What makes the holidays so guilt-inducing?
I was eating a sushi dinner with two of my favorite peeps in the entire universe, my sister Liz and brother Kit, when the Eve of Christmas Eve guilt took hold. With salmon roe grasped between my chopsticks, I questioned my siblings about the gifts they got for family members.
My heart sunk when my sister revealed she’d gotten our adventurous stepbro Tucker and his girlfriend a hot air balloon ride. Earlier, I thought my gift certificate for two for a San Fran brewery tour couldn’t be beaten since Tucker is a bit of a beer aficionado but I kicked myself when I heard about this much cooler gift.
A few hours later with ribbon and wrapping paper strewn across mom’s dining room table, I texted my boyfriend who I’d left at our apartment to cat-sit Stinkatron and Poofy Face–aka Nico and Cricket–to no avail. Was he sick of my Christmas insecurity? Could he sense my gifts were subpar? Finally, in a panic, I called our landline.
“What’s wrong, baby?” he said, his voice heavy with sleep.
“The presents I got aren’t good enough,” I whined. “And I spent all my money.”
It was true. I’m still too afraid to check my bank account, but I’m pretty sure I’m hovering around $0 or maybe even overdrawn. Worse, I have present giving guilt. Even though I loaded up on Amazon prime gadget gems and indulgent cosmetic from Blue Mercury, I feel like the gifts won’t be enough.
When did buying presents become so guilt-inducing? Nobody in my family asks or expects much from each other when it comes to gift giving. Last year at mom’s house, we had a ‘no gifts’ Christmas because we were all so sick of the pressure from Christmas consumerism. Besides, my loved ones know I’m struggling, unable to work full-time, and often imprisoned on the couch because of the constant pain and fatigue from my disability.
The biggest difference between this year’s Christmas and years past, is that I won’t attend Christmas Eve at either my mom or dad’s. Instead, Paul and I will trek to his family’s shindig a world away from my fam in Virginia suburban hell. (Okay, it’s more like 10 miles away but whatever.)
One of the dangers and benefits of dating someone from your hometown is that you can almost be in both places at once. It’s like adult split-custody on the holidays. In some ways, it’s a relief not to choose between my parents this year.
I wonder if years of split-custody Christmases in my childhood, always feeling like one parent will be lonely when we leave to see the other, sends me crashing on Christmas.
Plus, this year I’m finally feeling hopeful and pretty healthy, and I would give anything to make my many caregivers understand my appreciation. Pricey foundation primer just doesn’t seem sufficient to express my gratitude.
Luckily, Paul anticipated my holiday spiral and reassured me that anything I give him is more than enough. Just being big spoon to my middle spoon to Stinkatron’s littlest spoon is the best Christmas gift of all.