Midlife Holidays

A commonly-used phrase by people my age is “Christmas was more fun when I was younger.” As best as I can figure, there are probably two reasons for that:

1. You got more presents from “Santa”
2. You got to see most if not all your entire family, including grandparents or great-grandparents long past.

I imagine you can attribute the first to the “commercialization” of Christmas. After all, somewhere along the way people figured out how lucrative it is to market all sorts of shit for people of all ages, especially kids. I know I enjoyed the various things I got for Christmas, and I was up at 5-6AM in the morning Christmas Day to open them. But the second point is probably what I value the most out of the holidays. Going to my aunt’s house, seeing all of my mother’s family, stopping by my father’s family on the way to or from. Playing with all of my cousins, car rides spent trying to play my Game Boy in the passing street lights or with a flashlight. Being crammed in the way back of the van with the dog because my sister is a brat and had to take up an entire middle bench of the van. Having to pick a place to eat that was on the right side of the road because my father would not turn left in or out of someplace.

A lot of the magic of the holidays evaporated when we moved to the northeast. We tried to go back the first few years for Christmas, but we kept getting stuck in bad winter storms that almost killed us at least once when the car spun out on I-81 in Pennsylvania. With so much distance between us and everyone else, my connections to family slowly eroded away. I haven’t seen my cousins since 2004-ish, where my ex and I visited by great-grandmother not long before she passed. I’ve seen my aunts and uncles maybe once or twice in five-ish years. And a lot of it is as much my fault as anything, I simply couldn’t get the time off work or money to afford to go out there. So every Christmas since 2002 has really just been with either of my parents, my ex’s family, and my wife’s family.

When I started dating my wife in 2007, she brought me with her to her aunt’s house for their tradition of Christmas Eve. Encountering her family for the first time was something like a weird sitcom, but nothing terribly different from my family. It was nice, and it made me kind of enjoy the holidays again. But naturally time passes and people start to form their own sense of what the holidays means to them, and that often means the breaking of traditions. I don’t blame them. The holidays for me is just sort of another holiday. The gift-giving is fun, and the “spirit” of the time is nice, but I always find myself quickly fatigued of it shortly before Christmas. There is always so much to do, gifts to get, parties to go to, make sure all of our days are scheduled to see people. I sort of thought when I bought a house that maybe we could get people to come here, maybe change the tradition or start a new one. But even that is a struggle.

But more importantly, I think the major reason I feel depressed about the holidays is I don’t have my own kids to create new holiday memories and traditions with. I still don’t really know why I feel this way, I generally attribute it to my overall understanding that I think I’ve done nothing significant with my life, and the overall specter of mortality I fear. All I know is that watching other people enjoy their holidays with their kids saddens me. I try not to project that upon my wife, whom I know likely shares that same sentiment and I don’t want to damper the holidays for her, but it’s hard to not think about when I am not doing other things, and that is precisely why I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied with games, work, and other things so as to not have to think about those things. It’s hard trying not to appear weak. But that’s what I am, weak.

My hope is that one day things will change. We’ll have kids, or we’ll discover some way to make the holidays fun for ourselves. Maybe we’ll just take a holiday vacation some year (hahahaha vacation, cause we’re super-rich yo) and just skip everyone and everything. I dunno. I just don’t want to be in this funk every year around now.

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