I’ve never been the Holly Jolly Elf, kicking my heels up and excited to spend an evening around the dinner table with ‘the fam’. That is, especially since my mom passed in January of 2009 (she was in the hospital for Christmas 2008), and my Grandmother passed in 2015, but she hadn’t been joining us for Christmas dinners for at least 10 years because it disrupted her routine at her Senior’s Home.
My uncle passed in June 2020 after a bout of Covid and pneumonia. HE was the Jolly. Now we’re left with my cynical, controlling, 88 year old aunt, who sold her house and no longer hosts dinners of any kind, which means it’s at her son-my cousin-and his wife and daughter’s house. Now, M is one heck of a good cook, but the nervous tension is always lingering. My younger brother may or may not have returned the repeated messages my aunt left over the past month about what time dinner is at and ‘are you coming’? Usually, he responds at the last minute, asking for a ride from the subway to our cousin’s house (quite a pricey Uber ride).
Guaranteed that while the meal takes a couple hours longer to be ready than originally planned, it just increases the probability of; 1. My brother asking for ‘a small loan’, 2. My aunt coming in and out of the kitchen, opening and closing the oven, cupboards, drawers, the fridge and asking everyone if they need anything and 3. My mood definitely shifting from tense and anxious to aggravated and itching to inject comments that are sure to start a fight.
My son and I moved to a new city in September of 2021 that is about 2 plus hours drive West of where we lived for 13 years. We lived in my mom’s house after she passed. It was a short walk to both my son’s Elementary and Secondary schools. He got into a college in this new city. House prices were hot, and by selling mine, I bought a condo in our new city. It also happens to be about a 15 minute walk from his classes, as well as a host of pubs, restaurants and other great things that a 19 year old loves.
Of course, my aunt did not take the sale of our house well. “How could you sell your mother’s house?”, “You obviously don’t care about my feelings”, “You are destroying your son’s life”, etc etc. For about the first 6 months, she called my son and prodded him with ‘Aren’t you mad at your mom for ruining your life?’ type of things, crying, telling us she was driving past our old house and waving to it. Her thing now is to send cards to my son every couple weeks with some spending money (usually $30) and a photo from years ago and writes things on the back like, ‘such a long time ago-when we were all together’, ‘remember when we went here and you liked being with me?’
I tried for so long to put up with the nonsense. There’s so much of it that’s too painful to bring up. Instead of congratulating my son on getting into College and wishing him well on this new phase, it was, ‘Why can’t you just go to a College here and become a carpenter?’. Ummm, because that’s not his dream, and the school that has the program he wants is here. It doesn’t matter to her though. It’s all about her getting her way. Let’s just say she has engaged in incredible acts of betrayal and alluded to the fact that she only did it ‘because I sold my house’.
There’s a time when you have to take your power back. End the toxicity. Choose peace and quiet. And not drive 5 hours round trip to just punish yourself further!
My son and I will not be returning to our hometown for Christmas this year. Whether we make Hamburger Helper or get a bunch of appetizers and chill in front of the tree is irrelevant. We will be together, with our 2 cats, not listening to nonsense. It’s incredible how quickly the guilt of skipping an event fades once the peace of staying home sets in.
I will be home for Christmas. A home of love, acceptance, peace. A place where there isn’t crying and blaming and passive aggressive behaviour.
A Happy Holiday Season to you and yours, however you choose to celebrate it.
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