24 December 2009

a pack of strays.

I've been touched lately by the thoughtful Christmas essays featured in The New York Times recently.  One spoke to the realities- and hopes- of being a single person during the holidays, another, more poignant, answered for the struggles of the unmoored and the families who take them in on festive days.  While I have never been in the foster care system or experienced even half of the traumas the author alluded to, I have felt the pinball feeling of ricocheting off of other people's (and sometimes my own) family events as both a grateful participant and an uncomfortable intruder.  Confronting this feeling annually involves a late, reluctant, and resigned purchase of an airline ticket and a frustrating blend of enthusiasm and dread.  I love, love, love being around my family but I struggle to really enjoy the holidays (coming home in the summer is so much easier!).  After reading this NYT story about people skipping the holidays- I, feeling very curmudgeonly (probably from gorging on candy and teriyaki to cope with, you know, the stress) was like, YES! Maybe next year I could just spend the holidays at home in Philly in my most amazing bed that I miss so much, without any drama or feelings of holiday malaise!  Maybe I could just skip it, all of it!  Validated in my dark and brooding state, I was plotting a dramatic iCal reminder that would suggest I consider traveling after New Years so that I could just bypass all of the running around and the inexplicable misery I feel in the midst of all this apparent happiness.

It's like you see me making a white sauce, but really I have this complicated inner life. 

I recognize that I'm not the only person on the planet to feel this, and I recognize I'm probably not the only person in this house who feels it either.  Which is why I'm so especially grateful that my some special folks rallied our pack of strays this evening.  Fragments of an extended family, we boast a large percentage of single people.  We lack a clear leader- there are no matriarchs or patriarchs here, just a  contingent of several generations willing to go where they are called.  Suddenly planned, the food was simple, the giving was directed primarily towards the children, and the evening involved the installation of a car radiator.  This was not some ungainly production, but an effort of basic pragmatism:

We would all celebrate Christmas elsewhere, but tonight, we needed to celebrate our Christmas.  We gathered from the far-flung corners of Seattle, rural Pierce County, Tacoma, and Philadelphia to be together.  And perhaps, because of the nature of the season, we were able to see in each other qualities we'd missed or thought too long dormant.  It was an awakening moment for me.

It is easy to see the holidays for what they aren't, for what ones' life isn't.  It is a default, for some, to feel lost and aloof amidst endless hams and cookie platters.  It is not difficult to focus on those feelings, it just happens.  And that is why it is so blissful when that moment of grace presents itself and you can't feel anything better than the love and caring that comes from being a part of a family.  We say we're coming together for the holidays, but really, we're coming together for each other. It is good to be reminded that we are no longer strangers and together we are no longer strays.

God bless us, every one.


Mom said...

And yet again you said all the right words. You are my favorite writer, my favorite and special daughter! Proud of ya!

myrtlemichelle said...

Amen.Merry Christmas Mel! Miss you, much love!