This last Christmas, I received the best Christmas present ever. It was not a coveted Amazon gift card nor fuzzy mittens. It was not designer soaps that end up banished inside the dresser drawer, never to see daylight again. And it was not chocolate. This best Christmas present ever came from an immediate family member and was given to me right before dinner.
My best Christmas present ever was actually a full-blown verbal assault. The wounds inflicted by this person were emotional, therefore invisible. It would have been horrible to spend Christmas seething and putting imaginary band aids on these invisible wounds, so I left the scene of verbal carnage. Once I got back home, I realized there was nothing to eat in the fridge. My empty fridge, on Christmas day, was just imaginary peroxide poured on the invisible wounds. My customary Christmas ham and Chardonnay wine was replaced by Japanese takeout food and two servings of hot sake. During my solitary dinner, I realized it did not feel like Christmas anymore.
How, you might ask, does this event fit into the realm as the best Christmas present ever? During a phone call to a close friend, I described the emotional slaughter.
“My Christmas was ruined,” I babbled. Then I tried to calmly explain what had happened. While I rattled on, he listened silently.
“Don’t you realize you got the best Christmas present ever,” he responded, in his most polite and enthusiastic voice.
“How is that,” I ask.
“You don’t have to attend a dinner again. You are finally free. Don’t you see it?”
Up until he said that, I did not see it. His words made it perfectly clear. There will be no more ‘putting up with,’ no more criticisms, no more smirkiness, no more laziness and no more drunkenness. There will be no more nasty little snide remarks. But most importantly, the narcissistic personality disorders of not one, but two family members, are gone.
“Your mother got the chance to see it. All those years of telling her about their treatment towards you, always with her ambivalent responses, has now paid off. She got to see and hear it,” my friend said.
Suddenly I realized that emancipation had finally arrived.
There are two sides to every story, as my mom often reminds me, and yes, this writing, is my side. I do not foresee any interviews taking place with the other participants of the best Christmas present ever. Not now, not at any time in the future and not anywhere on the horizon, that I can see.
“Is it OK to eliminate this episode, in its entirety,” I asked myself. I believe so. What will it accomplish and why rehash old wounds. There will be no clarification or justification coming, none offered. Besides, this is my version of the best Christmas present ever.
What makes this somewhat surreal is the fact that I was verbally attacked by a thirty-something (I’m somewhat older) that felt the urge to suggest my need of meds to control some perceived psychosis they imply I suffer from.
I see this family member, maybe three or four times a year. We seldom talk on the phone. There is little FaceBook communication. (Does clicking on the “like” button count?) Never-the-less, this family member believes they have the authority to prescribe what I need to be taking to be in control of whatever psychosis they imagine I have. This is only a part of what was unleashed but it is the part that bothers me the most.
Our family season of dinners starts with the traditional Thanksgiving. This leads into Christmas and culminates with Easter. Dinners from earlier years were always at my mom’s apartment. She would park herself in the kitchen, preparing culinary delights with a West Indian/Spanish flair. She would be working in that kitchen from morning until long after the other siblings had gone home. She spent all her time cooking, serving, pouring, carving and doing whatever was necessary for a large family dinner. She worked at cleaning all the dishes, the pots and pans, the serving platters and ended the day putting the apartment back in order and completely cleaned.
Fragmentation within the family arose and began to grow. Over the years, dinners and gifts became sparse, in quantity and quality.
Those family dinners became a battleground, a family form of conflict. They were filled with critical and hurtful words. Angry and derogatory words. Judgemental and sarcastic words. My communication was ignored by them talking over it. The constant use of words such as idiot, fool, stupid, and many others, were used to describe me. Constantly being baited and goaded, over and over, year in and year out, eventually caused reactions of the most unfavorable kind. Attending these dinners eventually turned me into a reactionist. These family dinners were a form of sadistic torture. Continuing to attend these events, to please a certain family member, makes me a masochist. I always silently hoped that maybe this time, maybe this one dinner, will turn out differently.
Absolving myself of toxic family members, removing myself from family dinners is indeed the best Christmas present ever. Because it validates my existence, my integrity, my sense that I am a person that deserves respect. That validation, that sense of self-respect is the best Christmas present ever.