Many Years Later (Part 1)

I hope everybody had a beautiful Christmas! 🙂 Christmas is a very interesting day. For many parts of the world it is the holiday of love. It is the day when people show how much they care for each other by getting together and exchanging presents.

For many years I have been seeing this yearly event from the outside since I have almost no contact to my family. Very often this day is not what it supposed to be. People go and spent time with their families out of guilt, out of the feeling they have to. It is a very emotional day with high expectations. When expectations are not met there is conflict. Then there are people who don’t have a family or don’t talk to them. This group is usually tremendously depressed having to spend this so meaningful day by themselves.

I don’t belong to either of these groups. My main feeling for the last couple of years has been that of a tremendous relief.

This year I spent Christmas Eve with my friend Marco, his girlfriend Sari and her daughter Lesley. I met him in Queens to take the train with him to Roosevelt Island where a friend of his has an apartment where we had dinner. Most of the last few years I spent that day alone having something to eat at a particular restaurant with a big smile on my face. I felt free. Even taking the train ride up to Queens that night seemed too much. I wanted to go and see them. I love them but at the same time I wanted to be left alone.

But why this aversion, what causes it?

I had to look at the past. Christmas is the main holiday in Germany and was in my family always a big deal. As a child it was the highlight of the year. I believed in the “Kristkind” (Christ Child) until I turned 9 or 10. In Germany there is a Santa Claus day on the 6th of December. On Christmas Eve not Santa Claus but the Christ Child brings the presents.

Our living room used to be not accessible for my sister and me days before that evening. We never saw the tree being set up or how it was decorated. Usually our grandparents were around to spent time with us while our parents would get the room ready. We would play, go for walks, watch TV, one year my sister dressed up as an angel and I as Santa Claus and rehearsed a little play that we performed later under the Christmas tree.

Eventually around five or six o’clock in the evening on the 24th bells would ring in the living room my mother would storm out and frantically scream, “Come in guys the Kriskind is here, come in fast before it flies away!”

Granted the “Kristkind” was always faster then my sister and me but boy did I believe the story. I had no doubt that the “Kristkind” was real. As soon as we opened the door there was the tree, the lights and lots and lots of presents.

Sounds like the perfect family out of a fairy tale book doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. It was the day when we all pretended to be this perfect family. The truth was that my parents had no love left for each other. If they had been honest they both would have had to admit that neither of them wanted to be in this relationship or under this tree. I remember especially my mother getting very sad around Christmas. Another year would go by with her being in this marriage, another year of not living her dream. I don’t know what that dream was but if she would have been honest she would have admitted it was not this relationship, this family or living in the countryside. My father’s father was there whom my mother did not like. My mother’s parents were there who were not very fond about my father.

But nobody was honest, everybody was pretending, everything is fine, it is Christmas the holiday of love. They were all smiling as much as they could.

Did they really believe that children are not picking this up? Does pretending that something does not exist make it go away? So year after year we would sit under the Christmas tree, nicely dressed, unpacking all these meaningless presents to compensate for what this family did not have. Love.

To others we had it all. A three story house for us alone overlooking the Alps in one of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen so far in my life. There was money, a nice car, and a striving business. But we had nothing. I would have given it all away in a second for not having to grow up in an icebox, to grow up without love.

Today I barely remember how the tree looked like and don’t remember one of all these hundreds of presents I received over the years but I remember very vividly how I felt. I remember the emotional coldness, people not being honest, the sadness and the tension.

This is why today so many years later I still have a hard time spending time with people on Christmas and are much rather alone.

 

 

 

 

“Many Years Later (Part 1)” Germany/Pfronten/(From left) Nina, Mami and me unpacking presents 12-24-78 around 06:00 PM

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