Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in a Bus

I spent my entire Christmas in a bus heading down the East Coast. And I was glad. This was easily one of the worst Christmases of my entire life. I've had some bad Christmases - notably the "Jew Bastard Christmas" and the "Red Bugs Christmas." There was also the "I Have the Flu and My Fiance is Cheating On Me Christmas." Now I can add to those bad Christmases, "The Bus Christmas."

I should have known, but my optimism got the best of me. I should have known that going to Millpond for two weeks straight wasn't the brightest move on my part, as was the idea of spending Christmas away from my husband. Very bad move.

It was ok for a couple days. I had a really great time when I went up to see Bella outside of Philadelphia. I think things started to get really bad when Mommom Jewel rearranged all of her plans because she didn't believe I was actually coming in spite of the fact that I reassured her 785 times that indeed I was actually coming.

She was the reason I was coming in the first place! You see, 2008 was a year when I became a little too aware of the fact that everyone is dying and it freaked me out a little. Death was everywhere this year. As a matter of fact, 2008 fucking sucked a big one and I'm glad it's over. But anyway, I realized I wasn't going to have my grandmothers for much longer. I knew Mommom Jewel was grieving and lonely and that this first Christmas without Pop was going to be agony for her, so I thought maybe I could be there for her. Maybe I could spend some quality time with both of my grandmothers and my other family members and create some beautiful memories. Visions of perfect Christmases danced in my head and I decided that I would sacrifice being away from my husband and my home to be there for my grandmothers since there won't be many more Christmases with them. My heart was in the right place, I think.

The problem was that my family is a pack of nut cases and that sometimes, living so far away from them, I tend to gloss over this in my mind and romanticize and idealize this.

"Oh, they're just quirky and funny," I tell myself, "They're charming and quaint."

So what happens is that I will romanticize and idealize and work myself into a state of expectant bliss where I imagine that everything is going to be perfect and wonderful and coated with a light dusting of snow. The reality of the situation is that no one else shares my vision, I get disappointed, no one cooperates with me and my extended family members all act like a pack of lunatics and are far from quirky and charming.

The original plan was that I was going to stay at Mommom Jewel's condo with her and that I would keep her company and we would do Christmas crafts and I would take her places and have fun with her. This would have been great if Mommom Jewel would have believed I was coming and stayed put for an extra day. But no. She couldn't trust me and because of that she was stubborn and went up and stayed with my Aunt and Uncle in their coal heated, rural home at the crossroads. You all know what happened next because I already wrote about it. It made for a really awkward and uncomfortable situation and my feelings were hurt because she refused to believe that I was even coming.

Because I would not stay at my aunt and uncle's, I stayed in the bus with my parents, which was actually kind of fun. I had a nice bed and a TV and was put up in style. HOWEVER it was at Memere Marie's house and she made it very clear that she was barely tolerating having us there and that we were eating too much and using too much water and that the septic tank was going to back up, she was sure of it, and that when we took showers the water pump made too much noise. Also, my bizarre dietary needs were a pain in her ass and besides that she hates Christmas and didn't want any part of it and wished we'd get over wanting to have Christmas because we were stressing her out. Since Christmas was stressing her out she refused to invite anyone over and if we wanted to see our other relatives we'd have to go their houses because she certainly wasn't going to have them over to her house.

But those other relatives are Grinches and Scrooges too, so they didn't want to see us. Uncle Garble lost his mind and refused to even pick up the phone and Uncle Bull only conceded to make his ribs because I asked him to and because, as my mother says, he wanted to show off his recipe and brag about himself. He only stayed for about a half an hour Christmas Eve anyway before he went home and went to bed. That was all we saw of him. Personally, I think he is depressed over his divorce and in poor health because he's drastically overweight and refuses to take the medications the doctor prescribed for his various ailments, which are pretty serious. It made me really sad.

Each morning I got up and listened to Memere Marie bitch and complain. Afterwards, I'd drive up to my aunt and uncle's to pick up Mommom Jewel so that I could listen to her bitch and complain as well as go off on angry tirades about me and how I've chosen to live my life. When it got dark I would head back to Millpond where I could hear another version of the same thing from Memere Marie.

Every day I was subjected to various xenophobic, racist, irrational, paranoid, homophobic rants from both of them which were not based in any logic or fact whatsoever. I'm not saying this because I'm the far left, bra burning Liberal they think I am. I'm not. I've heard many a loony leftist and I've also heard several, beautifully articulated and very reasonable Conservative arguments. I've also heard crazy Conservatives and sensible, compassionate and well spoken Liberals. I make a huge effort to be fair and to listen to all sides and I remain steadfastly moderate, which I'm very proud of. But my grandmothers were both just fucking crazy and knew not of what they were speaking.

