There are times when I wish Christmas wasn't just another day to me. When I was little I looked forward to it; it was a holiday; it was magical. Now I don't remember if it was anything more than a lust for toys... I sense that there might have been something more to it, but now it's all melted away. It was never about religion-- my mother's weird variant of Christianity came later. But I can almost imagine that at one time it felt like I was part of a family.
Maybe it was all about the presents. I don't get a lot of Christmas gifts anymore. My father used to expend about two minutes of effort each year to write me a $100 check, until I decided I had nothing to say to him anymore and withheld my address. On occasion my mother will foolishly send me something, if I happen to tell her where I live. After not speaking to her for several years I sent her flowers a couple of times... she has mistaken this for some sort of reconciliation rather than my condolences for the loss of her son. I have a friend who can be counted on to send me a gift each year, as in the past he could count on me to do the same. Few of my other friends give gifts, during the holiday or otherwise.
I start to miss Christmas, and then I remember the ones I had when I was older. My mother and I would invariably end up shouting at each other over the acceptability of a gift. It wasn't that I didn't get what I wanted. It was that my mother would solicit gift ideas from me and then, failing for whatever reason to obtain the item(s) in question, substitute something similar but entirely useless to me, with the expectation that I would actually use it.
I asked my mother for a pair of winter gloves. It never got really wintry in Florida but it became cold enough in Gainesville that sometimes you needed gloves, so I asked for some. On Christmas morning I was bewildered to find a pair of driving gloves. It didn't connect at first, until my mother told me she couldn't find winter gloves, so... wine-colored fingerless driving gloves. I didn't want handwear as an affectation, I wanted them because my hands were cold. They weren't even useful to me as driving gloves because I was a new and uncertain driver and didn't want anything between me and the steering wheel. It was senseless. If she couldn't find winter gloves, that was fine... this smelled like some distant relative of schizophrenia.
Not long before I graduated high school, my mother suddenly became obsessed with my finding work. She suddenly insisted I have some job other than occasional lawn-mower. "It's a good experience," she would say, and this was about all she would say. She mentioned nothing of resumes or interviews or job histories or economics... she expected me to have an inborn genetic knowledge of how the job market worked. "You need to get a job!" That represented all her parenting with regard to the subject. I didn't need a job... I was going to college on scholarship. She never failed to give me shit about it when I was in physical reach of her-- holidays and the occasional road trip after I started college --and one day I asked her if she would get me a good pair of dress shoes for use on interviews. This was all that I was looking for-- she and I didn't get along anymore and the holidays were always disasters now, but I felt this was a gift she could get behind.
Christmas morning came. Already as I was opening the box my mother was explaining to me that she couldn't afford dress shoes, so she had gotten-- what? What I found were not the cheap brown loafers I'd pictured in my head. Instead, in the box were shoes a particularly tasteless retiree might wear, something like a white pleather golf shoe but with weird rubber nubs on the platform sole instead of cleats, and a kind of tasseled apron over the laces. These were supposed to be interview shoes? And then the shouting began.