11.28.2013

Charley Brown Christmas


One year right after my parents split- my dad had quickly become a hot shot sports car driving jitterbugging bar fly cool guy single dad, who was also filing for bankruptcy and living in an empty house in a snazzy neighborhood, so he had a gold nugget ring and chain around his neck, but no money for Xmas. My mom was an angry divorcee bent on proving how desirable she was by staying at the hotel lounge after work, shooting flaming dr peppers, dancing on tables, and sleeping with staff members- all while being a late eighties 9 to 5 tough bitch in the workplace to prove her inherent and unrecognized worth as maker of our former happy home (or at least the illusion of it)... 

Anyway, I digress- the four of us- me, my one yr older gay brother, and our two younger siblings (8&5) were basically left to fend for ourselves. Left sleeping at home alone without notice (and before cellphones) to wake up in a dark empty house to my brother screaming and running down the stairs, around the green pool, or to the neighbors cool guy high school party while in the midst of a night terror and wearing only underwear. I was around 11-12, my older brother 12-13- possibly a year older... 

Again I digress- we were sitting around that empty house one weekend,

The four of us, looking like flowers in the attic, unkempt homeless kids in ill fitting and faded clothes, feeling kind of sad and sorry for ourselves (without saying as much) but all of us with the distinct recollection of the holidays of our previous existence- cookies baking, candy making, those same cozy dishes every year, blueberry cheesecake, chicken casserole, ham with pineapples and cherries- hand dipping Martha Washingtons and peanut butter balls in melted chocolate and wax, listening to John Denver and the muppets sing Christmas songs on the eight track player while decorating the tree with all our school ornaments and silver icicles over multi colored twinkle lights. The Mr and Mrs Santa statues on each end of the mantel, with four little red stockings hung in a row around the chiming mantel clock... We usually had hand sewn matching outfits to wear to church for Xmas Sunday (Mormon church- where my uncles were bishops and church board members) and there was never a need to question that anything your parents and grandparents said was true, and right, and good... 

And then- fast forward a few years- my simple plain country girl veggie growing gingham shirt and denim shorts wearing mama, has cut her waist length straight hair into an atrocious 80s permed poof, taken to aerobics and tight lee jeans and too much blue eye shadow, started wearing jewelry and flashy clothes, got a job, lots of boyfriends, some who she let smoke pipes inside our house, in the orange recliner that belonged to our dad before he moved in to the river camp with his brother... 

We were still not allowed to question anything, only now there was no comfort in that. Only mistrust, insecurity, and disgust... 

So, alone one afternoon, in a nearly empty room, with black carpet all around, adjoining the black and white checkered tile kitchen floor, and a non-functioning mod white metal fireplace- we decided to make our own Christmas. My brother marched his ass outside and chopped a big branch off of one of the magnolia trees in the yard, and we made up some form of decorations, and we felt strong. We had always been so taken care of, that we never had a need to be strong or resourceful- and while that Christmas was one of the saddest, loneliest, most challenging that I can recall- it was a turning point. It was the end of our childhood as we had known it, the end of our innocence, or naivety, our complete blindness to the humanness of authority figures, and complete reliance on others to take care of us. It was the end of trust. But it was also the beginning. Of digging down and finding inner strength, of making blessing for ourselves, of being rocks for each other, and learning to trust ourselves. And we were truly blessed. 

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