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Christmas Fiction

Shamus would be the first one here. He always was. Tommy and Taegyn would be here before supper. Tommy wanted to be with Karen’s family on Christmas day this year so last week our family changed their plans to be together on Christmas eve instead. Only a major reconstruction of our lives to ensure our little brother who obviously didn’t want to be here was with us for 4-5 hours this year.

Do I sound bitter. Maybe. It was more disappointment than bitter. I have come to realize over the years that family bonding is not a genetic trait as the movies would have us believe. It is learned. Shamus and I came along first then a gap of six years before Tommy and then Taegyn. Shamus and Taegyn were both born 11 months after myself and Tommy. 

I am the bitter and disappointed Sarah. We grew up on the coast of rural Maine. It was a great place to grow up. We had friends down the road who became lifelong friends. The rocky coastline with its interspersed sandy bays was idyllic. A great location to build friendships on hot summer afternoons. We were better friends with the kids down the road than with our own family. I guess that’s my point. These strangers from down the road are our lifelong friends and not my own kin. Greeting card got it wrong.

People growing up in the same household, sharing the same experiences and dealing with the same issues and people should develop a close bond. The closest of bonds. Blood is thicker than water bonds. A bond the kids down the road can not develop with you as they have not experienced the same things you have with your family. Well, that didn’t happen with us. Kathy and Rachael were best friends and I was their best friend. I would never have the bond these two sisters had. With them or my family.

The doorbell. I lived in the Southside of Portland close to Willard Beach. The rest of the family spread out between Bangor and Boston. Mom was in senior care in the Rosemont area of Portland. I had picked her up earlier in the day after work. She didn’t want to see us fight. I would try my damndest to keep the peace. It didn’t always work. I was right, it was Shamus and Freddy. They had been together for 3 years now. They were cute. Shamus headed straight for the whiskey after kissing mom. Freddy sat made conversation with mom.

I think it was the separation in years which began to tear our family apart. We cared for our younger siblings but we didn’t have anything in common with them nor they us. We taught them what to do and not do. We were gone by the time we heard dad was giving them the car for the weekend and driving them all over the place for events and activities. He didn’t do that for us. We took transit and hitchhiked. It was a rural road, we were fine. Maybe he finally learned that’s what a father did, he helped his children grow. We will never know. He passed two years ago to cancer. It was such a relief. Mom didn’t have to wait on him hand and foot any longer. We didn’t have to deal with his drinking. He embarrassed us on too many occasions. We were happy to leave the family home. If the cancer had not taken him then his drinking and driving probably would have gotten him killed, eventually.

I am not sure why we put on this Christmas charade once a year and pretend we are a family. We make small talk, eat turkey, open gifts and mom is happy. Then everyone leaves and we send her back to the home and no one visits but me and that is only once a week if that. I am busy. She tried to tell us her feelings when we were growing up. She couldn’t. Maybe it was too many years of dad telling her saying such things was foolish. He was a hard man. Hallmark helped her. Each Christmas and our birthdays we would get a card. The card would have the words which were never spoken or heard in our house.

The turkey was almost ready. It was now dark and raining. Supper was in 20 minutes. There it was. The doorbell. They were together. The two younger kin and their families. They both had two small children. The children were shy. I think they were shy, the wide eyes told me different. They were scared of us. They only saw us once a year and they got presents. The only way 4-7-year-old children would be scared of us is by listening to what their parents say about us. I don’t know this for certain but I read enough books to make these connections. Children mirror their parents whether they want to or not.

Everyone was in the living room. A quiet memorial to what a family should be. They asked the right questions, answering appropriately, but there was no emotion in the room. It was a duty. Tommy may have saved us. Four hours of this Christmas wake versus an entire day. Once the kids had their sugary deserts, they would get loud and noisy and it would be time to go. Couldn’t have kids being kids. 

Not once during the entire hour we had for dinner did anyone say the word or imply it. The conversation was all about jobs, kids and issues of life. Mundane family talk without feeling. This I believe comes back to the way we were raised. If we were raised in a loving inclusive home and we were taught the same ideals we may have had a chance. We each grew up independent of each other. We learned about the heart from the other kids at school and our friends. Not our brothers and sisters. We each developed our own independent ideals and now it showed when we got together. If a thief were looking through the window, they would think four very different families sat at the table having Christmas dinner together.

