the worst christmas ever is always the one that’s coming. . .

i yelled at my ex-husband over the phone this morning that i wanted to kill myself.  i have been crying for nearly three hours off and on, and it’s really hard to order coffee at caribou while you’re hiding a secret behind your ray-bans.  i’ll have the wahhhhh! decaf medium sniff! please!

the patricks were not holiday people.  they considered birthdays for children under the age of five and since i was adopted at three you can sort of see how much traction my birthday got.  halloween trick or treating?  ixnay.  valentine’s?  there’d better be no boys sniffing around this house with cards–i don’t care if your teacher says that everybody has to send everybody a card.

they were okay on christmas, a little.  there was a tree.  we ate datenut bread and cream cheese sandwiches on christmas eve and on christmas day, dinner was accompanied by prince andre cold duck.  until the patricks discovered sparkling burgundy.  the day after christmas, the tree was thrown out onto the parkway.

it’s the lead up that always did me in!

one year, i was so excited about santa’s imminent arrival that i repeatedly snuck down the stairs to the living room.  santa never arrived.  i woke up in the morning and saw nothing under the tree.  my mother said that santa had simply skipped the neighborhood.  but when my older adopted sister sandra and i went next door, there were presents and laughter and stockings.  sandra got them to give us some candy and she put it in my stocking.  that was christmas.  a few years later, mrs. patrick allowed as how it made her so mad that i kept getting up, she finally decided to punish me with no christmas.  it was quite effective.  the next year, they had to drag me out of bed christmas morning.

but that wasn’t as bad as the year i turned eleven.  there was several boxes just for me under the tree!  i was so excited but i forgot:  puberty was just around the corner.  so was bleeding.  menstruation was something mrs. patrick didn’t have to deal with because she had had a hysterectomy when she was seventeen.  she delighted that she didn’t have that “dirtiness” to contend with.  my christmas presents were a box of kotex napkins, some underwear that had a garter to hold the napkins in place, and mr. patrick (who traveled on business a lot) had contributed a box of the airsickness bags he had filched so that i could dispose of the used napkins.  i was sternly warned that under no circumstances could i put the napkins in the household garbage cans.

“that’s how diseases are spread,”  mrs. patrick warned me.  i felt really funny around my father, knowing that he knew this would happen to me.  my sister gave me the talk about how periods worked but she used such convoluted language that i thought i would be bleeding from my belly button.  wow!  i was so surprised when it actually happened!  i thought i was dying!

airlines used to place airsickness bags in the pocket in the seat in front of you. they were for use when people threw up from nausea midflight.


so i have had christmases alone, i’ve had wonderful christmases with the eastmans and with my own family.  but i always have the pre-christmas fears that this is going to be one of those bad christmases.  this year, i’m already panicking.  i wish there was a holiday five days before where everybody would announce that they loved everybody in their family A LOT!  it would certainly help me.

and yet, what i should remember most is not whether one son or another remembers to get me a present or whether everybody behaves at the two different christmas dinners i’m hosting (two of which will include an ex-husband and one of which will include his first ex-wife) or whether someone gets mad because i didn’t mail their christmas wreath to them soon enough.  i should remember that next year’s christmas.  . .  definitely could be worse and it’s a long ways away!



4 responses to “the worst christmas ever is always the one that’s coming. . .

  • M.A. Del Rosario

    You survived it Arlynn. That in itself is a blessing. It’s not all that bad. Here, people in Northern Mindanao will have no Christmas. Many of them are dead. Looking at how pathetic my job is made me realize that I’m complaining for the wrong reasons. I should be rejoicing that I’m alive, that my wife and son are alive, that I could still live one more day and see them. I suggest you take comfort in the things that make you strong, like your children, and look back at the past and laugh at it. Things that don’t kill you only makes you stronger. Besides, Christmas is not about gifts or money or what you could get under the tree, its about what you can give and the good you can do to the world.

  • arlynn

    mark, you absolutely have my best prayers. and also, p.s., your next novel is great!!!!!

    i am so aware of how blessed i am that the worst i deal with is a chicago snowstorm and we haven’t had one in a while and aren’t looking to have one. i am grateful that you are well and oh, sweet friend, i am grateful that you are doing well!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • diane luebbers

    So sorry to hear your story – guess a lot of people have bad memories of the holidays to try to forget – I’ve had my share for sure, but nothing I’ve been through tops the news I got today – friends of mine just lost their two year old. Tuesday morning Remi goes to her Dad and says Daddy hold me, I don’t feel good – shortly after, she starts vomiting, goes into a seizure and dies….turns out she had a rare heart defect that no one knew about. I am still in shock – I can’t even begin to imagine what the parents are going through….life is so short – loved ones are so precious – hold on tight ……

    • arlynnpresser

      i am so so so sorry to hear about your friend’s loss! and i suspect that you are a good friend who will do everything to be helpful to the grieving family! many many warm wishes for a better day!

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