A story of the stresses of Christmas, and what it taught me.

A Holiday Reflection

The sun sets on the newest day of the year, the empty bottles still evident by the back door, awaiting someone's motivation, the coffee table sprawled with empty glasses, bottle tops and ashtrays....too hard basket for now.

I am finally alone, after what feels like weeks of endless partying and other social gatherings. My boy is spending the night at his grandmothers, to let mum catch up.

I sit down at the computer, my dear old rattly friend, and feel compelled, though reluctantly, to ponder the happenings of the last two weeks. I am tired, and can still feel the last of the dog that bit me seeping from my pores, that almost sunburnt feeling in my face that only comes from too much drinking and not enough sleep. A not so gentle reminder that it would have been nicer to have been sober enough to remember the night, and enjoy the moments, rather than blur it all with vodka... ugh those jelly shots! What a terrribly bad idea! My hands shake a little as I type, the background sounds of dogs barking mildly annoying as I try to collect my muddled thoughts and feelings into something legible.

I have to question, what do we all do it for? For me, it seems that Christmas is something I have become less and less fond of. As a single mum with a home based business, a time to work harder, to be able to afford the extra expenses, and time off from work. Then, when you are totally exhausted, you have spent all your hard earned money on extravangant gifts, and indulged in far too much food and wine, you clean up the mess, and get back to work. I really tried hard this year to work out exactly what it was that I actually enjoyed about the whole thing.

It was difficult to find positives, which surprised me, I thought I LIKED Christmas, but this time around I scowled at the idea of even putting up a tree in my house. My only son David has just turned 13 and knows there is no Santa, and we are driving 7 hours to Tailem Bend to be with my sister, father and extended family, there was no need for decorations. We wouldn't be around to look at them.

Dad has been ill with his diabetes, and begged us on the phone to come by the 19th, as he had added us to his hotel's social club, but there was no room for David and I at his house due to other relatives visiting with four small children, and my sister had offered to put a caravan in her back yard for us. I was excited by this, thinking I had never had the chance in the past to spend some time with her and the kids, as dad is always so consuming, wanting his eldest girl by his side every time I come over..... Sadly, as I discovered later, it was not the reunion I was expecting.

Business is on the up during December, everywhere, and for a newbie like me that meant many extra hours. I had to make sure I left enough stock for sale for all my outlets, or the time off would have been a big problem. The 19th day had arrived quickly, after several set backs, including visits to the dentist with infected teeth, and fights with a long time ex that had resurfaced, I was exhausted. Weary, and with no sleep, (I had stayed up all night to complete the last orders), I loaded the car up with cases, and a thermos of strong hot coffee. David was excited, he had set his alarm to wake up early and had his things all ready by the door, ready for me to pack up my poor old 83 Laser to the eye teeth. He had helped his grandpa service the old dear for me the day before and was beaming with pride and anticipation. One quick look around the house, I went out the back door, scratched my dog in his favourite spot behind his ears and said goodbye, within minutes we had begun our 8 hour journey.

It was a warm sunny day, the drive was quite pleasant, and thankfully the coffee that David generously poured the whole duration helped me keep my eyes open. He laughed and chattered the whole way, telling stories about him and grandpa working on the car, silly things his school mates got up too, songs he liked... comments on cars that passed by.
I realised with some regret that this was the first time in years we had spent that much time together, just talking without the interruptions of playstations or other video games, dvd players or televisions. Most parents tell me if their children talked all that way it would drive them nuts, but I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and made a mental note for myself. If that's what it took to get us together and appreciate each other, then the trip itself was worth all the hard work, despite my heavy eyelids.
I remember looking at him, thinking how beautiful he was, and how much he had grown in the last few months, the morning sun making the pre-adolescent golden hairs on the side of his face glow. My beautiful boy. I asked him how long it had been since he'd seen his Aunty Jules. His reply, "Too long!", with a grin.

He starts highschool in the new year, a frightening prospect for us both, ironically, it seems the business I was trying so hard to get off the ground was taking away all of our time, but somehow freeing us to make this trip. David had been so patient, loving and supportive. Never once complained about the hours I worked, but was quite obviously enjoying having mum to himself, and the feeling was mutual. A motorbike buzzed by us at one point, the rider draped in tinsel, we laughed about it, and for those last few hours laughed a lot more.

The last hour of our trip came. After a quick stop for coffee at a friends house we entered the city, our destination an hour on the other side. I was nervous about the city traffic, but David manned the street directory with ease and a maturity beyond his years. We "high fived" each other at the last intersection, knowing the hard part was over and we were nearly there.

