How To Survive Christmas
It was Rod Stewart that did it. Up until then, I was doing okay.
This isn’t my season. The lack of light. The shameless commercialism. The weaponized nostalgia. Everything harks back to some fanciful past that, if it ever existed at all, certainly wasn’t mine. I don’t have good memories of Christmas, or of much else prior to adulthood. Given the suffering that goes on every day in this world, I’m not going to harp on mine. Let’s just say that I don’t like Christmas and leave it at that.
But I was doing okay. I sat through a party with a smile on my face, making small talk and playing the host. After all, these are our friends. Sometimes I think the hardest thing for people to understand about introverts is that not wanting to always be around people doesn’t mean that we don’t love them. It just means you need a break. I love my family. I love my wife. I love my mother-in-law, the smooth worn old jokes notwithstanding. But I can’t be around anyone — anyone — without some time for myself every now and again.
And Rod Stewart was the final straw.
The grating voice of the world’s most inexplicably successful Tom Waits tribute act dragged me straight back to 1993. Songs I haven’t heard in decades, with words I still know by heart, collapsed all the years between then and now. I was back in the house I grew up in, my parent’s favorite CD spinning out those same horrible tunes. Baby Jane and Maggie May droning on while I twisted the wire branches of our artificial tree into hooks to hold decorations that even back then were falling apart.
No, I don’t enjoy Christmas. Before I was married, my holidays mostly involved locking the door and binge-watching movies while sullenly drinking. And they were glorious. But now I’m married, and I have the feelings of another to consider. Two others, in fact. This is the first Christmas since my father-in-law died, and set against that, my own issues become astonishingly unimportant.
But I have my limits. As one Rod Stewart song followed another, I felt my breath growing short. A kind of panic set in. Everything I’ve seen and done in the past 26 years evaporated as though it had never been. I was once…