Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The year I loved Christmas

Christmas has always been an extremely hard time for me.  When I was alone and single, I would spend my Christmas working either at Starbucks or whatever job I happened to have at the time.  If I was living in a dorm, it would be shut down and I was forced to find a place to stay or live in my car.  I spent two winter breaks in my car because I couldn’t afford a hotel or an apartment.  When I lived in an apartment I spent the day playing on the internet, drawing, or sleeping. 

Since meeting my girlfriend I have gone to Chicago with her twice.  Her family is very nice and very welcoming but I felt so left out no matter how hard they tried to welcome me.  I didn’t understand their inside jokes or the little family quirks.  I am not really part of their family no matter how much my girlfriend wants me to be.  If we ever break up, her family breaks up with me too, so it’s not ever going to be the same as having my own family. 

Christmas is the time I feel most alone in the world.  My Christmas wishes were never answered as a child.  What I want the most in the world is what everyone else is just born with.  What I want the most in the world is what everyone else takes for granted.  What I want the most in the world is a family and Christmas time just reminds me that I’ve never had one.  I’ve never been surrounded by family on Christmas.  I’ve never watched my family eat too much good food, or just hang out together just enjoying being together.  I’ve never watched people I love exchange gifts and pretend to love what the other person gave them even if it’s the worst gift ever.  I’ve longed for that connection my entire life and I never had it and I probably never will.

This year I couldn’t afford to go to Chicago with my girlfriend so I stayed in LA and had planned on spending the day hiking with my dogs and then staying in bed feeling sorry for myself.  My friend, and mother of the little boy who shares my DNA, convinced me to come with them to her mother’s house on the 24th and then to her house on the 25th.  My friends are Jewish, but her family is not.  My DNA baby is Jewish.  You would have never known that to be true because my Jews sure know how to celebrate Christmas.  At my friend’s mother’s house I watched the kids tear open beautiful designer wrapping paper and squeal over their new toys, while dropping their extremely expensive new clothes on the floor without another glance.  My little man likes to bang on things so someone bought him the most perfect gift ever.  It was a little musical table that he could bang on.  He went nuts on that thing.  He loved it.  He would bang away, and then look up at his adoring crowd and smile ever few moments, just to keep us captivated.  My friend’s mother gave me a sweater from the Gap.  I really like it, but what touched me the most was the note on the gift bag.  It said, “Dear Campbell, with love and unending gratitude for XXXXX(baby’s name).  Love B.”  I wanted to cry but I was in a room full of people so I didn’t.  Instead I went into the kitchen to thank her only for the sweater and help her prepare the food.  I wanted to tell her how touched I was that she not only gave me a gift but that she left me such a sweet note.  The truth is I feel so grateful that such a tiny little piece of my body helped someone else have a family.  Maybe I can’t ever have my own family, but I will forever be a part of this family because of that little boy.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of something so magical.  I know there are people who are against what I did, but when I look at that little boy, I just know he belongs where he is.  I just know he is the best thing I ever did and I know this family loves him more than I could have ever dreamed possible.  I know with every inch of my heart that this family was meant to have this little boy and I was meant to help create him.  Nothing anyone says will ever make me feel differently.

On the 25th I went to my friend’s house to exchange gifts.  My dogs and I arrived bright and early in the morning.  My dogs love their dogs.  That’s actually how we became friends.  Our dogs fell in love at the dog park.  I set my gifts down on the kitchen table and noticed this homemade stocking, clipped together with binder clips on the table.  The fabric was giraffe print!  Seriously, Giraffe print!  Not only that, but the stocking was longer than I am tall and it was filled with little gifts for me.  Gifts make me extremely uncomfortable.  I love giving gifts.  I give people gifts all the time, usually randomly and without purpose.  I love giving people things.  I have no idea why.  It is just who I have always been.  When I was in 3rd grade I gave my teacher my Barbie dolls so she could give them to her daughter.  I have no idea why I did that.  So, I love to give people stuff, but receiving gifts has always been so hard for me.  I never feel like I’m showing enough excitement or appreciation for gifts.  I am worried people will think I don’t like it or that I’m being rude because I just don’t know how to react.  I always feel so undeserving of gifts.  Opening the gift is the worst part with your friends watching your every move and expression for validation that they got the right gift.  I so want to give them that validation but my anxiety kicks in and I forget how to be courteous and gracious. 

I picked up my little man we went upstairs to wake up his mom who had been up until 3AM wrapping gifts.  When we were finally able to coax the sleepyhead out of bed, we all sat down to eat breakfast.  We had fried Matzo and cinnamon rolls.  You know, a traditional Christmas breakfast…  After breakfast we opened gifts.  Each gift in my larger than life giraffe print stocking was wrapped in green fabric—it was an environmentally friendly Christmas, and each gift had a little note attached.  There were books, food, cookies, bath salts, and many more things in the stocking.  I thought I might pass out from sheer anxiety alone when I saw the stocking but opening the gifts with them felt so natural and easy.  I didn’t feel obligated to act a certain way.  I felt safe to be myself and react the way I wanted to.  I felt safe enough to tease my friend for giving me weird things like a roll of toilet paper in my stocking.  My little man’s father is a hypochondriac so I found this book called the “Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You” for him.  I knew he would love it and he did.  My friend told me that after I left he held the book to his chest and said “I love this book.”  So cute and so strange.  I love these people.

I think this might have been the best Christmas I have ever had in my life.  It wasn’t the most extravagant.  It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but it was amazing nonetheless.  I watched these people that I love stuff their faces with food and open gifts with excitement and I didn’t have to pretend to have a good time—I actually had a great time.  It wasn’t the gifts or the stockings that mattered.  What made Christmas special this year were the amazing people that opened their homes and their hearts to share it with me.  Being with them on Christmas was the closest I have ever been to being with family on Christmas in my entire life.  I felt so lucky to be sitting around that table with people who mean so much to me even when they started screaming show tunes at the top of their lungs.  I love them so much more for being so weird.  I may have given them my DNA but they gave me so much more in return.  Thank you from every inch of my heart.