Merry? Christmas?

Christmas just hasn’t been very merry for the people in my life at all this year.

My best friend might have cancer.  What she thought was a tooth abscess turned out to be a tumor – and another one popped up to join it!  Christmas Eve morning she had to go to the doctor to have blood tests and biopsies done.  She’ll find out the results on New Year’s Eve.  Fun.

Then, late Christmas Eve morning, SIL#2 (I’m going in chronological order here), came over to watch the kids so The Hubster and I could go do the last of our Christmas shopping.  She informs us that SIL#1 has had her son taken away from her by social services and placed in a foster home.  We don’t know why, because social services won’t tell us anything (which I find totally wrong, considering we’re the boy’s FAMILY, but that’s a rant for another day).  We had suspected something happened, though.  SIL#1 moved – she’s only about 4 blocks or so away from us – and we haven’t seen The Boy with her (and every other time we’d seen her, she always had him with her).  But she would always say that he was at home or out with someone else.  Apparently she’s in total denial about what happened.  Which, honestly, I can understand.  I’ve had to deal with social services myself (although it never went that far), and I know how utterly defeating it can feel having to deal with them.

My best friend mentioned something about it not seeming to bother SIL#1, but I pointed out to her that she has no way of knowing if it really doesn’t bother her, or if she’s just putting on an act.  I really don’t know SIL#1 very well (she doesn’t have a lot of contact with anybody in The Hubster’s family, it’s not just us), but I would suspect that she just doesn’t want to talk about it, so she acts like nothing’s wrong.  But we don’t see her when she’s alone in her house without her son.  We don’t live in her head, so we really can’t say what she’s feeling at all, one way or the other.

Then there was my stress.  The Hubster sat here in the living room with me on Christmas Eve while I wrapped all of the presents myself.  ALL OF THEM.  Then on Christmas morning, he barely stayed in the same room with the rest of us long enough for us to finish opening presents, and then he disappeared.  Three times yesterday, I asked him to come down here and give me a hand, because I was trying to get Number One Daughter in the bath, clean the kitchen, make our dinner, and get the Three Little Monsters to clean the living room.  His idea of help was to come down the stairs, yell at them to clean up, and then leave again.  It ended up taking them more than SIX HOURS to clean up their mess.  All the while, I’m trying to do other things as well as get them to do what they were told.

I finally managed to get Number One Daughter in the bath after our dinner (I wanted to get her in and out before we ever ate, but The Three Little Monsters wouldn’t clean up the living room, and I have to lay NOD down in the living room in order to get her in the bath, because of the fact that she’s still in diapers and I refuse to lay the poor child down on an ice cold tile floor).  NOD likes her bath.  She’s gotten to the age where she likes to lay back in the bath and relax.  If I try to get her in, washed, and out again, she absolutely refuses to get up.  So I don’t even bother anymore.  I stick her in, let her relax for a bit while I go and get something else done, and then I get her washed and out.  But wouldn’t you know it, just as soon as I was about to go get her out of the bath, my Birth Mother calls me.  Long distance.  From OHIO.  (Remember, I’m living in the UK.  So we’re talking LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG distance.)  So I am not about to tell her “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you right now.”  So I made Number One Daughter wait.  The Hubster comes down, realizes that she’s still in the bath (and SEES me on the phone), and yells at me because of it.  Then he storms out of the room.  Birth Mother hears this, and asks about it.  When I told her, he looks at me from the far end of the hall and mouths “fuck you” at me.  Yeah.  Merry Fucking Christmas to you, too, buddy.  You’ll notice he didn’t even offer to help me.  Nope.  I’m supposed to do everything myself, and when there isn’t enough of me to spread around, it’s my fault.  Isn’t this wonderful?

But on top of all that, when Birth Mother first called, I was on the verge of a breakdown.  I was on the verge of tears, and unbeknown to me, so was she.  She let me prattle on a bit, but then I had a case of foot-in-mouth disease, and mentioned what happened to my SIL.  That set Birth Mother off.  “Oh shit, what did I say?”  (I actually said that.)  *sigh* It turns out, my Youngest Sister has also had my nephew taken from her.  Youngest Sister’s EX took Nephew to the ER accusing Youngest Sister of child abuse – for one bruise on his butt.  Now I’m not saying that it’s not a possibility.  Of course it’s a possibility.  But Nephew is only 2.  Two year olds fall.  On their butts.  They get bruises.  The only way to keep a two year old from getting bruises is to wrap the child in bubble wrap.  And let’s not ignore the possibility that The Ex could have given Nephew the bruise himself, just to stitch Youngest Sister up.  I know that they have had many arguments since Nephew was born, and that he has a big problem with Youngest Sister’s fiancee – who has been more of a father to Nephew than The Ex ever was.  So while I’m in no position to say with certainty what happened, one way or the other, the fact that social services saw one bruise on this child’s butt and decided it was grounds enough to take him away from my sister is absolutely abhorrent to me.  I’ll be honest: I’ve had to deal with social services myself.  Hell, at one point Number One Daughter had two black eyes, after having a seizure in the kitchen and falling on her face.  Literally.  I did have to have her checked out by a doctor, but not on social services’ insistence, it was because of a bitch of a health visitor that just knew I was beating up on her. *coughbitchcough*  Shit, even Number One Daughter’s social worker (she has one because of her disabilities, regardless of whether I’m Mother of the Year or not) thought the whole thing was utter bullshit, but we had to have her checked out anyway.  My point is that if I can have a child with two black eyes and not have her taken away from me, I have a big problem with my sister having her son taken away for one bruise on his butt.  And let’s not even talk about the fact that I’m 6,000 miles away and can’t do anything for anybody.  That sucks donkey ass.

