New Traditions, AKA How to Navigate Tricky Relationships by Keeping Your Hands Busy

For the first time ever, my sister, mother, and I decided to do something Christmassy. 

Those of you who follow this blog closely know what an unusual thing it is for my family to do something usual, and what is more usual than sending out Christmas cards?

It’s been a rough couple of years for the ladies in my family. My sister and I battled in court for conservatorship over my mother to help effectively manage her schizophrenia. There have been lots of legal battles and hospital visits and yelling and police and yelling at police (it’s a whole story) and predictably, that has taken a toll.

But for the last twelve months, in an impossibly crazy, pandemic-y world, things have not been so crazy in our little world. Mom is safe, my sister and I have worked out a smooth schedule, and an eerie calm has settled over us. 

So when my sister called me the other day and asked if I wanted to get together to write out  Christmas cards this year, I accepted. It was such a normal thing to do.

Normal for other people, at least.

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Gagging on Christmas

A collection of gift tags

It’s safe to say that my husband and I come from very different sides of the track. His upbringing was firmly upper middle class and my upbringing was firmly skipping class to go to work ‘cuz I got siblings and someone has to feed these damn kids.

It was ten years ago this winter, that I trekked up to my husbands beautiful little mountain town to spend Christmas with his family.

But first, a tale from the Ghosts of Christmases past;

I was raised between the foster care system and the streets. Most of my Christmases were spent in the faded lime green or grey walled buildings of mental institutions visiting my mentally ill mother. We used to drink dixie cups of chicken “soup” that came out of the vending machine next to the coffee and hold hands across metal tables, carefully supervised. My mother would give us bright little drawings she made.

Other Christmases spent in children’s shelters and homes were more eventful. Socks, toothbrushes, packages of underwear, new sheets, and one year a boombox from the local fire department; my pride and joy. Need-based gifts were the name of the game and there were no complaints from me.

So when I spent my first “real Christmas” with my then boyfriend, now husband, at the tender age of nineteen, I was still fresh from the Christmases of my childhood and totally unprepared for what was about to happen.

Continue reading “Gagging on Christmas”