When I was a child I loved Christmas.
As I look back on it now I can see that I loved Christmas so much because that was a time of family and I didn’t usually feel like I had one.
At Christmas we would go to my great-grandparents house and celebrate. It was a lovely time with lots and lots of people. I think one year there were 70 people that passed in and out of that smallish house. It was a big potluck with my Aunts Sophie and Louise making roast and a host of other food but everyone else bringing other things forming a wonderful meal.
The tradition was that the children ate first and then the men and then the women ate when everyone else was through the line. Simple things made me happy like the wicker paper plate holders. There was an old piano there and I always visited it and longed to play beautiful music. My aunt Sophie would play for us and each year my great-grandpa would sing Silent Night in german.
This was my fathers side of the family and I thought they were beautiful. Handsome dark men that almost looked like they could be part of the mafia. I never exactly felt like I fit in but I was always glad to be part of that group. I loved Christmas for that… for being part of that group-not for any presents or anything. I also loved going to church with them. We would go to a lovely old church and have a candlelight christmas eve service and I just felt like… this is what normal people have. A family that does things together. I didn’t have it often but on Christmas Eve I did.
And then my parents got divorced. My sister went and lived with my dad and I stayed and lived with my mom. My dad never called me after they divorced. I did see him on occassion because my mom would encourage me to call him and go visit. I often asked why I had to call him. Why didn’t he ever call me? And she said, “Because you are the one that is strong enough to do it.”. And so I did.
I would call and go visit and instead of visiting and spending time with me, I would work for my dad at his bowling alley. I don’t remember seeing my sister when I would visit. She also worked for him… but I worked in the snack bar and she worked doing upkeep on the bowling alley machines. It would have been nice to have spent time with my dad or my sister but that didn’t happen-just like Christmas didn’t happen any more either.
My mother told me a lot of times that I had to be the one to do things because I was the one that was strong enough to do it. It sort of became my identity to myself. I had to take care of everyone else. I was the strong one. I didn’t need others. Others needed me. That is a heavy burden for a young person. Everyone needs people. Strong people know that is part of why they are strong. They are strong because they have support.
Teaching someone that they are strong and must support everyone else only leads to splintering, cracking and eventually totally falling. We can be strong even when we feel weak if we have others to help.