Thanksgiving day I came to the conclusion that I’ve turned into one of those people. One of those people who finds that the holidays are a bummer. I don’t dread them. As the season starts to approach I find myself looking forward to them with anticipation and excitement. The day arrives and suddenly I am sad.
A lot of the sadness stems from simply the passage of time. As we grow older, it’s only natural to be reminded of holidays past. When those past holidays are summoned it’s only human to sentimentalize them. The here and now holiday can never compete with the perfection of holidays past.
Holidays past have also included sadness and disappointments. Yet the memory doesn’t include any of that. When I think back to holidays past, I remember my father’s happiness when I walked in the door and met his eyes. My father was the one person in my life that made me feel special. I felt that I was part of a tribe.
When my dad died in 1997, I lost his companionship and also that feeling of belonging. I have felt disconnected since then. With my husband, I feel a deep connection, but there is no sense of tribe. I have no tribe.
I have always had my mother’s love. Although, I haven’t felt really and truly connected to her since I was a small child. Once I was a teenager she did not seem to really see me any longer. Maybe it was because I gave the appearance of being self-sufficient. Perhaps she thought that I did not need her. She was always available emotionally if I reached out. She delivered excellent advice when asked. But her eyes never lit up the way that my father’s did.
My mother was always a giver, a listener, and oftentimes someone’s savior. If any member of her family needed her, she was there. She would drop what she was doing, give her last dime or the shirt off her back. That was who she was. When my mother had grandchildren arrive, that was another layer of people between us. Perhaps that’s why I sometimes feel the loneliness of being childless. My own children could have been another link to an emotional connection with her.
Now that I have started looking at my own past and why I act and react the way that I do, it makes me wonder about my mother’s own personal issues. Perhaps she carries the baggage that came from growing up in such a very large and poor family. Maybe she felt inadequate. Perhaps those feelings of inadequacies made her seek out those she felt really needed her.
She told me once that when I was very little that she sometimes felt as if I was the adult and she was the child. She confessed that she felt as if I was judging her. Of course she didn’t really believe that a toddler was judging her. Still, I think it’s a small window into her own feelings of inadequacies.
My father on the other hand once told me how very happy he was when I was born. That when he looked at me he thought “Here is someone who belongs to me and will love me forever.” This from a man who was born to alcoholics and raised by his grandparents. I think my father did not feel really loved or connected as he was growing up. Intuitively he made me feel loved and connected.
This holiday season has me really evaluating why I feel such sadness. I think the reality is that as we age this time of the year is just a combination of deep sadness and happiness all at the same time. Being with our loved ones, whether they are family or good friends brings contentment and happiness. But we are all missing someone that used to be a part of this time of the year. It’s only natural to look back and glamorize holidays past.
As December begins and the Christmas season winds up into high gear, I think it’s a good time to be grateful for the people in my life. It’s also a good time to open my eyes and look beyond myself to identify others that need to feel connected and seen.