So, here we are everyone, Christmas evening.
The boyfriend’s parents live farther north than we do and correspondingly colder.
It’s been a strange holiday for me. You see, I have always known that when I visit my parents’ house, I intensely enjoy the climate, the culture, and my cosmopolitan old haunts. However, this year, I realized that the atmosphere stresses me right the fuck out.
Part of the reason I realized it is because the boyfriend and I visited my parents for Christmas last year, and over the summer, and then we came here for Christmas this year.
Contrasting this Christmas against last Christmas is…ridiculous.
Yes, last year we had beautiful climate and theme parks and beaches and 70 degree weather. We had short sleeves and sunshine and everywhere I’ve known all my life.
But last year was also stress, explaining to relatives what’s going on with my health, reminding people to be gentle with me, fighting (and trying not to fight) with my sister, being in the house with a 6-month old, the stress of the fact that none of my father’s family likes each other, oh god nothing is wrapped and the house is a mess and nothing is ready, and the fact that with the exception of my boyfriend, I was everyone’s last priority. (To be fair, my parents’ house at Christmas is not pure misery – there are traditions I love, and I am very very fond of my mother’s side of the family.)
This year, it’s snow – sure, less than a foot. Temperatures that they say are mild but which to me are incredibly bitter cold. Heavy warm clothing and cold feet and my god how did it get so cold just going to the bathroom?!
This summer was the first introduction of my service dog to my family, and it was frankly awful – my family letting their dog bully him, and not keeping the year-old baby off of him, and just generally making him stressed out and unhappy, which in turn makes ME stressed out and unhappy. And we had a lot of me being low on everyone’s priority list, my sister leaving horrible messes in places we had to use, and just…well, generally it was stressful and I asked my boyfriend why I thought it was a good idea to go out, why I thought I wanted to go out to see them.
But emotionally, this year has been so much easier. The only gifts this year were given because the givers wanted to – we did big goofy stockings full of silly things that everyone seemed to like a lot. His family understands my disability better than my own does. And this Christmas…there was no rush to wrap everything, no panic over food not being ready, no rush to clean away months of clutter, no push to take care of things I wasn’t responsible for. Their dogs have been very well behaved and well controlled. And finally, unlike my father’s family, my boyfriend’s family likes each other. They tease like crazy, and there’s a lot of laughter…and a lot of love.
…while I miss the warm and the cities and spaces of my home like mad, I finally am realizing that maybe I don’t miss my family so much at all. Or maybe what I’m realizing is that family isn’t about blood.