I ignore my family. This is the only thing that really works. I will not change their minds about anything and they try to purposely pick fights with me. One of my personal favorites was when Mommom Jewel told me that the private insurance companies were right in refusing me coverage for my chronic, incurable disease and that if I had followed a more righteous path and held a real job I wouldn't have to worry about insurance because the company would have provided it for me. I mentioned grad school and she said it was a waste of time to spend all that time and money to write stories and poems. I wanted to poke her with a stick when she said that to me.

"Why should the rest of us have to pay for your stupid choices in life?" she said.

I may as well be on welfare according to her. I told her I was going to drop out of school in that case, get divorced and then go get pregnant by a black man. After that I said I was going to move in with some gay guys and practice Wicca. She was not amused.

There are other things. There are family problems I choose not to write about, which may sound shocking to you all. I know it seems like I write about everything here, but I don't. Sometimes I think to myself, if only I did write about it all you'd never believe it. But there are other things weighing on my family that contributed to this Christmas being pretty awful.

I tried to give my grandmothers a pass, especially Mommom Jewel, who is mourning. I ignored it for a week. I tried to laugh them off, but all it once it got to me. I realized that my grandmothers were actually being pretty abusive and I realized that they always had been kind of, well...mean. I told Memere Marie to be nice to me because I sacrificed being with my husband to be with her because I don't get to see her a lot and because I wanted to create memories of her. Her reply was horrible and she said it in front of my mother.

"I didn't ask you to come up here. I hate Christmas and I don't want to have any Christmas memories."

That was it for us. Of course my mother hadn't been spared Memere's wrath either. She was putting up with the same crap as I was, only not from Mommom Jewel, because she's not related to her. We were really sad and no one was being nice and I was starving to death so we decided we'd force Memere Marie into doing Christmas Eve (we'd cook, but that pissed her off too), then I'd take Mommom Jewel on my own to Christmas Eve midnight service and then we'd head back to Florida Christmas day because obviously we weren't wanted in Millpond.

And that is exactly what we did and exactly how I ended up spending Christmas on a bus.

I decided that I am absolved of all guilt and obligation. I will never feel badly about spending another Christmas away from Millpond and I will never spend another holiday away from my husband.

I'm really glad to be home and I hope that those of you who celebrate Christmas had a better one than I did.


Jocelyn said...

You had a good Christmas. YOU did the right thing. Right for you and right for your grandmas (and the rest of your family), even if they're too stubborn to appreciate it.

If it doesn't kill us, it makes us stronger...blah blah!

Just know that when YOU're a'll remember this and behave accordingly. And your grandchildren will LOVE YOU that much more for it!

I'm glad I found your blog this year. I really enjoy your writing! Best wishes for 2009.

NeekoalinAZ said...

"I said I was going to move in with some gay guys and practice Wicca." heh, that one made me giggle.

But, I am sorry your X-mas/Hanukkah /Festivus was so icky. Here's hoping your New Years Eve is fantastic, romantic and that you spend the evening in the arms of the man you love.....with Canela watching of course. ;-)

Ms. Turtle said...

I felt so anxious and sad on your behalf reading this post. You're a bloody saint to put up with that crap as long as you did and I'm glad you're back home where you're wanted and appreciated.

I always read your blog, and although I don't know if I've ever commented, I'm glad you survived Xmas hell and welcome back!

Giffy said...

Yipes---that's about the worst Christmas story I've ever heard, and I lost exactly half of my family in the month surrounding one Christmas!

Totally unsolicited commentary: you obviously take on a great deal of responsibility for things beyond your control (e.g., other people's happiness) and burden yourself with undeserved guilt. Resolving to spend as many Christmases as you can with your husband is a wonderful idea. There are plenty of old people in Florida who don't have family visit them---maybe you could visit some next year to get your old folks fix? (I know I need that---I love me some old folks.) The main thing: do what makes *you* happy. As for trying to make miserable people happy, the best thing you can do is ignore them; that gives them something to bitch about (being ignored), and bitching is their only source of happiness. Everybody wins!

Best of luck in the New Year, and I hope your health continues to improve.

Danny said...

I have read your blog for about two years, and have never commented before because it has always seemed like everybody else said anything remotely interesting that I was going to say. However, reading this, I figured you'd need some pep and hope that I can atleast contribute to it this time.

