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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So, This Is Christmas

*Warning, deep thoughts follow. Profanity likely, brutal honesty all but assured.*

The title of this blog post isn't arbitrary. If you're familiar, this is the title to one of John Lennon's more famous songs. It always was a deeper Christmas song than most of its contemporaries, then or now. But today, this song took on a new meaning for me.

Today -- this Christmas -- marked my first as ... well, as a Catholic. Sure, it's not official until I join the church, so I guess next year will be the real one, but this one marks my first one. At least in my mind. I didn't expect the view to really be any different.

Christmas has become a holiday that has lost its religious meaning in most circles. It's very secular at this point and, frankly, it will likely always remain that way. There's no going back: it's a commercialized holiday. I've come to accept this over the years and, like most I'm sure, just roll with it as best I can.

The morning started off as all Christmas mornings do: present opening. Everyone gets one, everyone opens there, and the surprises show up in spades. This year I received very little compared to everyone else. I'm good with that. Better than good. It's been my stance the last three years that I deserve nothing and should get nothing, but no one listens to me.

This year I gave the gifts. It wasn't cheap, mind you. I didn't go crazy but I wasn't cheap. I had a budget but I worked well within it. I painstakingly removed all the price tags and tried (and mostly failed) in my attempts to wrap things. But people got things and I got to watch the people get them and they were happy.

And after that is where this Christmas departed from every other Christmas in my life. This is the first Christmas, ever, I have spent away from my blood family. I was kind enough to be invited by my adopted family (who are just as important as my blood) to spend the holiday with them and I gladly accepted.

Once presents were opened and gifts began to be assembled, people wanted breakfast. I volunteered to cook. There was plenty of bacon and I managed to scramble some eggs. Neither turned out great, but they were decent enough that no one complained. I got things cleaned up in the kitchen, helped the kids get ready for mass, got myself ready, and we departed.

(I felt like a badass, I must admit. I've never been asked to assemble Christmas breakfast and, coupling that with getting kids ready, I felt pretty good about myself.) 

Christmas day service isn't a particularly novel concept to me. It is to some, but we did it all the time for Christmas. I've never done mass, though. So we did mass and it was at mass that Christmas went from just any old Christmas to ... something else. I don't know what to call it.

Mass was mass. It was Christmas flavored and tailored for the day, but really the service itself wasn't where things hit me. It was what was going on around me. With me, in fact, while at the service. You see, I took up a position next to six-year old dude. He and I were on the end of the pew and he, like myself, was very much raw at this whole Catholic thing. Neither of us are pros at it, but he wanted to do what everyone else was doing.

So I helped out, of course. Heck, noob I was and still am, I wish I had someone beside me during mass to give me the heads up on what's going on and what I need to do. It took a few services before I caught on to the series of events and the way things were done. I'm about 70 percent familiar with mass at this point, by no means an expert, but solid.

Throughout the service, I pointed out where we were and prompted him to do things. I helped him get to the proper hymnal page, follow along with the readings from the Bible, and in general just keep up. His attention gave out about twenty minutes before the service ended, but he did pretty well. I think we did a decent job together.

It was at the end of the service, as I looked around, that I realized just how full everything was. The sanctuary area of the church we were at was decent sized, not huge, but it was packed. And everyone was pretty much flocked with kids. Children of various ages and sizes, surrounded by their parents and sometimes even grandparents.

It kinda put the whole thing into a new light for me. Maybe I never noticed it before or maybe I just never realized how it applies to me but today it hit me like a sack of bricks. Catholicism means a lot of things in my life. It's a game-changing, life-altering decision. I'm choosing to do things the hard way which, as we all know by this point, is my preferred way of dealing with life.

I understand the hard way.

And today, the hard way manifested itself in the form of children. Multiple children, perhaps. And what it would mean for them. It's not hard to think about what it means for me and it's not too hard to think about what it means for my possible wife. We're both adults. We're both in the faith, likely. We both, more or less, have a solid understanding of what we're doing.

But to be a kid and to be born into this ... it's far different than anything I've experienced. This type of thing isn't part of my blood family. There are similar concepts at work, yes, but today is the first time it really hit me how far off I am from what I've done before.

I'm on a new path, unknown to me. I have only the examples of my friends and adopted family to follow ... and let's be honest, I don't do things like other people do them. I don't work that way. So, really, I'm on this new path and I have the information. I certainly have the willpower.

But I don't have what the children whom were born into this (and whom will be) have: I lack traditions. I lack any semblance of any sort of holiday ... anything.

I'm blank.

After mass, I was stuck in this thought. I remained stuck in this thought all night long. All around me stories are being traded of past holidays and events, tales are regaled, family members are having fun with one another ... and I'm the blank. I mean absolutely nothing to anything that has come before. Short of significantly injuring myself, I have no way to go down in the annals of future Christmases.

Stories will not be told of me or anything I've done.

And it's at once an exciting and completely terrifying idea to consider that I can make the holidays what I want now. I have the freedom to set traditions into place. I can pick a favorite Christmas movie, a favorite meal, I can pick a favorite song ... I can take this blank and make it anything I want.

But I don't have any reason to. The blank has no reason to be anything other than a blank. I have no one to share with it. My brother is in a serious relationship with a girl. My cousin just got engaged to be married. And within the first five minutes of having this information dished out to me over the phone by my mother, the question comes up if I'm dating anyone.

And, like every year for at least a decade if not more, I have the same answer: no.

I can't say that I haven't tried. I put forth a real effort, a damned good one recently, and was turned down. But I'm tired.

