I have spent the past several years ‘reclaiming Christmas’ which sounds horrible and right wing… but isn’t.
Let me set the stage for; in the spring of 1999 there was a night where my mom didn’t come home. No call, no warning, she just never came home. I remember thinking she was dead and watching my father look more panicked than I have ever seen him. She arrived the next afternoon as if nothing had happened, no explanation, nothing. Summer went on as if nothing had happened. On the final day of summer vacation my mother silently bundled us into the car and drove to my Uncle’s, she told us she was leaving my father. We spent several tumultuous weeks living with my Uncle, Aunt, and cousins then my parents reconciles and we moved home… but not for long. Christmas day arrived and my father handed my mother the a ‘Family Ring’ with all our birth stones, something she had wanted for years. She put it on, looked at him and said ‘I’m leaving, I only came back for Christmas’.
Christmas was ruined. For the next decade it wasn’t even a holiday it became a season of grief, anxiety, and fighting. I dreaded it. Every year. After moving abroad and meeting my husband I’ve spent the past few years trying to create new holiday traditions, but also have revived some of my most loved ones that were lost post Christmas 1999. Some of these traditions include;
- opening a gift of new pyjamas on Christmas Eve, this one is practical because it means you looks good in all those Christmas morning photos
- receiving a new tree ornament as a gift each year
- building a gingerbread house
That final one is really what this post is going to focus on. Bet you thought it’d be all childhood trauma! Psych! This is a happy post… sort of…
This had always been one of my favourite family traditions, every year we would drive to my beloved Auntie’s house, a master baker and the only person in my family capable of showing affection. She’d made the ginger bread from scratch, you could smell it the moment you walked into her house, warm and sweet. You’d walk into the kitchen and there it was, standing tall on the kitchen table baked with love and full of possibilities. The 6 of us(myself, my three siblings, and her son) got along better in the hours it took to decorate that house better than we did the whole rest of the year.
So for the past few years I’ve been decorating gingerbread houses. I cheat I guess, I buy a ready made kit for the house and then go out and buy a shit ton of candy. I have yet to work up the courage to try and bake my own, it just doesn’t feel right yet.
This year was a little harder, I’ve struggled a lot in the past few months and had a hard time feeling festive at all this season.
Days before Christmas I visited the Museum of Architecture to see their ‘Gingerbread City‘ hoping to be inspired enough to start work on my own. It didn’t work, Christmas came and went and the unconstructed house sat in my cupboard along with the small mountain of candy I had bought to use as decoration.
Yesterday I woke up feeling really low, depression is like that, you go to bed feeling like a million bucks and wake up feeling like a shit stain. After not being able to shake that low low feeling I talked myself into building the gingerbread house. I told myself it would bring me some joy, keep me busy distracting me from the intrusive thoughts, and give me a sense of accomplishment.
I didn’t plan as meticulously as years past and I’m not as proud of this one as I have been with past houses but I’m proud of myself for doing it at least. So yeah, that’s my depressing blog about how the holidays are an emotional roller coaster and how I’m trying to take them back and make them into something new for the family I’m building for myself.
So yeah, this is my little gingerbread house of heeling.