It sucks that things ended up like that, and I hope that your family will come around and realize they were being a pain in the arse and make it up to you, because you obviously deserve it. Honestly though, from reading all your posts, you sound like one of the most well rounded, awesomely stable human beings I have ever known to exist. Coming from the point of view of a 17 year old punk rock girl with a pretty odd life herself (I admit, you still beat me by far), I can seriously say that one day, I hope to have the same kind of wisdom and logic/foresight as you, because it certainly seems like those traits are less and less frequent. You are a rare gem of a person, thank you so much for writing this blog!

Anonymous said...

You poor thing... I'm so sorry for all the crap you put up with over the holiday. I agree that it's not your fault and your grandparents are being total grinches. Here's hoping that your New Year is a thousand times better than 2008. And keep writing. You are seriously one of the most talented writers I know. Melanie

Tiffany Dyer said...

My god, reading your blog makes me feel like I'm not alone in the insane family holiday business. So far my favorite is when my crazy ass grandpa smacked my mom in the face and told her to get back in the kitchen. Seriously. And they wonder why I moved to Hawaii.

CC said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the awful Christmas visit to your family. Unfortunately sometimes we must distance ourselves from our family in order to maintain some integrity. I speak from experience as well, some people just aren't good for us. However, it's sad when it's people who are related to us because we are made to believe that families should protect and love each other. It's too bad it doesn't always work out that way.

You should know that all the insults and criticisms aren't about you, it's about themselves and whatever bad life choices they have made and how that makes them feel. You have chosen your path, have a good husband, are doing wht you love, and you now get to create and enjoy your own family.

(I apologize for the unsolicited consolation. On to minding my own business now.)

Amy said...

FWIW, I just spent the best Christmas with my parents that I have in twenty years. It was a holiday of healing and peace. I've had many horrible Christmases so it was a huge relief.

LegalMist said...

Oh, wow. It is hard to try so hard and face such rejection. But at least you tried; you won't face the guilt of feeling that you didn't give it your all. And I agree. You are definitely absolved of any further obligation to try to make good Christmas memories for these relatives. I have relatives like this, too - they are not happy unless they are complaining. So I make it my mission to give them something to complain about by doing what makes me happy. Then we are all happy. I'm happy 'cause I do what I want, and they are happy 'cause they get to complain that I'm not doing what they want. It's all quite dysfunctional, but it works for me.

I hope 2009 will be a much better year for you.

Interesting word verification: "laphed"

As in, "Later you'll be glad you laphed it off."

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry your family does not appreciate the sacrifice you made to be with them.
But MAJOR kudos to you for realizing that they are messed up, not you. And I am glad you had the gumption to decide that you wouldn't be miserable for them any longer.
I still think it would be fun to read stories of you leaving with gay guys and practicing Wicca though!

Living in Muddy Waters said...

For what it's worth, you're not wasting your time writing. That someone told you that made me gasp and want to hit them over the head.

I don't know if it will make you feel better or not, but I know Celia Rivenbark has visited your blog. I don't know if she still reads it, but I do know she has read it before. So if professional writers (whom you admire) stop by and are grabbed by what you say, then you definitely need to be doing what you do.

Wide Lawns said...

I LOVE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I sent her a crazy fan letter once and she wrote me back a long personal letter that was so nice.

And you know what, I don't listen when people tell me not to write. That would be like someone telling me not to pee. I have to write.

Michelle said...

Try not to take it personally. Old people can be crotchety like that; the myelin in their brains is deteriorating and they may not have the same capacity for reason and understanding they once did. You did the best you could to show them they were loved.

Hilary said...

I'm so sorry that what you'd hoped would be a wonderful Christmas turned out so disappointing and unfulfilling.

True it's a very stressful time for most of us and add the mourning process to that, and you've got a recipe for jangled nerves.

You still did the right thing for trying and probably came away from it stronger and even more focused.

Have a great New Year with those who understand you. :)

Jeannie said...

It almost sounds like you set yourself up for this and I don't say that to be mean - it's obvious you had the best intentions but no one else really cared and you just didn't see it in your heartfelt desire to make a memorable Christmas. It's really so sad. I hope you haven't been hurt too badly and do not remain bitter. It's horrible that you gave up a Christmas with your husband for all that crap but the day itself only has the meaning we give it so celebrate some other day. Next time you get the urge to do something like this, just make a video or scrapbook and send it instead. And don't open their replies.

Ambitious Blonde said...

I told her I was going to drop out of school in that case, get divorced and then go get pregnant by a black man. After that I said I was going to move in with some gay guys and practice Wicca.

