Let's all raise our hands if we're done with Christmas!
If it were within my capacity to turn back-flips, I'd be doing that right now. I'd likely end up in traction but it'd be worth it, compared to how I was made to feel this past Christmas season.
I'm more happy that it's over. It was over before it started, if that makes any sense...
I'll further explain.
Most of you know that this was our first Christmas in our new home.
The house was beautifully decorated. The tree was put up right after Thanksgiving weekend and the light show has ALWAYS been my favorite. I love the multi-color lights, I love the tree being the only source of light in the evenings. Such a calming, merry feeling while watching TV and all the other house lights are off. At least for me, this was a nice and peaceful feeling and a feeling I look forward to whenever we're eating turkey leftovers. Additionally, I'm happy to say that our tree ultimately survived the wrath of my youngest cat, who has successfully learned that he is no longer a kitten and is too big and fat to shimmy up the center of the tree and perch himself across the branches in the middle. I did have to "repair" the branches at the bottom, that just fall to the floor because of his failed attempts to get into the tree. A few ornaments ended up on the floor every morning, but there haven't been any fatalities this year; the glass/expensive ones were put high up because of aforementioned cat. The other four don't give a rat's ass about the tree, it's always the youngest one that's the problem...
Anyway...moving on. We decorated the outside of the house with lights...something we'd never done before. It looked lovely. J and I were proud of ourselves. I must say ours was the nicest looking house on the block! We had lights in all the windows, a couple of those projector things with snowmen and snowflakes on one side, we strung up the wall at the end of the driveway, covered a tree with net lights....VERY nice!
We hung a nice big wreath on the entrance door, another in the living room on the wall above the mantle. I put the red shiny bows on the doorknobs and drawer handles, made things look nice and festive with the addition of little Christmas-themed knick-knacks and candles and anything that smelled like candy-canes or gingerbread or sugar cookies...out they went with little candies and M&Ms, whatever we could put in these little glass (Holiday-themed) bowls...I put out Christmas coasters...my halls were DECKED.
I put garland up along the edge of the fireplace, complete with battery-operated lights that went on every day at 6pm and shut off at midnight. 6 on, 18 off, easy-peasy with these battery-operated delights, didn't have to worry about replacing the batteries at all but will imagine they need new ones at the start of next season. That is, given I'm in the mood to decorate.
Oompa also "contributed" when she downsized drastically over the last year...and by "contributing," I mean, she threw whatever she had no room for into a plastic grocery store bag and brought them over to us to use. I often joke among the sisters that she's simply giving them to me to throw away for her. There WAS some salvageable junk, but most of it was unnecessary junk that I didn't want to use here, either. We all get a daily text from Oompa, I'll have you know..."Do any of my girls want this beautiful hanger, passed down from great-great-great Nonna from Italy?" And then the chorus of "no's" begins...
Then the stupid hanger ends up in a bag and on my kitchen table because she has a sentimental attachment to it and will store it in the bedroom closet she uses when she's here. I swear to God, you can't make this up - that bedroom smells like Old Lady, the efforts of Yankee Candle and Glade Plug-Ins combined cannot fully combat the stench...it's simply because she has too many "collectibles" that no one wants and she insists on putting into her room, and the door being closed at all times to ensure a cat-free zone further preserves and promotes the Old Lady sanctuary.
These little, minor things, I can deal with.
What I CANNOT deal with though, is manipulation. Where Oompa is involved, though, let's call it mom-nipulation because that's fitting.
She has been bitching and moaning since the SUMMER (it was the beginning of July when we moved here, she wasted NO time) that I moved two hours away from her. J has made comments to her that SHE lives 4 hours away from all of her family members but that has little to no effect on my mother. I might as well have moved across the country, the way she has been carrying on. My mother's biggest problem, if you ask me, is that she does not feel needed by me/us. She weeps because she doesn't see us once a week like she used to, she clings whenever she comes, she complains when I decline an invite to her house for Sunday dinner, she then throws us moving back into our faces and lays blame on US for moving away and not making the effort in keeping the family together. In return, I remind her that Sister #1 moved BEFORE we did, she chose the retirement community 20 minutes away from Sister #1 BEFORE we moved two hours away. SHE was the one who got the moving ball rolling. Sister #2 and her husband also moved 20 minutes away from her little retirement community (although in the other direction) BEFORE we moved. Why should we move close to her/them when we had no intention of ever living in New Jersey!? We told her YEARS before either one of us moved; we were bypassing New Jersey entirely and moving to Pennsylvania. She knew this. Yet, she still complains that it's not a location in Pennsylvania that is close enough to where she hangs her hat....
