Saturday, December 20, 2008

Fear and Loathing in the Holiday Season (Ghosts of Christmas Past #3)

It’s comin’ on Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees.
They’re puttin’ up reindeer, singin’ songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river I could skate away on....
Joni Mitchell

Here we are at that time of year when loved ones reunite...and are reminded of why they see so little of each other during the year....One Thanksgiving, I drove up to Steamboat Springs in Colorado, where some friends had rented a house with a hot-tub on the back porch for a three-day party. We’d be out there in the hot-tub with the temperature all around us at something like -10 Fahrenheit, and would get so cooked that we’d get out and jump...bare-assed naked...these were some very crunchy friends...off the porch into deep snowbanks, then climb back into the tub once the cold started sinking in a bit...which took a surprisingly long time....Anyway, on Thanksgiving day, I called home, making a joke as I dialed to the effect that they’re probably having the annual family blow-up right about now. My mom answered, sounding cheerful but asking me to call back in half an hour...turned out I’d nailed it....

Right around that time, dreading going home for Christmas...for reasons that represent more of my family’s dirty laundry than I’m gonna air here...I was talking to some friends on a sidewalk in Flagstaff, AZ, where I lived at the time, and said something like shouldn’t your family be a sanctuary from all the meanness in the world, one place where you’re unconditionally accepted and supported? One guy I didn’t know too well said if it was like that, you never would’ve left...and he had a point....

19 comments:

Drowsey Monkey said...

Naked in a hot tub ... oh the germs, but I digress.

Ah yes, family blow ups. I don't have those anymore. Everyone told me I'd feel bad after my father passed away but I never did, still don't. He was an okay guy, but he liked to argue. Poor man never learned how to communicate any other way. Now that he's no longer with us the vibe is different.

My sister, her husband, their kids & grandkids ... that's my family and they're great. My sister is the definition of unconditional love and I'm in awe of that.

As for distant relatives, those that live far away ... well like your wise friend said ... there's a reason I moved far away from them ... and never keep in touch.

Hope your holidays go well! Stay out of the hot tub - or at least put on some clothes for pity sakes! ;)

Christine Vyrnon said...

can't live with them
can't live without them
catch 22s

Erik Donald France said...

Very funny. Wicked. And Poignant.

As an aside, I did that hot cold dive once in Boulder, Colorado. The New Agers seem kind of goofy most of the time. But it was fun then anyways, after a seventeen hour drive.

Good luck with the fam! I'll visit mine in '009.

Amanda said...

Ohh... I so can relate.

I used to live in country New South Wales (another state in Australia). My parents were living in Sydney at the time, and my ex's parents in the far southern alps. There was also my ex's brother who lived in Canberra, about 150km away from us.

For weeks beforehand, my mother and his mother played this manipulative game of trying to shame us into spending Xmas with one and not the other.

In the end, we would be driving 100s of km, frazzled and nerve-wracked.

When we moved to Alice Springs 3500km away, thankfully this all stopped.

Needless to say, I've only been home once for Xmas since I've lived here.

Check my blog on Xmas eve for some pictures of the amazing place where I'll be spending Xmas and the long weekend thereafter... with not a parent in sight!

Lydia said...

Thanks for the reminder of that Joni Mitchell song; love it.
In many ways I would rather spend holidays with friends than with family. I'd even rather spend holidays alone than with some family members.

svasti said...

One of the great gifts my parents gave me was lack of concern about nudity. It was all family skinny dipping in our backyard pool as little ones...

So the naked hot tub works for me.

Like I wrote in one of my posts (can't even remember which one now), most family events were tinged with blow ups - often my mother's continiously weeping wound of rage and pain was at the heart of it all... I don't really equate DNA-based get togethers with fun.

Some people are fortunate, in that they do get that unconditional love and support from their families. I even have a few friends with that goin' on.

But let's face it, families need to be all well-adjusted in the first place for that to be possible.

And how many of us are that lucky?

donutszenmom said...

Were you at NAU? My daughter's up there now. LOVES Flag. Happily, she'll join us for Christmas, though I did suggest she do Thanksgiving up there with her friends. I remember when I discovered how great holidays with friends (rather than family) are.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Crunchy friends in Naked Hot Tub. Oh how I miss such freedom. sigh...