I have said something very similar to my own grandmother. Except for the divorce part. Haven't gone the matrimony route just yet.

Absolution is a good feeling though. Knowing where you need AND want to be in life is never a bad thing. Keep writing. You have a gift for painting amazing things with your words, and anyone who doesn't see that really IS batshit crazy.

sallyacious said...

I'm sorry your family wasn't able to recognize the gift you gave them by being there. I think you made great choices, you were motivated by love, and now you're being practical and recognizing that they can't see it. You can still love people without having to put up with their abuse. So love them from a distance, if that's what you need to do. There's nothing wrong with that.

I hope your New Year is much better than the old was.

Mel said...

I think we should be allowed to pick both our relatives and our neighbors. It would make the holidays and just everyday life so interesting.

Laurie said...

what a couple of rotten old GRANDMAS!! how dare they act so bitchy to you...

sorry your Christmas sucked.

DO stay home and make nice memories with your sweet-sounding hubby. He sounds sweet but I don't feel like I know him very much at all...can you write more about him please? if you are so inclined? but if you want to keep him more "private" I understand.

LOVED the story about how you two met, but still curious about him...

Laurie in NH

Wide Lawns said...

Laurie, my husband asked me to not write about him, so I respect that. Unlike me, he's a very shy, quiet person and very private and that's ok with me. I understand, so on the rare occasion that I do write about him I ask his permission. For instance with the hot sinus water incident he just looked at me and said:

"I know I can't ask you not to write about this one."

Interestingly, he also doesn't read what I write on here.

But what I can tell you about him is that he is green eyed, patient, gentle, loves the cat, watches the news a lot, shops at Costco, has a sweet tooth, is hard working, is way smarter than I am, is very reliable, generous and compassionate and he is a very good baker. Also he's 5 months younger than me and is from California originally.

Emma said...

I am so so sorry. I know how much you were looking forward to this. Let's have a gluten-free lunchtime extravaganza at Legal Seafood and crab about our crazy relatives. See you soon!

kerry said...

Sorry your visit was so awful. Nice of you to try, and hopefully if and when you go again, it will be better.

Welcome home! Back where you are loved and wanted and appreciated.

Michelle said...

Ugh! So sorry you had such a bad time. I feel really bad for you that your Grandmothers were so mean to you. My maternal grandmother was an evil bitch and I don't have one decent memory of her. That just really sucks.
You should give yourself props for hanging in as long as you did. I don't know that I would be as strong.

MtnMama said...

I feel sad for you, but I see that it is a shared experience to have relatives that in no way resemble the person that you are. I've grown up with most of my relatives - including, unfortunately, my parents and sibllings - being people I wouldn't choose to spend an hour with, given the choice. I've just had a crappy Christmas, but my daughter (four years old) enjoyed herself and so I basked in that.

Next year, I will be a thousand miles from these lunatics (I am taking the kid with me, though!) and chalking it all up to grist for the mill.

I very much look forward to and enjoy your blog. Happy New Year.

bluelikethesky said...

Good for you for going to see them, painful though it was.

I need to catch up on the whole story as I've been in my own Christmas drama, culminating in my crazy-ass sister dropping our terminally ill 87 year old mother off in my driveway on Christmas morning; she won't come in or speak to me because I accidentally included her in a group forward of a pro-Obama email and she viewed it as a personal attack.

FWIW, I haven't spoken with a single person who truly enjoyed his or her break.

So forge on. I have some back post reading to do!

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry your Xmas was so disappointing I love your blog, you sound like a lovely person, as does your husband, parents and pussycat. if it makes you feel any better I spilled a dozen eggs and a cup of half and half on the floor on xmas morn. and had a fit myself... but the rest of the day was happy.
best wishes,

Nora said...

Oh, your angry grandmas. I'm sorry your holidays were sad. You tried.

electricdaisy said...

I'm sorry to hear that you had such a horrible time, and I am especially sorry to hear that you were away from your husband for no good reason. It seems terrible, but I am uncomfortable with my (limited) extended family and very comfortable with my parents/friends you have become my family. Must be a Southern thing.

the Bag Lady said...

Glad you didn't poke your granny with a stick - but totally understand the urge! I'm also glad you don't take advice from her, because I would sorely miss your wonderful blog!
Blessings on you for putting up with so much abuse for trying to do the right thing. Your heart was in the right place, and I'm betting that your grandmothers both appreciated it, even if they have such "unusual" ways of showing their appreciation!
Here's hoping you have a wonderful New Year's Eve to make up for such a rotten Christmas! And that next year is your best year yet.

