For as long as I can remember I’ve always felt like an orphan on Christmas. Always at events awkwardly standing in a corner as everyone exchanged gift after gift, until someone remembered I was there and slid me some pity five dollar present they bought the day before when they remembered tag along would be there. I’m not complaining, my appreciation of the holiday has grown enormously because of that feeling. I didn’t need the Grinch to rob me of Christmas for me to find a greater understanding of what holidays are for. Holidays aren’t necessarily hard for me, I’ve built my own traditions and my own family to uphold them with.
At the age of eight I was sent to visit my brother for a summer. He had moved from California to Connecticut to live his new life with his new family. My mother sent me for the summer. After the summer was over I never went home. That was fifteen years ago. To say his new wife wasn’t fond of me might sound harsh or unjust. I was thrust into her life, we had never really known each other and here I was, wedding present, ending the honeymoon phase. From then on we spent our holidays primarily with my sister in law’s family. They were nice people, but they were not my family. I never found that feeling of acceptance or inclusion. I learned to push my way to the back of the gatherings during gift giving, it was less awkward for everyone that way.
This isn’t a woe is me story. I don’t care much to think about the past, let alone mope about it. If you’ve made it this far and want to reach out to me and say “poor guy”, don’t waste your time. Without these experiences I wouldn’t be me. I am actually rather fond of the person I have become and I’ve moved beyond fighting with my past. I never won battles with demons so I don’t fight them anymore.
It’s nice to have things. It’s nice to receive things. That’s not what life is about though.
One of my favorite items and one of the only things I have from my childhood is a metallic box given to me by a family member of, ironically, my sister in law. I doubt the person even remembers giving it to me but over the years that box has held everything in it; Pokemon cards, pencils, secrets, drugs, pain, sharpies, tools, thoughts, dreams. For fifteen years that little box has withstood. It has held more of me inside it than I would ever confide in another person.
A metallic box. Probably worth about five dollars. Most certainly an afterthought present. There’s no thoughtful process to giving a child a metal box with pencils, this wasn’t a thoughtful gift. I love that box. Even now, I’ve dug it out of a drawer and I’m fondly feeling its dents from the times I’ve trampled or squeezed it or thrown it in anger because of its contents. I sit here looking at the wear and tear, the rust, the fact that all these years of abuse, fuck ups, and neglect have yet to destroy the box. It still opens fine, closes great, keeps that piece of me secure inside. It still functions and so do I.
The box, adorned with art quite like myself.
It will always hold that piece of me just in case, but I’m no longer a boy and his metallic box. I have a beautiful wife to lean on. I can take that pain from the box and she will help with the burdens. The dreams have been removed from the box, I share those with friends who support me and keep those dreams alive. My thoughts have moved from that little box to here, a bigger box I share with the world, unashamed and unafraid.
The holidays aren’t measured in material gains. I’m sure many will say “yeah I know that” after reading this. But do you? I love my new headphones my best friend bought me for Christmas. They costed him over a hundred dollars and yes, I’ve opened most my Christmas presents already. Christmas in my house won’t be opening presents. It will be the time where Diana, Killian, Nicolas, our soon to come Ezra, my best friend James and I gather round to embrace having each other. We will eat, drink and catch up. Time won’t be wasted looking at shiny new things when we spend all year working and constantly spending. It will be spent being together, it will be spent in merriment of the gift of having a family. It will be spent not feeling like we are alone in this world.