My father and his wife run a hotel on the riverfront. My sister is the manager of the bar and bistro, and her husband the manager of two local piggeries, and collectively have produced two beautiful children, Emily 11 and Travis,9, both affected by mild autism. They both work long and hard hours, and my sister was already working behind the bar, and my father doing the social club draw when we arrived. It wasn't the warm welcome we had expected, both were rushed off their feet, and a half hour and a diet coke after our arrival dad announced he was leaving his "shithole pub" and going home. This was pretty much his attitude the whole week. I barely saw him and when I did he was aloof. He says he's tired of the pub life, and didn't add David and I to the social club after all, he forgot. I was upset at rushing when I was so tired, but said nothing. I didn't want to make waves. I was determined to give David a good family Christmas.

My sister worked near every day and night I was there, and each day, two of the children staying at my fathers were unceremoniously dumped on our doorstep each morning by my father, who thumped on the side of the caravan, grumbled about me still being asleep and left abruptly. I felt used and annoyed, I loved seeing my niece and nephew, but my sisters mother in law was also in the house, fresh out of hospital with a bad back, and it was too much for her. Too much for us both. I was getting angry by day three. I hadn't done any Christmas shopping, and was caring for 5 children.... on my holiday!! I looked forward to the day my sister had promised to take Marie ( mother in law) and myself shopping in the city, and Dad would have all the kids.

It didn't happen, we left late, had a quick dig around the small local shopping center, and by the middle of the day, my sister was ill with a budding ear infection, vauge and exhausted. I tried my best to find the presents I wanted for the family, but the choices were sparse, I was panicking I wouldn't be able to get my boy the psp he wanted in such a small place. My sister, frazzled, unwell and heavily weighed with the responsibilites of the hotel snapped and ended up in tears. I felt awful. I found his toy in the local toyshop, but my heart was heavy. It felt almost irresponsible to spend the money I had so carefully put away on this awful trip.... I just wanted to go home. I could have bought him so much more than the two tiny presents he found under the tree if I had stayed home, and the night before Christmas I cried myself to sleep. I hated Christmas, for the first time in my life.

Finally the big day came, of course our family has more than one black sheep, my uncle, a long time suffering vietnam vet, made his way from his home town and discraced himself by getting too drunk and breaking a plastic chair. I chuckled as he tried to sit back down on it with three legs, while my so called loving family eyed him with disgust. Other family had arrived by this time, some staying in the pub, others at Dad's. The bickering one always expects at large family gatherings had escalated, backstabbing and uncalled for comments between each other....I was grateful I had my van to hide in, though it was stifling hot, typical for an Aussie Christmas. Again, wondering why I hadn't just stayed home.

The only thing I had left to look forward to was the looks on the kids faces when they opened their presents... and they didn't disappoint. My sister and her husbands efforts were piled up under the tree. I tried not to be jealous for David, they had two incomes, they could afford to buy a lot for their children. I did the best I could but it was obvious the fiscal difference between us, it hurt, a lot. David was so surprised with his psp, and the t-shirt of his favourite band I found in the music store. He wasn't worried, he never saw the differences that were so painfully apparent to me. Again making me feel so proud and grateful...what an amazing child! All of a sudden I realised something......

Christmas is not about work, or money, what you can or can't afford to do for someone. It's about being grateful for the people in your life, for the sun coming up, and the air you breathe.... It saddens me that my family tried so hard to have the "Traditional Christmas" with all the trimmings and barely had time to stop and enjoy it! I was so stricken with the realisation that I had to clap my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud. I got the best Christmas present of all.... awareness!

I had seven, nearly eight hours with my son, one on one. I got to sit and watch him play with four other kids much younger than him with love, generosity and patience beyond his years! I could sit back, and smile with pride knowing I have given him the best of me, taught him patience, hard work, compassion and gratitude, and it didn't cost a cent! PLUS I have the added bonus of swelling with pride knowing that nothing I do for David will ever be taking for granted because he is a beautiful person, and I helped create that! What an awesome Christmas present!

What more can I ask for? Well, maybe I could ask for this revelation to fall on my family members heads... and wish the same happiness for them, and for anyone else that reads this......

I guess the moral of the story is, don't lose sight of what's important. I nearly did, and woke up to myself before it was too late. I'm home, focused, and ready for the new year with a better attitude towards life. Bring on 2009!! I'm staying home this Christmas!!

Diary by Purple Phoenix
Read 952 times
Written on 2009-01-18 at 17:23

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Brian Oarr
I loved reading your diary, Phoenix ... you made me feel like a confidante. The writing is good and I hope you decide to do more in the future. It's a gas being invited into the femine mind.