It’s almost Christmas around here. The Christmas lights are up around the city, and the Christmas parade has come and gone. I hate Christmas. Even when I was little, I hated the forced happiness, the crowds, and the noise. My mother always tried to have the perfect Christmas and could never reach her goal every year. By the time Christmas came, my mother was crying, my father was tuned out, the cats had climbed the Christmas tree, and the dogs had peed on it. It was so much stress.
When my husband and I had children, I thought Christmas would be better. It wasn’t. Then, it was the stress of family members wanting us to visit and trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings. There was the stress of putting up the tree. There was the stress of purchasing gifts on a limited budget. Now, it was me crying, not my mother.
My husband died on 12/27. I believe he deliberately stayed alive on Christmas for the kids. It was such a bleak Christmas. We had a tree. We had gifts. We had my husband lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room, dying slowly. The kids were young. One was just a toddler. They never talk about it, but they hate Christmas too. My mother in law, every Christmas after her son died, angrily said, “Why didn’t the doctors tell us he was going to die? I would have done Christmas differently.” I swallow my words instead of pointing out that doctors aren’t God.
In the years after that, I really tried for the kids. My mother moved in, and we bickered over Christmas trees. I wanted a fake one, and she wanted a real one. She won. We’d go pick one out with the boys, drag it home, move the furniture, and start decorating. I cried. The dog started sniffing at the tree. I cried more. Now, I had to guard the damn tree that I didn’t even want from animals that I did want. Just more responsibility. Just more stress. I hated every moment of it.
We’d rush from in law house to in law house, frantically wrapping gifts on the way. I’d bitch the entire way. I’d bitch even more the entire way home. The kids just wanted to be at home. I wanted to be at home, but their son had died. How could I deny them their grandchildren on Christmas?
Finally, about five years ago, I mentally said, “Fuck it.” We had a brutal Thanksgiving waiting to eat for hours at each house, listening to family members complain about each other, and driving through Middle Tennessee in the cold. So, we went to the tropics for Christmas that year and every year since.
It is the best gift I could ever give our family. One year, we saw a Chanukah parade with Hassidic Jews. They had a menorah float and a dreidel float. They had a van, blaring out prayers with flashing green lights. It was absolutely the best. We didn’t even plan to go. It just happened to go by while we were there. We lounge on the beach during Christmas, and don’t worry about gifts, family, or travel. During my husband’s death-versary, we do something active like renting a paddleboard or a kayak. Then, we call family members and share memories.
It is literally a trip that I imagine in my mind every year starting at Thanksgiving. It’s expensive but I tell myself that we would spend that amount of money on gifts. It’s a lie. I buy gifts on sale, but theoretically gifts could cost that much. In January, I book our reservations for next year. And I feel at peace. I can survive whatever happens during the year because I will be in the tropics during Christmas!