I really don't like this time of year.
It's not just because it's cold and gloomy and is dark before I leave work no matter what time it is or that no news happens in December or that almost everyone I know goes home for Christmas while I don't.
It's because I don't like Christmas. It's a celebration of excess during which people eat too much, drink too much, party too much, spend too much and ask for too much and it goes on for too long. Songs about toys and Santa Claus clutter up the airwaves. Commercials filled with too-cheery people in red and green sweaters exchanging insane gifts interrupt my TV shows. Somehow, giant blowup reindeer became a must-have decoration. Short of becoming a hermit, I cannot get away from it.
And worse than not liking it, actually not liking it is unfathomable to most people. I'm both a grinch and a pariah. What kind of soulless monster hates Christmas?
A: The kind for whom Christmas hurts.
In post-Thanksgiving 2004, I was in a haze of work stress, school stress and financial stress. The Christmas season approached through its normal avenues — primarily Madison Avenue. Ads for the latest toy and the most popular trend were everywhere. The wants and needs and must-haves were overwhelming. Getting the "perfect" gift was the most important thing you could do, ever.
Meanwhile, my dad was dying of cancer.
I didn't care what I gave that year. I didn't care what I got. I lobbied my family to forgo any celebrations that year, but we opted to carry on as best as we could. It didn't work. Really, I don't anything would have.
The world, on the other hand, carried on just fine. The people on the streets, the stores, the commercials — it was like everything was normal. They had no idea that the greatest man in the world would likely be gone before the season was. No, they were too caught up in Santa and presents and egg nog to recognize that I had no reason nor desire to be merry. How could people care about a sale on some stupid toy or new TV when the world — my world — was ending?
On Christmas Day, we set up a little tree in my parents' room and opened presents. It probably took half an hour. We ate dinner on their king-size bed. No one tried to be happy. It was better that day.
My dad died on Dec. 27.
It wasn't until the next year that I realized the Christmas distaste was still there. I thought it would gradually go away over the years, but it hasn't; in many ways, it's actually worsened. The season isn't a constant reminder of my dad's death, but it does remind me of the disgust I felt about how materialistic the season has become. Each year, the ads start sooner and get larger and my disgust deepens. Each year, when I see the feeding frenzy begin, I'm reminded of the year that Christmas betrayed me.
I know most people don't feel like this. I'm glad most people don't feel like this. I hope children can hold onto their Santa Claus ideals and friends and family can get together and find joy during the Christmas season. I can't. Or don't want to. Either way, the result's the same.
I don't think I ever forgave Christmas for not recognizing what I was going through that year, for not stopping and saying, "OK Heidi, take a minute to figure this out. Take all the time you need. I'll wait."