My feelings around the holidays are complex. I grew up going to various family houses with my parents and my sister. My folks are the oldest in two large families, so the holidays were always a big party. My birthday is thrown into the mix there, and I grew up learning to put that last due to everyone’s holiday tension and plans. As I got older and left home, I noticed that the delight in spending time around family rested almost exclusively with my extended family. My parents don’t really celebrate the holiday on their own, reminding me that they don’t exchange gifts when I have asked what they got each other. We don’t talk much about our feelings, so I’m not sure their reasons for not participating in christmas. We didn’t have a ton of money growing up, though my parents are comfortable (not well off, however) now. My mom has said that if they need anything, they will just get it and not wait for a holiday. They raised us, out of necessity, to challenge capitalism. “Do you really need that?” I can hear my mom whisper in the back of my mind while I’m browsing in a store. Some days I feel lucky for that resistance. But this year I was buying for a 5 year old and an 8 year old in my life.
Our queer holiday situation is new, and we don’t have the years of tradition and ritual behind us. We all gathered at my girlfriend’s home to open presents. Me, my girlfriend, her daughter, her Baby Ima, Baby Ima’s partner, and Baby Ima’s partner’s son. We slowly opened a few presents, the adults had a few beers, we ate some food, we opened a few more presents. Adults put batteries into gifts and the house turned into chaos. There were toys that made farting noises. Radio controlled toys that sped into the kitchen and rolled over people’s feet. Tons of books. Toys that were THE EXACT SAME so the kids wouldn’t fight over them [good call, Baby Ima and partner!]. The evening was messy, fun, loud, silly, chaotic, and happy. Friends came to visit amid the bedlam. During the night, everyone sang Happy Birthday to me, and I got to blow out candles.
I’ve always wondered why I have a different idea about what it means to be “family” than my family of origin. Why do I care so much that we are all together? Why do they seem to not care? My process around it is just that – a process. Hopefully, the kids in my life know that holidays mean spending time with people you love and care about, and maybe making them laugh with your fake farts for awhile. It’s not perfect and it may be messy at times, but at least we’re together. That’s all that matters to me.