All in all, I just do not have the heart to tell her that she misses me/us MORE than I/we miss her. In a way, both of my sisters having babies within a six-month span of time helps - because now she needs to help THEM with their "new-parent" statuses, takes some of the pressure off of us, and in the meantime keeps her too busy to complain to us. I'm fine with seeing her once a month! Or less. Really, because all she does when she's here is cry and complain and bit*h and moan and piss everyone off in the process.
You'd think that having a three-year old grandson and a newborn granddaughter with another granddaughter on the way in a couple of months would help...right? But no, she finds reasons to complain, anyway!
Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve, has always been my mother's thing. She would have all of her daughters, their spouses (and in my case, ex-spouses), grandchildren, my father and his wife would come, along with the occasional extra in-law guest with nowhere else to go, etc, at her house (this was back in New York, before we BOTH moved this past summer...me to here, and her to a retirement community in New Jersey....hence her downsizing crusade) for a fish feast and present-opening extravaganza. We did it every year regardless of her constant over-cooking of the fish, the drama that would ensue and the annual argument between any two or three random family members. Not that the drama was wanted or needed, it was pretty much a given...because wherever Oompa is, the drama is.
With the exception of me and maybe Sister #2, Oompa breeds drama.
She starts it with her husband, my poor stepfather and both my sisters' father. This man has endured her bullshit for thirty-five years. She yells at him mercilessly, calls him stupid and orders him around. In his old age, he's gotten to the point where he tolerates it less and less, resulting in full-blown arguments over the dinner/dessert table if not during all the preparation. Sister #1 has inherited my mother's flair for drama and in turn, has absolutely no filter on her mouth, almost everything that comes out is an insult. She truly met her soul-mate in her husband, who also has no filter nor a pot to catch HIS verbal diarrhea. As a result, that is an aunt and uncle my kids don't care for. They will say hello and goodbye at family gatherings but DREAD their presence at any one of them. Lately, that secret dread has been made not-so-secret.
Anyway, last year was our "last" Christmas Eve at Oompa's old house, the house we grew up in. That house was sold prior to our move. We all said it last year...next year, we start new traditions. I wanted the Christmas Eve torch and made it known to both Oompa and my father and stepmother and sisters as well as to the wasband and his wife and all of the kids.
Now, fast forward to this year. Oompa's excuses began back in October with the birth of my niece.
"Ohh, you know, she's (Sister #2 and her husband) not going to drive two hours to your house with a newborn in tow...the baby's too small..." (why she thinks a baby won't sleep in the car for a 2 hour ride is beside me....my kids would sleep for six hours as long as the damn car was RUNNING)...but fine, I accepted that. Baby's first Christmas, after all. It was later told to me that they would be going to my brother in law's parents' house for Christmas Eve. So, this sister was squared away. I took no offense to this. I understand it.
"Your sister's (#1) husband is deathly allergic to cats so she won't come for Christmas Eve at your house, either...let's do it at my house in Jersey?" She tried this too. I told her that I'd buy a supply of Benadryl for the asshole but I'm not putting 10 people on the highways on Christmas Eve to accommodate one person (my brother-in-law with the nonstop verbal diarrhea) because he's allergic to cats. I'm simply not re-arranging my holiday plans because he won't come. My sister would come because according to Oompa, they had nowhere to go either. So I told her to bring my sister and nephew and come for dinner, if my brother in law chose to stay home, then that was on him. But then more excuses...she's (my sister) seven months' pregnant and shouldn't be in the car for that long.
Are you fucking kidding me?!
