I dislike this time of year intensely. There’s the idea that you can be a jackass for three-hundred-and-sixty-four, and then make some sort of gesture and have it all be forgiven. Plus there’s the rampant BUYBUYBUY that starts the instant Halloween ends, and the financial stress that makes parents explode at their kids in stores–I’ve seen it over and over again, and I hate it. There’s also the anxiety from my childhood–any Holiday Event was an unmarked minefield, with disaster-shrapnel only a matter of time.
There are my kids, who are delighted with any sort of ornament or present, no matter how small. (“Jeez, Mum,” the Princess told me this year. “I mean, I’ve got everything.”) There is the sigh of relief that I am in a completely new place where memories of the times when I was trying to clean up financial messes from the ex aren’t crowding every room-corner. There are the dogs, who don’t care what time of year it is as long as there’s kibble and belly-skritches. There’s my sisters, beaming because they have some time off and can visit. There’s the satisfaction of cooking good things and watching the people I love eat and laugh.
And for a few years now, there’s been a moment when the kids are in bed on the Eve and I take a deep breath and realize there will be no screaming or broken things, no blood, no hideous surprises I’ll have to pay for. That things have, in fact, become steadily better. That I’ve climbed, step by step and reach by reach, up out of a hole so deep and black I never thought I’d see even thin winter sunlight again. There is also the moment when I expect to feel a sick thump of worry, disappointment, and fear…and it doesn’t come. I freeze, looking for the trap, and I cannot see it. Instead, there is only peace. Fragile and frightening as any new thing, but still…peace. I like it.
All that is good.
But I’m still not setting foot inside a store until after New Year’s if I can help it.