A quick blog post with random memories for Christmases in my past. I will say here that I do suffer from PTSD and was told that my spotty memory is due to this disorder. There are huge chunks of my childhood that I cannot remember. I have been told that there are therapy approaches to help recover some of that memory, but I can’t say that I am interested in recovering those. For now, I feel that my mind is in protective mode, and I don’t know that I am ready for any recovered memories. What I do remember is more than enough.
So what is Christmas like when your parents are increasingly more conservative as the years go by? What about if you add in the fact that one parent is bi-polar/abusive/addicted and the other is co-dependent/depressed/childlike?
My earliest memory of Christmas is one of my older sisters making a tree out of paper and hanging it behind the bedroom door as a quiet protest for my step-dad’s “no Christmas” rules. I know she was caught, the tree taken down, and I don’t know for sure what happened next. Judging from the fact that my step-dad was incredibly abusive, it was not good.
I was confused about what the rules and why they were put in place. I know we did not have a Christmas tree, any decorations or any presents because my step-dad thought that Christmas was a pagan holiday. The rules evolved to become stricter over the years. We had to sit out of school or church activities, including any parties, plays, nativity scenes or any other holiday gathering. This included anything at church even if it was centered around the birth of Christ. I think there were times that we did not even attend church services if there was a decorated tree on stage. We weren’t allowed to give or receive gifts from anyone else. We did not spend time with any family or friends over the holidays lest we be influenced. I know we were told that decorations on the tree symbolized the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Bible. Taking gifts from under the tree and then giving to others supposedly symbolized Eve giving the fruit to Adam which he accepted. Every single Christmas character, story or event had an evil foundation and purpose or so my step-dad thought. He was pretty creative in finding evil symbolism in the simplest of traditions. I think at one point I was actually afraid of Christmas trees. I thought maybe the evilness would be an invitation for Satan to come into our house. As the years passed, my step-dad became more and more unpredictable and crazy and my mom usually caved to his demands. Every now and then, she was sneak something past him or allow us to participate in some way probably just out of guilt for what she was putting her kids through each year.
One year, we were going out of town to avoid all Christmas of any sort, including church activities. I put a note on top of a bookshelf in our living room. I wrote a note to Santa. I was maybe around 10 years old. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote, but I do remember wanting to believe that Santa was real. I needed to know that someone was out there that cared about me, even if it was just one day a year. I asked Santa to read my note and then move it to the other bookshelf as a sign that he was real. I don’t think I even asked for any gifts. When we returned, the letter was of course still in the original spot, and I remember feeling so hopeless. No one knew what I was going thru, and I felt I would be alone forever in abuse and isolation.
The first few years as a young adult in my own house, I was definitely still fearful that my step-dad was right and that celebrating Christmas would being evilness into my home. It has been around 15 years since I moved out, and while I really enjoy Christmas now, my husband does almost all of the decorating and purchasing. I can’t help but think that my childhood is still ruining the amount of enjoyment I could get from the holidays. I also have no traditions from my childhood, and it has been very hard to start traditions for my own kids. I don’t know where to start, what would be fun, and what would be “okay” to do. I have no idea why I still feel that tiny need to get approval over my holiday goings-on. That said, each year has been better and better. We try to balance having fun with our minimalist approach to life. I am trying not to swing to the other extreme in effort to get as far away from my childhood as possible.
Things are really changing though. My mom has since divorced my step-dad. She texted a picture of her Christmas tree to me recently. I can safely say that no one has been demon possessed since going to see Santa at the mall or attending a cookie exchange.