I think what should have been posted:

Can't live with em,
Can't leave em chained up in the basement.
Too much paperwork!

Aggie said...

I can relate. My lot are at loggerheads with half not speaking to the other half and I'm a well known fence sitter from way back. I simply can't be bothered anymore. We used to do the "family thing" for the sake of the parents - but they are both long gone now and I don't feel obligated anymore. It was not so much "unpleasant" as "deadly, dull and boring." I have soooooo many better things to do. Have a good one.
Over here, as it is warm, it is crunchy and nekked in the cold spa and then dive into the sun to cook awhile.

Rhiannon said...

I absolutely love this song so much! I've been thinking of it a lot of late with the holidays...I sing it in my head as I drive around town for some reason.

Won't be hanging out with my folks and like the stranger said to you it's why I left and had to stay away from my incredibly dysfunctional family. Some of us can never go back..sad though..it would be nice to do that if there was some kind of love or caring going on there.

I love to watch families on tv like the show "Sisters and Brothers" (or is it "Brothers and Sisters"?)where they argue and have all kinds of "issues" all the time..but there is always some kind of communication..they work it out each time..the "Love" it is always there regardless..now I would love that and could deal with it...

But I know how you feel...must have hurt you when your mother told you to call back...sorry to hear about that.

Hope your Christmas is a warm and happy one nevertheless.

Blessing and Love and Peace for this world,

Rhi

the walking man said...

The hot tub gig sounds about like the right way to find the reason for the season.

Brooks Hall said...

Hey Humbugs, Santas, and those in the Nether Regions:

I think I'm in the last category, the Nether Regions. The holidays have been an awkward and uncomfortable time for much of my life. And this year I'm trying to coast through with little fuss... We'll see. Also, I'm sending out forgiveness, for myself and my youthful mistakes, and to others. Time to move forward, y'know.

Be well!

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Naked in -10 Fahrenheit? You guys are brave....or drunk....or drugged. At any rate, sorry about the family arguments. The family should be a place where you can come and there's unconditional love. But just because that place isn't with your family doesn't mean you can't have it at all. I'm sure you know that blood relatives isn't conducive to togetherness and happiness. That is more of a spiritual thing.

timethief said...

Hi there,
River is my all time favorite song of the season. There were many times I wished that I could continue to skate down the river and away from my family when I was young. Time passed I aged and refused to attend the seasonal show downs and squabbles. I established my own seasonal traditions with friends and we chose to celebrate Winter Solstice as it was meaningful to us and Christmas wasn't.

Happy Solstice!

Brunhilda said...

"shouldn’t your family be a sanctuary from all the meanness in the world, one place where you’re unconditionally accepted and supported?"

I used to wish it worked that way . . . used to try so hard to make it work that way . . . but it just doesn't. So instead surround yourself with those who do love you and create your own family unit.

Kim (SamGrace) said...

That Joni Mitchell song is often the only thing getting me through the holidays.

Family brings out the best and the worst in us. Often the holidays bring out the worst. There's too much pressure added to already tense family situations.

That guy had a great point.

K Fields said...

"Here we are at that time of year when loved ones reunite...and are reminded of why they see so little of each other during the year...."

I can totally relate to this statement!

I use to do the hot-tub snow thing with a bunch of friends. Gosh haven't done that in a long time! It was so much fun! :)
~K

earthtoholly said...

Hey drjay, how ya doin? Hope you're not out shopping for a new computer!

Reading through your comments here I see I'm not alone. Just got back from visiting family and I felt like kissing the ground. Being un-blessed with some family who are unbelievably self-centered, I have to say this is one of the worst holidays I can remember...

Anyways, when we were in Flagstaff a few years ago, I remember that Late for the Train cafe had the best coffee...not sure if it was there when you were. Just loved that town!

Bird said...

Soooo glad I don't have to do the family thing (my family being spectacularly short lived/anti-social). I usually feel callous admitting to that but looks like I'm among friends here. I sometimes have to do the other halves family thing though, which is generally calm and not so full of ancient, raging animosity. Or maybe it is, and I'm too thick skinned to notice.