Not of getting asked the question, which I certainly am frustrated by, but just tired of being a third-wheel at Christmas. Or any holiday, really. I don't bring much to the table at social functions to begin with and the holidays certainly don't make me any better.

I'm a blank that has aspirations of greatness, but no one to share it with. To be great you have to have someone with you, at least in my mind.

And, with that in mind, I got stuck in the thought. The loneliest, yes. But the children thing is what really killed me. The idea of me, somewhere down the road, walking into a mass with my wife and multiple kids, one big-happy family is unimaginable to me.

I can't, for the life of me, see it.

I have a pretty active imagination. I see a lot of things in my head. I imagine myself receiving disfiguring burns, horrible injuries ... I imagine people I care for dying in tragic, painful deaths. I worry about doctor's appointments and check-ups, I play out all the "I have bad news" scenarios you can drum up.

Horrible things. Happy things. Sexy things. All things, everything in between, I can cover.

But walking into a church with kids behind me and a wife on my arm is a no go. I can't imagine it. I can't see anything.

And my kids, are going to be at a disadvantage. One, because inevitably they're going to inherit the flaws I have. The really annoying, unbelievably, neurotic flaws I have. One kid with flaws like that is going to be tough. Multiple?


Their second disadvantage will be their cousins. They're gonna have cousins, because my blood family is from the South and everyone has cousins. It's a given. But are they're cousins going to be Catholic? Not on my side of the family.

Catholicism exists in the South as a Sunday School punchline. Other than that, it's only a word.

Kids are mean and usually mean to the different ones. My kids will be different. They'll be Catholic. They'll be raised as such and when things look strange to them, as inevitably they will, they'll ask why it's that way.

And I'm not sure what to tell them. The hypothetical them, anyway. How do I explain that the cousins and their families live differently than we do? How do I sit there and watch them form memories with their mother's side of the family (likely with that side's cousins) and be accepted as normal there ... and then take them to mine.

Where I get to watch them try to work there and watch them probably end up sticking with one another because they're comfortable with that and don't feel weird.

What saddens me is that my side of the family is likely to be the side that gets blacklisted, if not officially than unofficially. And it'll be my fault because I decided to be Catholic. I was already the black sheep as it was thanks to how I eat and my radical approaches to my health (radical as they see it anyway).

In the future, I get to add kids into that mix.

I have been steadfast in my belief that there's someone out there for me. But today drove home the point that maybe there isn't. Not because I'm horrible or evil.

Maybe it's because what makes me, me ... maybe that just needs to end with me.

I'd love to have the pleasure of having my own family one day. I'd love to stand in mass and give my children a play-by-play of what's going on. To stand there with them and hear them sing hymns and mumble the recitations. I'd love to see them try.

But all that said, I'm not sure I can deal with having them be treated differently because they were born into a Catholic family. They'll be the odd ones out. There won't be any other Catholics on my side of the family. Not my blood one, anyway.

Maybe that's why I don't get what I want. It never occurred to me before today how foreign everything I grew up with is going to look to my kids, should I be lucky enough to have them. It's going to be like another planet.

Every year I get further away from where I was. I'm the farthest north of any of my blood family. The South is a Catholic dead zone, so I don't think moving back there is really going to happen. I'm out here, on my own, and anything that comes from me is with me here.

What was there and is there with my blood family might as well be another world.

The Christmas picture I took last year, in 2012, says everything that needs to be said. Just as the picture this year with my adopted family says everything. They're each worth well over a thousand words.

This year's picture of my adopted family, in front of the Christmas tree, was them. Blood and all. The kids wanted me in it but I'm not biologically related, as I explained to them, and so I ducked out. It's exactly the right thing that I'm not in the picture. Hell, I look horrible in pictures anyway. Even though I'm no longer the fat guy, I can't seem to take a decent picture.

Last year's picture was myself in front of the Christmas tree.

And that's what Christmas is now. Me and a tree. It's no one's fault but my own, let's be honest. I set the course. I did the damage. Exile is a small penance.

But Tom Hanks at least had Wilson.

And that's my thought for today. I have no idea what my future Christmases will look like. By myself or filled with a family of my own, both are unique in their challenges and neither are particularly happy.

I know I'm weird. It's stated as often as the fact that I'm part-Japanese or don't look my age at all.

I don't want the weird to go on. It needs to stop with me I think. Just to make it easier for future generations. I managed but I didn't manage well. I did damage and, though I'm physically recovered from it, the coping mechanisms have caused all sorts of other, less visible, damage.

I can't imagine a wife and kids following me into church and I think, the reason for that is, that I can't justify it simply by saying "that's what I want". It's unfair to them. Maybe it's wrong or stupid for me to sit here and consider the fates of hypothetical beings ... but I've spent all day considering it.

So, this is Christmas.

1 comment:

  1. Heh, you don't have Xmas traditions?

    That's life as a Jew at Christmas. Never mind Chanukah. It's really no bigger than St. Swithen's Day. And imagine being THAT different.

    As for the remainder of it, see, it's like this. You don't see the future, as you are not Otra (who technically doesn't see the future, either. She just sees the altered past).

    But once you're there, you have no idea how you didn't see it, and you can't remember (or at least, not clearly), how things were before.

    I did not imagine my adult life well when I was 6, 16, 26 or the like. Then December 18, 1988 happened. And now I can't imagine anything else. Yeah, it was 25 years ago, and I was 26 and change.

    It'll happen. And when it does, you'll wonder who lived the earlier chunk of your life, because you won't recognize that person.

    Great song choice.