the world. Nothing is ever the same again, that's true. I've felt like I'm sleepwalking through someone else's life a lot of the time. And at Christmas I feel extra removed, even more on the outside. Like there's a bubble of the Christmas spirit and I can see it but I can't feel it. There's no joy in any of it. And I'm still likely to have to fight back tears while Christmas shopping, especially when I see a daughter with her father.

I'm a lot better than I used to be though. I can take part now in Christmas Day. I spend it with friends these days. My family is all dead, apart from my brother and my mum. And my brother and I no longer speak at all. So I spend it with friends, and it's nice. It's always lovely. It's especially lovely to be part of someone else's family, at least for a day.

And I still like buying presents for people. That's not lost its fun. I like to spend time and energy finding something perfect for them. I still mentally buy my dad gifts every year although I managed, at least, to stop actually buying them a few years ago. That's progress isn't it?

And I know, inside, that there are millions of people who feel like me at Christmas. People who don't have families or rituals or a place. I know I'm not alone, and it's only the media interpretation of Christmas, with the sickly adverts and the constant harping on about family, family, family, that make me feel alone sometimes. But it's not real. It's just tinsel.

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