I'm sure I there were more occasions than I can recall that something about the holidays stimulated my tear ducts. I remember crying because my mom bought me a nightshirt instead of pajama top and bottoms, and I wasn't upset that I got something I didn't want. I was upset that I didn't want them and that I'd hurt her feelings. My parents tell me I bawled when they gave me sticks or coal in my stocking one year--in addition to Santa's presents, he had left it as a mild admonishment that I was not good all the time.
This year: no full-fledged sobbing. But my eyes did well up on several occasions.
The first was on Christmas day, as I noted that this could possibly be the last Christmas with our beloved family dog, Misha. He's 13 and Christmas has always been his favorite day. He helps open presents and gets so excited. In the last couple years his doggie-ADHD energy has dwindled. So this Christmas, he was only peppy for about five minutes.
Later on that day, I saw my grandfather cry--twice. I have never seen him get emotional; seldom has anyone seen him that way. He was moved to tears by my uncle's efforts to make it to Ohio from Japan for Christmas and by the family's early celebration of his 80th birthday. His sentimental emotionality was contagious.
(Later on, he dissipated some of the softness I felt toward him by disparaging "those damn Mexicans" who are taking over his state--California.)
Yesterday, my father's side of the family held their Christmas celebration. With his eight siblings, there's a lot of people. Unfortunately, not many that I like. I have allies in my immediate family, but it was just my brother and I this time. My dad had really hurt his back, and my mom stayed home to play nurse. (And, no, not "dirty nurse".)
So I listened to my four-year old cousin tell me about her visit to the manicurist. (How nice for someone to tell me what the experience is like since, at 25, I've never gone.) I watched my vegetarian brother eat only carrot sticks and cookies since every side dish had bacon in it. I mostly sat by myself, absorbed the scents of perfumed hugs, avoided my uncle who kisses hello (I don't like you; do not kiss me), accepted a gift of Thomas Kinkade-esque notecards with feigned pleasure and wished my friend would call to give me a reason to leave.
Alas, I had to make up my own excuse. As a future spinster of America, I begged off on account of my cats. During my round of good-byes, a few people lamented that they hadn't gotten to talk to me yet. Maybe that's because you didn't really want to, because when I talk to most members of the family about anything more than "yes, I am fine. job is fine", their eyes glaze over with a shield of superficiality.
I drove home, getting that familiar lump in my throat. I was surrounded by people--people related by blood--and I felt so detached from all of them.
Thankfully, I do not feel that detachment from my immediate family or most of my mother's side. And I have wonderful friends who also make Christmas special. I am grateful for all these people in my life.