So I finally put my foot down and told her that I was doing Christmas Eve...(which was also J's birthday)...here. That's it. We weren't hauling everyone in our family (to include wasband's because his family consists of the four other grandchildren she knew before the ones that take up all of her time NOW) over to her tiny little house in New Jersey because she wasn't willing to work with us as far as my sister and her husband were concerned.
Now, this was only three-quarters of the family. My father (whom I inherited the drama-free attitude from) is retiring this year. He lives THREE hours away from us. He's not complained once. In fact, he vacations frequently in the area we live in, so he was actually HAPPY to hear we moved where we moved. He's come a couple times since then and stayed over, enjoyed his visits with us. There have been ZERO complaints from him. So, this year, he had but one request. He couldn't come on the actual Christmas Eve because on Christmas Day, he had plans with his wife's family. He has these plans every year, but the drive back from my house to where he (and his wife's family) would be too traffic-filled if he were to leave Christmas morning. So he asked to come December 23rd, have an "early" Christmas Eve celebration here, spend the night, and head home on Christmas Eve (afternoon) so that his visit on Christmas Day would warrant less travel hassle. Makes sense, right?
So I agreed. Oompa was invited for the 23rd as well, and she came on the 23rd. My father's wife is not a cat-lover either. When they arrived, I told them that my son's room (which has a full-size bed) was available for one set of grandparents while the other set would stay in the guest room that my mother has "old-ladied" to the max. They'd hash out those details amongst themselves when they arrived but both sets of parents would have a bedroom with a door, clean sheets, etc. My only suggestion was for my Dad and his wife to bring their own pillows, as the ones in my son's room are quite beat up.
Okay, so Dad arrives on the 23rd. Oompa was already there. My stepfather busied himself tinkering with things around the house - he's got the need to be doing something at all times. Anyway, Stepmother asked Oompa if she could have the guest/Old Lady room because it was the only room in the house completely closed off to cats and she was hoping for no stray cat hairs on her bedding. Oompa, without consulting with my stepfather, said yes, that she and her husband would take my son's room (which really isn't a cat hangout - when he's not home, the door is closed...when he IS home, the door is closed...so it really wasn't too big of a deal) and my father and his wife would take the guest room/Oompa's room.
So they put all their stuff in that bedroom, we had dinner...not exactly a drama-free dinner, because it was also my stepson's (wasband's eldest son's) birthday on the 23rd. My kids wanted to go there for dinner, thus cutting our "fake" Christmas Eve short. Not to mention Oompa screamed at both of them because they expressed a want/need to celebrate their brother's birthday and to have dinner with the wasband, despite my having planned a nice family meal over here. I had to smooth the waters between my son and my mother, stating we would eat a little bit earlier, then they could go join the wasband for a SECOND dinner before we all went there for cake later on. For the record, we usually DO celebrate his birthday on the 23rd but because this year, we had no other time to have my father over and my mother wasn't going to stay for Christmas Eve because that would, in turn, leave Sister #1 with no one to see or nowhere to go, we planned to eat our dinner and go to the wasband's for cake. It was my attempt to make everyone happy, to see everyone for Christmas Eve, a day early. Wasband refused to bring everyone over here on a day that was his son's birthday (and my stepson would NOT have cared, I know this about him...it was the wasband who was being difficult) and to combine birthday and holiday together. So...we made the most of it and tried to squish everything into the 23rd so that everyone else could carry out alternative plans.
But no. No one was happy, including me, because whenever I try and accommodate ANYONE, I end up inconveniencing others.
After cake, there was more drama. My stepfather's boiling point was reached and he hollered at my stepmother, telling her that he wasn't giving up his room. My mother hadn't consulted with him and he was angry about it. He deserved to be able to sleep in the room that he always slept in when he was at my house. He carried on. My stepmother finally threw her hands up and agreed to move everything into my son's room. My mother was embarrassed to no end, and the next morning, she left before my father and stepmother even came upstairs, weeping and saying it was the worst Christmas ever. I did tell her she could stay that night for dinner, stay over until early in the morning, then go spend Christmas with Sister #1, since really, that would make sense...Sis #2 had her in-laws for Christmas Eve, Sis #1 kind of screwed herself because she did have every opportunity to come and chose not to...not my fault nor my mother's, so they could always find something to do or someplace to go...there WAS someone that liked them enough to have them over, I'm sure of it...there was ALWAYS a standing invitation for them to come to my house, too.
