Some Thoughts on Christmas

Mothers and Daughters at Christmas

My Mother the Christmas Grinchgrinch_santa

Something about the holidays brings out the worst in some people. Take my mother for example. It wasn’t always this way, but in the past few years, she has turned into a real Grinch. She spends most of December complaining about Christmas, Christmas decorations, Christmas dinner, Christmas presents, Christmas cards, and then she hurts herself by putting up lawn decorations and inside decorations after complaining that she’s never going to do it again. She buys presents for “people who never appreciate them and wraps them. She sends out cards to people who “don’t send out cards any more.” And if I say that it’s fine if we don’t have a big dinner on Christmas day because she says that it’s too much work, or if I offer to cook, she’ll end up cooking most of it anyway.

It’s another one of those damned if I do, damned if I don’t propositions for me. Whatever I do is wrong, and whatever I don’t do is wrong as well. And I’ve finally had to admit in my later years that my mother can be just plain mean to me when she wants to be, and I just take it, for two reasons: my Dad is gone, so Mom is all that I have left because I have no siblings. And, my Dad is gone, so I’m all that she has left to pick on. I know. I know. It’s a very dysfunctional relationship, but it’s all that we know, and it’s way too late to change now.

The Cleavers we definitely are not. I content myself with the knowledge that my own household is a little more sane. My relationship with my own husband is actually loving, and I do try to talk to my children, not down or at them. But, who knows? Maybe one day they’ll write their own tell-all books, and I’ll find out that they actually think of me as a “Mommy Dearest” . . . no more wire hangers . . .

Speaking of Mothers

It’s hard when you notice a decline in someone’s health. My mother-in-law on my ex-husband’s side was diagnosed a few years ago with one of those conditions that progressively worsens the ability of the nervous system to work properly. For quite a while, her symptoms weren’t that noticeable. But lately, I’ve noticed that she is displaying more symptoms, and I’m in denial about it. I don’t want to see these symptoms because I know what they mean.

She talks freely about her disease and even mentions that she thinks that it is progressing. But lately, I find that I am having problems reciprocating in these conversations. I don’t want it to be this way because we have always had a good relationship, one in which we would talk to each other about pretty much anything. But if I talk to her about this, it becomes too real for me. I know that I have to get over this so that I can continue to be there for her just as I would want her to be there for me, but it’s going to take some backbone on my part. And I have to admit that at the moment, I need to find that backbone.

But what is more important is that I am there for her, that she be able to talk to me. My knowledge that her condition is worsening means that I will be losing her and it is something that I will have to face and work through, regardless of my own discomfort.

And Daughters . . .

Alexis tells me that for the past four years when she has taken her boyfriend Mike over to her grandfather and step-grandmother’s house on Christmas Day, Mike has yet to be acknowledged. Now I can understand this possibly on the first year, but Alexis and Mike have been living together for four years quite happily but without the benefit of marriage. I have no problems with that. I do have a problem with Nancy, her step-grandmother being so rude to Mike.

On Mike’s side of the family, they have gone to great lengths to welcome Alexis when she has visited at Christmas, even when they barely knew her. They don’t have a lot of money, but they have always made her feel as if she is a part of the family.

On my side, my mother and my mother-in-law and Corey’s family have all acknowledged Mike, but it still hurts Alexis that he has to sit there on Christmas Day while everyone is opening family presents, and there isn’t even a card addressed to him. Mike is so easy going that he has never said a word, but Alexis is angry on his behalf, and frankly, I don’t blame her. It’s a blatant statement of omission.

sad-elfNow you might think that it’s just an oversight, and if Nancy were any other kind of person, I could agree with you. But this woman is very meticulous. She has a white couch in her living room. Her home is spotless. The only time children have ever been in her home is when she married their Grandpa and our kids started to come over for a few visits a year. Ann and I took our children aside and threatened them to behave as if they were in a museum because we certainly couldn’t replace any of the antiques that adorned the tables.

She also does not forget the basic rules of etiquette, so this omission of Mike from the family gift-giving is not a slip up, certainly not four years in a row. So this year, Alexis plans to take a present for Mike to open when everyone else is opening presents. She asked me if I thought that this would be all right. I told her that I thought that it would be fine. In fact, I think that it’s a wonderful idea because Nancy will certainly notice, and what can she say? “Where on earth did that come from?”

Ah families. They keep the holidays interesting at least. By the way. I can check off Christmas Cards, but I haven’t bought stamps. The buffet has been moved out of the dining room, and the new table is being put together. Brett put up the outside icicle lights, but we need to find an extension cord. The tree goes up tomorrow, and I start the wrapping tomorrow. And yes, I realize that Christmas is just three days away. I did not need that reminder, thank you very much.

I need to go now because the pressure is unbearable. There might be more later if I can still type with my right arm. I’m getting a shot in my arm later today.

Peace on earth.