Drama Holiday Christmas

I’ve always loved the snow. There’s something so calming about the silence that descends when the world turns white.  

Until you drive in it.  

It’s not even the added challenge of driving in the snow that breaks the cocoon of Zen I find myself in during the winter months. It’s the other drivers. The people in their big trucks who think that because they have bigger tires or sit higher up, they are immune to the risks of black ice. The people who rev their engines at every intersection splattering the odd passersby with slush. My father drives a truck.  

I find myself fuming as I drive towards my childhood home. Every stupid decision by the other drives fuels my inner rage. My fingers ache from the grip I have on the steering wheel. Not the grip of someone fearful, but the grip of someone doing their darndest to overcome inner tension. 

There are the drivers who are so timid that they end up in trouble and then overreact. You can’t overreact when driving in the white world. You’ll end up in a ditch or putting someone else in a ditch. My mother is a timid driver. She won’t drive in winter. She finds it too scary.  

Don’t be a timid driver. Stay calm. Keep the wheel from jerking about. I am excellent in these conditions. The vehicle slides a bit and I laugh. Then I wonder, what do people think who see me laughing as I slide? 

Do they think I am reckless? I’m not. I’m completely in control...even when I surrender to the gradual drift.  

Do they think I’m mental? I’m okay with that. Any minute the anti-depressants will start to work. Hopefully. 

I’ve got a few hours to go before I reach the town where I was born. The ache in my hands becomes intense enough that I must take turns removing them from the wheel and shaking it out. I have to mentally imagine relaxing my jaw muscles as it too has begun to tighten.  

How is it that I am forty years old and still feel obligated to spend the holidays with family? Each year I imagine coming up with a great excuse to miss it. Every year I make the trip. Lately I’ve been able to shorten the visits thanks to my sister and her family taking up the guest rooms. Her kids are an added reason that I don’t want to go. I am the family Grinch apparently. The insanity that comes with four young kids is something I can only tolerate for a few hours at a time. 

The back seat of the car is filled with gifts for the kids. They’ll be moderately still for the opening of gifts before resuming the high-pitched screaming and acrobatic leaps from couch to couch to table. At least the adults in the family have finally agreed to stop getting gifts for each other.  

These thoughts circle in my mind and I cannot stop them. This feeling that I really don’t fit. Really don’t want to. I’ve pulled up to the ferry terminal. There’s a line. I’ve made a reservation because I always do. I do the right thing. I plan. I follow through.  

The line moves slowly. Exhaustion seeps into my heart. I haven’t even arrived at the house, haven’t even dealt with any of the social awkwardness that has developed between all the family members because of political leanings and religious misunderstandings, but I already feel beat down. No one understands how hard being an introvert in a family of extroverts is.  

One car stands between me and the ticket booth. I remember this Thanksgiving dinner. My grandma once again forced kisses on me and ruffled my hair when I pulled away from her. The anger of that transgression will burn for a very long time. At what age do the Olds learn to respect the wishes or boundaries of the younger generations? I don’t even let my parents kiss me. I cannot take much more of this forced familiarity. 

I pull up to the ticket booth and wait for the man to turn to me. There is a tightness in my chest that will only get worse throughout the day. Finally, he’s at the window.  

“Do you have a reservation?”  

The confirmation info is on my phone. I read it to him. He gives me a final total and I pay. The ferry is already loading as I pull into my assigned lane. The cars pass me one by one. After the ferry it’s an hour drive to my parent’s house. Just take deep breathes I think to myself, actually, I may have said it out loud. My turn, the ferry to my right. I’m being waved forward. 

On a whim I go left and experience an immediate release of tension. I grin madly while I wave at the dock staff. He shrugs. The trip home goes so much faster. I feel light. People aren’t such crappy drivers after all, they are all just doing their best. I still laugh when the tires slide a bit. 

I text my other, childless, sister. Saying that the roads are just too iffy to make the drive. She agrees to tell the parentals. I know that she knows I just don’t want to go. I know that she also does not want to go. I feel slightly bad knowing that she will enjoy it even less without me there. 

Perhaps this obligation to come together for the holidays needs to die out. There are many people that would prefer to skip them. Save their money for an epic trip to exotic locations. Stop collecting unneeded items that you have received as gifts from people that don’t really know you as well as they think they do. Items you then donate in the spring because you don’t need the clutter. 

When I get in the door my dog is happy to see me. Her grey head snuffles my coat pockets for treats. I can’t take her to family events anymore because the noise generated by the nieces and nephews makes her bark – which triggers them to cry. But here, here I can drink without judgement if I choose to, I can watch a movie without hearing snide remarks about “token gay characters”, I can eat a meal without someone trying to tell me what I need to do to course correct my life, I can give my mutt tummy rubs uninterrupted.  

This will be the perfect holiday. Alone, in this snow-covered world, with my lazy dog, in the quiet calmness of my own home. For some meeting with family is a joyous thing. For others there’s no place in the pageant. There’s no desire to be in the pageant. And that’s fine. Find what brings you joy this holiday, make it yours.  

December 23, 2022 21:29

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Lily Finch
21:31 Jan 04, 2023

Hi Mindy, the voice in this story was different. I enjoyed the story mostly because she did what I would have done given the same predicament. She was a relatable character. Getting together for the holidays with family is always a tense time for people who have moved out of their parent's home and live independently. Thanks for the great read! LF6


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Wendy Kaminski
02:59 Jan 02, 2023

Agreed, a lot of the holiday celebration has turned from a "-mas" into a "-must," and that certainly sucks the joy from it. I really enjoyed this story!


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