That's when she tells me that Sis #2's plans changed. Instead of Sis #2 going to her in-laws' as originally planned, her in-laws decided to bring Christmas Eve to her. The arrival of my niece had rendered her useless in the kitchen, so they were bringing all the food and having the get-together over at her house. Originally, my mother wasn't seeing her on Christmas Eve at all and would be seeing both sisters on Christmas Day. Now, my mother would be attending THEIR celebration, mostly because it was closer to home.
THAT's what offended me.
I was even more pissed off when I heard that Sis #1, the one with nowhere else to go on Christmas Eve, decided to join Sis #2 and her family on Christmas Eve, too, at her house.
Then on Christmas Day, they all went to #1's house.
Meaning, my mother chose to spend BOTH Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with those two, leaving us all here, wondering why we didn't get either day out of her, or any of them.
NOW, I'm pissed off. I had my little meltdown that consisted of ugly crying into the fur of whatever cat I could reach. I put on a smile for the rest of the holidays, and I got through them regardless of how pissed off I am at how everything unfolded.
I haven't had the talk with Oompa, but this year kind of set the stage for next year and all of the Christmases to follow. My youngest sister wants to take the torch and wants to do it at her house from now on. Right now, I'm too pissed, too BAH HUMBUG to bring it up, but when the time comes, I'm announcing that Christmas Eve will be held ON Christmas Eve, at my house, EVERY year. They can come or they can stay the fuck home. I'm not having a repeat of this Christmas. There will be NO fucking rescheduling drama. Not from Oompa, not from anyone else. Yes, I moved, but I've also been to my sisters' houses, their neck of the woods more than any of them have come to ours. It's the same drive, whether they come to me or I go to them, I'm just not bending anymore. I'm not accommodating any of them anymore because they're too lazy or too allergic or too pregnant, or too inadequate in the kitchen, or for whatever other fucking reason they can throw at me. The torch was supposed to come to ME, the eldest daughter, and I'm reclaiming it.
Now, I'm bitterly de-Christmasizing the house in between blogging and binging on Christmas cookies, simply to get rid of the fucking things. I'm probably going to greet 2018 fifteen pounds heavier, but regardless, I'm ripping those fucking shiny red bows off of the doorknobs and handles. I am pulling candy canes off of whatever little areas I've chosen to hang them in. I'm throwing away the gingerbread house that Oompa and my daughter made together on the afternoon of the 23rd, after the yelling had died down. I carried up the Rubbermaid storage bins and am throwing anything Christmas into those bins, to later be stored up in the attic. I don't want to see or hear about any more Christmas bullshit anymore, which sucks because I always LOVED Christmas, the lights, the decorations, the tinsel and garlands, the excitement, the anticipation, the cookies, etc. Now? I'm Ebenezer Capulet and I'm dreading subsequent Christmases. Maybe the hurt/aggravation is too fresh right now; I don't know...but this is new to me. Something's got to give. Changes need to be made. And they are not all on my part. I'm realizing this now - I've made all the changes I can make. I need for them to be adapted to and for others to be willing to meet me halfway.
Anyway. I know in general, Christmas is never simple. Everyone's got something.
I sincerely hope YOUR holidays were better than mine. If they weren't, at least we can take consolation in knowing we have 11 months before the insanity begins again. 11 months to recuperate, before the holiday bullshit ensues again. *sigh* Either way, I TRULY hope that even though there may have been unnecessary stress this season, that we all had at least one thing to be grateful for, one thing that made us smile, one thing that was done or said that we can remember fondly. That, I can say I did have. There was at least one thing, if not a few, that I found myself blessed to have this year, even if it was that I was able to decorate a brand-new house for a holiday I hope I can learn to love and look forward to again. My kids loved everything that Santa brought them, so there's also that. The little things do add up.
Happy New Year, folks. 2018 for the win?