I don’t remember gifts but I remember that this is when I learned to hate and fear the snow and the cold. I opened the door one day to go outside and there was a wall of snow pouring in on me. My mom thought that this was funny. I had frost bite because of it. First time that I understood that I was trapped. First time that I understood that I had no control. I was nearly 4.
I remember an Easy Bake Oven that I had to give away to the poorer kids in my neighborhood because of my grandma’s church. My first cousin and I had a sea of presents and my grandma thought we should share them because it was the godly thing to do. Mind you the night before, I saw my grandma’s boyfriend bringing in toys while we watched Christmas specials. He gave me the shush finger. I made sure the other kids didn’t notice. First time that I was ever in on a secret and complicit in a lie. First time I stopped believing the truth was nice. I was happy to give it away, because all of the toys felt tainted that year. If Santa was a lie maybe god was too. I was nearly 6.
My mom had money for everything she wanted but not enough for presents for her daughters. So she made us put on our dirtiest play clothes and act like we were homeless in order to get new outfits and presents from my grandma’s church. I would have preferred nothing over charity. First time that I was embarrassed of my family. First time that I hated myself and refused to forgive god. I never felt more alone. I was nearly 8.
My mom forgot about Christmas this year, I guess. She sat us down and told us that when she got her taxes back in January that we would have Christmas then. We just needed to hold on and be patient. First time I felt disgust. First time I wanted a person dead. I never had a real relationship with her after this. God ignored us so holidays no longer mattered to me. I was nearly 15.
First holiday I had spent with my mom and sisters in years. We all slept in the same room. I was 7 months pregnant. My stepfather made his appearance at one AM, drunk. My mother woke us, arguing with him per normal. We weren’t asleep, just waiting for him to hit her. When he did, I jumped up and went in the living room. I wasn’t mad at him, I was angry with her. She had set this up. I blamed her. I yelled at her, “You need to stop talking shit for once because you can’t kick nobody’s ass in this house!” He said, “You better listen to your fucking daughter for once.” First time I empathized with an abuser. First time I decided to always be the aggressor. First time I refused to be weak in front of a man. I packed my clothes and walked out into the snow for miles just to escape the violence. I told no one in the house, I just thought, let them fight and left. I left my sisters there with them and never came back. I found a pay phone and called my grandma. I was nearly 25.
My son has only had wonderful Christmases. I’ve done horrible things to ensure this. He thinks that I’ve cried every year around this time because I’m sentimental and happy that he’s happy.
I hope that he always thinks that pain could never be the reason.