The bonds of boyfriends, wives, husbands, best friends had become stronger than those of our family. This was unfortunate and the cause of many issues. We had no respect for each other and if the truth be known we were all closet alcoholics.  We tried not to drink in public any longer. When we thought about our father’s antics and what we did as we drank it became tenfold embarrassing. How could we be like that man. So, we mostly drank at home. Like tonight. Hopefully we wouldn’t be together long enough for the alcohol and lack of respect we had for one another to seep into the conversation. The only thing we had in common was the catholic church. Forced to attend mass from day one. Once on our own we let it go, only I still went to mass. My mother watched it on Tv. I guess even that was not instilled, just something we had to do each Sunday.

I see other families at work. Brothers helping brothers on the weekend. Picking each other up and dropping each other off. As they leave, they do so with a smile. No “hurry up I am late.” A smile which indicates to the other I am glad you are my brother; my sister and I love doing things for you. There I said it. My mother’s cards always had to My Loving Daughter. Always in capital letters. To My Loving Son. It was never written in the card. From your father and mother. With the obligatory $20 for birthdays and a sweater we would not be caught dead in. Other than to wear the sweater or blouse to family dinners.  Other families had love, we did not. I guess love is the bond which turns water into the blood of life. 

Many of my friend’s families lived close to each other. We flew to the winds as fast as we could. Except me. I moved into Portland. I liked it here. Many people are embarrassed by their fathers and still have a loving relationship. Not our family. Love was not a word bandied about in our household. It was saved for the Hallmark days. After many years I can talk about my feelings of family to my husband Mark, I love him. I tell him in the morning when we wake up and in the evening before going to sleep. I want to tell him. We have a great relationship. 

I look around the room. No one has said I love tonight. Not even parents to children when they were opening a large gift. I hope they tell them at home. I hope they say I love you to their children and mean it. I hope they hug their children and mean it. I still can’t hug people comfortable. I hope they are teaching them the ideals we were never taught. I hope they talk of love, helping one another, communication, hard work, and being a good person. We were taught ideals with a strap when we did something wrong. Yes, my grandfather’s strap, he used on our father was in turn used on us. No conversation about what and why something was wrong.  No lesson.

Wow an entire evening and no one got into a verbal disagreement. After they left, I dropped mum off and detoured through the suburbs before heading back to our apartment. It had been a long day and I wanted some me time, alone. Christmas lights were up and beautiful on every house. Cars were in the driveways. I drove slowly down each street, stopping at particularly nice homes with a big living room window where you could see families interact. Looking in at the smiling faces and laughter. Enjoying the colorful sweaters, lights and decorations.  Red and green were my favorite colors.  This alone was enough to brighten the mood of the most cantankerous scrooge.  

If they were watching they might think I was Harry Lime scoping their homes from Home Alone. I wasn’t. I was broken and trying to see what it was like if we had been raised differently. If we had been raised in a loving home. After 45 minutes my smile was as large as the ones emanating from the windows. It was enough for me that other people enjoyed their Christmas. Other people were merry and bright. Mark and I were good. These unknown people were like  Marks family, not mine. My family had a way of thinking there was no spirit no merriment no love at Christmas. This street told me different. I knew the spirit of Christmas was real and the coke commercials got it right, there was love in the world at Christmas. I drove home the happiest I have been since I was a little girl of 5. The last time I could remember a merry and happy Christmas.  

Joe Kavanagh

jcksawmill@gmail.com

825-333-2326

November 25, 2020 13:51

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3 comments

GRACE LARSON
17:39 Dec 03, 2020

Hey Joe! Great job on your first story! For calling yourself a first time writer, you seem have avoided a lot of the common mistakes new writers often make and present your ideas in a mostly clear and thoughtful way. I especially liked your use of many short sentences, which mimics how thoughts often come out in our brains. It gives the reader a deeper insight into your MC (Sarah) and makes the story seem more realistic. I had just a few quick critques. In this sentence, "Do I sound bitter." I would add a question mark. True, you can wr...

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Joe Kavanagh
18:28 Dec 03, 2020

Thank You Grace. This is my first story submission anywhere. I liked your thoughts and opinions and appreciate you taking the time to give me the feedback. Good luck in your writing.

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GRACE LARSON
18:34 Dec 03, 2020

You too!!

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