Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blah Crumb Blog

Tis the season to be:


anything but cheery.

I'm having a harder time than usual finding a holiday spirit this year. Could be because I've been sick since the evening of the 3rd. As has my husband since several days before that. We have two 30 minute windows of opportunity to speak to each other each day--just before he leaves for work about 6am and right after he walks in the door, whenever that is. In spite of feeling miserable and occasionally fevered, he hasn't missed a single day. And those days are ten to twelve hours long. Not counting the commute. And today is the sixteenth* of a planned 19 in a row. The good part is that puts him on overtime by sometime on Wednesday each of the three weeks. The bad part is that we can't do any Christmas shopping until the Saturday morning before Christmas and the beginning of the family's celebration starts that evening in deference to members who have other family commitments on Sunday and Monday.

This has essentially been the pattern each year since he got this job on the shipping docks of this major, seasonally-driven, national specialty-gift company six years ago. One of the perks is that we can shop in the company store with his employee discount that knocks off a significant percentage of the original 80% mark-up. Somehow this has always felt a little bit tacky to me. Maybe because the products are mostly of the kind that time-harassed executives pay assistants to select and buy in bulk to present to clients, colleagues, customers and secretaries as tokens of appreciation that may or may not, in fact, exist. Maybe its because I know too much about the actual contempt held between ranks, departments, divisions, and plants.

Then there is the fact that we continue to live with my husband's family after five** years and I question whether we should be spending the holiday bonus and overtime money on Christmas. But on the other hand, how can we not buy gifts for those we know are buying for us?

I would rather be a giver than a receiver and have often been ashamed that the things we bought others (with too little money split too many ways) were cheap and/or poorly chosen. I tried to rectify this after 1990 by making needlework gifts for at least a few each year. I lost over a dozen such projects and all of the accumulated materials for dozens more when we lost our stored belongings in 2001. That was a huge demoralization and the holiday season serves to remind me of that.

But even these challenges to the holiday spirit are minor compared to the ambivalence toward them created by the indoctrination against them that was an integral part of my childhood. We were taught that all 'keeping of days' was pagan, including birthdays and modern remembrance days. Whenever such days afforded time off from work, our assemblies would assemble for Bible Conferences or Youth Camps. We didn't decorate or exchange gifts and we spoke with pity or scorn of those who did.

I married into a family who does celebrate the holidays. It was important to my husband and because the dictum that a wife submit to her husband was stronger than the one against 'keeping special days' I went along though my spirit always lagged. Shame and guilt would often plague the lead-up and let-down for each holiday. I consciously repudiated the teachings against holidays several years before I broke with the fundamentalist doctrines entirely. I gave my full blessing to having a Christmas tree and decorating for the holidays for the first time in 1992. Before that my husband had deferred to my sensibilities. Since then, I continue to struggle with the sense that the 'bad' things that happen are 'chastisements from the Lord' because I did not 'keep the faith'. Half the time I feel shame and guilt over it. The other half I feel angry that I feel that way. Either way, there isn't much room for the Holiday Spirit.

* I started writing this last week when it was the 'tenth' day.

** Updated to correct. August 2001 to present equals five not six years. Must have been a bad day when I wrote that line!

1 tell me a story:

Jamie 12/20/2006 8:12 PM  

I know what you mean, Joy. I am experiencing the same thing, the first half of my childhood was spent with my mom who we didn't have much of a Christmas, and I only remember one good one from my early childhood, then the other half with the same fundamentalist family that you came from. It is hard when your friends give you cards and gifts. I have recently discovered, I always wanted the Christmas that many share, in the movies and on tv, but is that really how it is? I don't know. Christmas is a time for sharing, giving, and being with people who love you a lot. I am spending Christmas alone, again. I am not sad about it, and though some people cannot understand. I am making my own Christmas. I got a Christmas tree, I decorated it, it is small. It was helpful to me to bring the spirit of what the holidays are really all about. It is what you make it, not what others make it, but what you yourself make it.

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