And then… at 10 p.m. my time, I called home to my grandmother/mom’s house.  (I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before: my grandmother raised me, so I call her mom.)  It was the last true family Christmas ever.  My grandmother/mom is selling the house next year.  The house that my grandfather built and she designed.  The house that no one has ever lived in but our family.  The house my father grew up in, I grew up in, and my children started out their lives in.  My three oldest children were all conceived in that house.  Needless to say, I’m having a problem with this.  Not so much that I’m trying to talk her out of it, because after all, it’s her house.  She can do with it what she wants.  But I always thought that house would be in the family in one way or another.  If she wasn’t around, I was sure that one of us would have taken over the house.  So sure that I secretly hoped that she would leave the house to me, considering that I’m the only one of her children that doesn’t own my own home.  Everybody else, with the exception of my father, who was disowned years ago anyway, owns their own home.  Uncle #1 has a house in Florida; Uncle #2 has a house in Wisconsin; Aunt #1 has a house in Colorado; and Aunt #2 has a house in California.  We’re the poor schmucks that still have to rent.

But aside from all that, as I said, this was the last family Christmas ever.  Even though everybody except for us owns their own homes, none of them are big enough to fit our entire family into for a holiday.  (I probably have enough room for everybody, but I can’t see all of them coming to visit me for a Christmas.)  So while physically I was here with my immediate family, my heart was 7,000 miles away in a red brick house in Chicago-land.  And when I called and I could hear all the laughter in the background, and could see people’s faces in my head, my heart just broke.  I will never have the chance to be with my entire family again.  And that’s when it really hit home for me.  Especially when my cousin put her children on the phone, and they’re all like “I don’t know if you remember me…”  😆  I’m at least ten years older than these people, and they wonder if I remember them.  Of course I remember them.  The question is, do they have any idea who I am anymore?

So I ended my Christmas drunk, depressed, and anxious.

Merry?  Christmas?

Not so much, this year.

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Christmas Stress

A Close-Up of MY tree!I used to love Christmas.

I loved everything about it.  The feeling in the air that started right after Thanksgiving and built up in intensity the closer it got to the big day.  The way everything seemed to sparkle just that little bit more because it was that time of year.  I loved the gaudy decorations that seemed to crop up everywhere you looked.  I loved the Christmas songs that you would hear on the radio, in stores, in peoples’ homes.  I loved Christmas movies, where everybody lives happily ever after once they discover the real meaning of Christmas.  Hell, I even used to love seeing the Salvation Army Santas ringing their bells and calling out “Merry Christmas!”

Then I had kids.

Or, I should say, then my kids got older.  When they were younger, it wasn’t such a big deal.  They loved Christmas as much then as they do now, but they didn’t care where their toys came from.  I could go to a resale shop and buy them a whole bunch of (good condition but) used toys and they would just be happy that they got something.  But now, they want everything they see, regardless of whether or not it’s something they’ll play with beyond Christmas day and certainly without regard to how much it costs.

I remember doing the same thing, though.  I would sit down with the Toys ‘R Us book, and go from cover to cover, putting everything I could possibly want on my list.  But I had a cunning plan.  I figured if I wrote down everything I wanted, I was sure to get something I wanted.  Of course, there were certain things that I really wanted more than others, but all in all, I figured if I did it that way, I was sure to get at least something on my list.  (And my grandmother, bless her, would make sure I got the things I really wanted, even if it took her years to save up the money.  When Cabbage Patch Kids first came out, I wanted one so bad I could taste it.  But Christmas came and went, and no CPK.  But the next year?  The next year I got TWO!!!)

But as a kid, I (obviously) had no idea how much pressure that put on my grandmother.  Until now, when I’m feeling that pressure myself.  My kids want this, that, and the other thing.  But then there’s rent to pay, a phone bill that needs to be paid or I won’t be able to call home on Christmas day (and my entire family is going to be at the homestead for the holiday!  I absolutely MUST call home!!), gas needs to be topped up (we have a pre-pay meter), so does the electric… and I have to somehow figure out what I’m going to get for these kids that won’t be too disappointing for them.  I’m torn between being a responsible adult/parent and giving my kids the kind of Christmas memories that I have.

My grandmother always sends money in lieu of presents on the holidays, simply because shipping charges are astronomical (she’s sometimes paid more for shipping than she did on the items themselves).  This year she decided to send us American Express Gift Cards.  Okay… no problem, right?

Wrong!

These things say ON THE CARDS that they are to be used in the US ONLY.  Um… we live in the UK.  We’ve lived here for nearly five years now.  I absolutely love my grandmother, but she can be such a dolt at times.

The thing is, we were counting on this money.  It doesn’t amount to all that much – only about £120 or so (when you consider the fact that there’s six of us in this family, that’s not much).  But it still would have made a big difference.

I am going to try and use them on amazon (I already checked, and they do accept AmEx, I’m just not sure if these specific cards are going to work).  But to get these things and then find out that we can’t use them… it just added stress to my stress to my stress.

Not fun.