Fancy Schmancy said...

Don't ever go back there, you don't deserve that crap!

Jean_Phoenix said...

I hate to say this but when this same senario came down in my life I felt good saying 'Well I really tried to have these people in my life and now I can be at peace'. I figured that if I really meant anything to them they would seek my presence. Never did happen - but, I'm much more at peace not seeking them.

I did get to see my little sister over the holidays, and that was a good thing.


Sinclair said...

High expectations usually make the experience less enjoyable than what you had in mind.

A month ago I went back to my native country and visited my dad's mom.

She's a converted Jehovah Witness and I have no religious label at the moment, so instead of sitting and having sweet memories of my granpa and my dad, both deceased, she attacked me full force with her big-ass bible. After burning me in hell, she forced me to read legal papers of monies and stuff I had no interest whatsoever.

Did I know her ways? Yes. Did I expect it to be different? Abso-freaking-lutely Yes. Why? Well because it's me dammit and after such long trip and expensive ticket things better be perfect.

In my case I was actually glad husband did not travel and witness such marvelous DNA genes in my blood line.

Sixteen Chickens said...

"I will never feel badly about spending another Christmas away from Millpond and I will never spend another holiday away from my husband."

That was your Christmas present from your family-- a life lesson. Sorry it wasn't gift wrapped all pretty, but at least it wasn't wrapped in cat sh1t.

Jess said...

I can totally relate! Our Christmas gatherings have become extremely small due to fmaily drama.

I used to feel sorry for Grandmothers because they are old. I've learned to not feel sorry for them as they created their own misery. No reason for everyone else to be miserable along side them.

KT said...

Aw, I'm so sorry your Christmas was so tense and awful! I will never understand why grandmas think they have the right to be so judgmental -- probably age, I guess, or experience, but really that can only make up so much for downright meanness.

Hope your New Year's is better! I think it would almost have to be...

Tere said...

Can't wait to discuss over dinner!

And you're right, 2008 sucked balls.

Kore said...

I can't help but say it: "I knew it was a bad idea for you to go away without your husband!" Sorry, you can adopt me into your crazy, mean family now.

Your Momom Jewel sounds a lot like my grandmother, whom we are required to call Honey. Honey judges every little thing I do. It's so hard. I never quite measure up.

It's a good thing that you've cultivated the ignore thing. I'm still getting the hang of it.

foxymoron said...

Honey you take the world on those little shoulders of yours. Merry Christmas, you are a treasure. Happy New Year, this one will be better :)

JoeinVegas said...

Can't choose your relatives, but you can choose when to spend time with them. Haven't seen mine in a while, and don't really regret it. Enjoy your husband and Florida, and make up nice memories about the grandparents if you have to (seems that you do)

Anonymous said...

Family! Can't live with em, can't hate em (after all, they're family), and we can't kill em.

I also had a horrible granma. Thank heaven she lived about several states away so I didn't see her much but whenever she visited it was hell for us kids. She didn't approve of the way mom and dad were raising us so she was really mean. I never loved her, mostly I just lived in fear of her. The one think in my life that I really feel like I missed out on is having a loving granma to run to when I knew I was in trouble with my mom cause I knew granma would save me. In my case granma was the one I was running from.

I also have a very stressed relationship with my 4 sisters. I tried for years to get us to be closer and build the sister relationship that I envisioned but they just didn't cooperate and I finally realized it isn't going to happen. In fact, I realized that they do things that I believe are toxic and I don't want those behaviors in my life so I've distanced myself from them. We get together about twice a year for dinner and it's best this way.

Your husband sounds amazing and having an amazing husband is more important than granmas or sisters. I thank heaven every day for mine.

vic said...

I skipped the entire thing in favor of cheeseburgers and the Star Wars trilogy. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing quite like our family to make us feel like crap at the holidays.

You've given of yourself this year, and it's a gift your grandmothers won't get back. It's not your fault they put such little value on it.

I tend to hold by the maxim that relationships have expiration dates. It may be sooner, it may be later, but it will eventually end, either by choice, by necessity or by the loss of one of the parties. Your grandmothers have told you in their words and actions toward you that they clearly feel the expiration date has come. It's a shame they don't appreciate what they have.

Bella said...

I just wanted you to know that I wanted you here for Christmas and was sad when I didn't see you on Christmas Day. I miss you terribly but at least I was able to go to dinner with you and your parents and had a GREAT time getting tipsy with your mom. I will just have to come and see you guys more which is NO PROBLEM with me! Love, Bella

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