Again I’ve been gone a long time. For the same reason: I’m sick. I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy on the 22nd, and, as per usual, they didn’t find anything they expected to find. Instead they discovered my stomach, duodenum and the upper part of my small intestine is full of ulcers caused by bile (AKA gall). Interesting since I had my gallbladder out almost 3 years ago… So there is more to be done, and, in the meantime, I’m supposed to avoid grains… Which puts a damper on my bread baking.
Though something else happened this Christmas. I found myself missing my family of origin, and the way we celebrated Christmas — without being in denial about the hell that was then, and without dreaming that “this time it would have been different.” Christmas was both a time of great danger and of great joy in my original family. It was dangerous because my father and mother could both be quite violent. The joy came from all the new stuff, and the old traditions.
The old traditions started long, long before the Christmas season began. I had two much older siblings, and the three of us had a rule that our Christmas presents to each other had to cost less than 10 cents. That took a lot of planning and imagination. One year my brother saved Coke bottle caps for a whole year, punched a hole in each one, and threaded it onto a heavy piece of string. By the next Christmas there was a 8 foot “necklace” of Coke bottle caps for my sister. Another year he made me a Viking War ship (that I still have) out of a 10 cent sheet of thin balsa wood, with carved sticks for the the dragon front,masts and shields, and braided white thread for the ropes. (His gifts were always the most creative.) I made my sister beaded jewelry (that she never wore) except one year when I raided a wild goose nest in Spring and carefully cut the eggs in half, waterproofing the eggshells with melted wax crayons inside and out and made a hanging “garden” mobile out of them. Unfortunately one of the plants I put in the mobile was poison ivy from the woods, but I also had marsh marigolds in bloom, and several others. Everyone else in the family was allergic to poison ivy, so my mobile was banished to my room. But I liked it. Anyhow, sometimes our Christmas gifts to each other didn’t work out very well, but we all put a lot into making them.
On Christmas Eve, assuming there were no implosions from my parents, we always sat in front of our fireplace, with the Christmas tree behind us, and my father read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol aloud, all the way through. We had a rare and wonderfully illustrated copy, though I don’t remember the illustrator. One year my siblings rebelled and we read The Other Wiseman by Henry van Dyke. And that year my mother, rather than my father participated in reading. (My parents avoided each other as much as possible, even just reading Christmas stories.)
Actually everyone except me, and sometimes my brother, avoided my father as much as possible. In many ways we were two separate families living under one roof; Dad and me, and my mother, brother, and sister. In the half century plus, I learned why this was so. And yet, thinking of Christmases past this year, it didn’t hurt to remember. I loved my father, no matter how many times he literally tried to kill me.
And, in a very strange way, that was my Christmas gift this year. One of my friends who was also severely abused, calls one of her perps, “my favorite perp.” I’ve finally admitted my father is my favorite perp. Yes, my body is covered in scars he inflicted, but, contrary to belief, “stick and stones will break my bone, but words…” Words seem to live on forever and hurt much more… By some miracle, I’ve learned to truly forgive my father. Yet, at the moment, I only feel very sorry for my mother and sister.
I’ve always loved my brother, and he’s the only one alive now, thank God!