A Christmas Fondly Forgotten

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If you follow my ranting and raving on FaceBook or Twitter, you may have guessed that I had a rather awful Christmas. (Sample post: It will always marvel me how family can treat strangers with such complete grace, but not their own.) For the first time in my entire life I did not spend Christmas Eve with my family. In truth I haven’t felt at home there for years. Slowly that house has become less of a home to me, turning into some junkyard for the physical remnants of my brother’s broken marriage and a free-for-all for the questionable design he’s advanced for the once-elegant surroundings. Yet part of me still felt, or hoped, that there was some small part that did still belong to me, and to which I still belonged. When they took the last bit of space that I felt could be mine, a final bastion of safety and security in a world that never felt safe or secure for someone like me, I felt lost and unmoored.  It may seem childish and stupid to hang onto something like a childhood bedroom, but think about it this way:

For someone who has never felt like he truly belonged, taking that one thing away – the last bit of proof that he lived there, that he mattered – is not a frivolous thing. For someone who’s always doubted his relevance in the family, and who has consistently made that known in self-destructive gestures overt and covert, there is something terribly diabolic about it – about erasing the first place he ever called home without giving him a chance to say goodbye.  It’s careless at best, cruel at worst, and hurtful no matter how you want to paint it.

For those reasons, I couldn’t bring myself to go back there. Knowing that my old room would not be mine would have been too sad. I’m not ready for that yet. But if I learned one thing this Christmas it’s that new traditions must be started. We have to make our own families. We have to start again and start anew. That’s what the New Year is for, and after I mourned what I could not control, I felt the dawn of something else. Gratefulness. To my parents, for what they had given me. The silver lining and blessing of this new time, a feeling I’d never felt before: freedom. When the regret and the sadness and the hurt began to subside, I felt free.

I know what’s it like to be unwanted, to not be missed. I know the onerous obligation that people feel toward family – toward their own children sometimes – and I know that so much of what we as humans do is because it’s what we’re supposed to do. When you give that up, when you accept that there is a relief and an ease when you’re not there, it makes leaving that much easier. Better than that, it opens up a new world of opportunity, of freedom, of love.

The early part of my childhood was happy, and good, and it’s that which I’ll hold close to my heart. Hanging onto a bedroom at this stage of my life was stupid. It’s time for me to grow up. I see that now. The darkness which hovered over that house has lifted. My shadow goes with me.

I won’t go back.

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