I wish I could say I made the decision not to do anything for Christmas this year, but the truth is that I no longer have a place to go after becoming orphaned in early adulthood. Then Shirley’s divorce broke the tradition of visiting her family when I first moved to Ottawa, and three years of a global pandemic haven’t helped either.
Heather could have gone home on Christmas Day but decided to stay with me, knowing it would be especially cruel to be alone when everyone else is exchanging gifts and enjoying the company of others. I’m glad it was something she could intuit; telling someone to be apart from their loved ones for my sake is something I would never do.
The photo we used for our Christmas card this year, taken when we went shopping for my birthday. Her Oma, who’s too old to have a computer, let alone a social media account, always appreciates a physical copy.
She spent so much of her precious time and energy buying/making thoughtful presents that I felt she deserved all the credit, but it was important to her that people knew they were from both of us though, so I acquiesced to her request of “+ Jeff” on each card. It was a gift itself that didn’t go unappreciated.
Even though I’ve come to shirk the obligatory consumerism of such occasions, she gave me a stocking stuffed with goodies from my favourite chocolatier, some luxury teas, and three pairs of classy socks to go with with the new pants I got earlier this year. It helped make up for the fact that I couldn’t accompany her on her trip home the next day. I’ve been anxiously waiting to introduce her mom to more music and meet Max’s new dog, but I’m still too damaged to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time before seductive thoughts of eternal peace creep to the front of my head and I can no longer breathe.
Among the presents she brought back was more Moselland Cat Riesling that will likely become a custom ever since Max spotted a bottle in a store. Her dad, whom we presume is on the spectrum, includes the same things in each of the kids stockings every year — cheap floss, mint Tic-Tacs, a bottle of lock de-icer, vitamin D tablets, and winter clothing that would be too big for Shaq. I’d normally feel hurt if someone kept thoughtlessly giving me things that I have no use for, but in this case it’s a nice reminder that I’m part of that family, even when I’m not there.
I finally had the opportunity to join Trolley and Steph at their cottage, after a drive of roughly three hours through scenic country roads. I didn’t even realize how close we were when we passed by it on the way to the farm 17 years ago, although it may as well have been 17 centuries. How strange it is to think of those as my salad days when I had already experienced enough heartache and trauma for a lifetime.
They call it a cottage but it’s really a house when there’s a full kitchen, laundry room, several guest rooms with queen-sized beds; even glass shower stalls.
Since then, I’ve loved and lost and loved again, taught myself to play guitar, and gained an unhealthy obsession with canine companionship. If you asked me back then where I would picture myself now, I might have given you a few guesses, but none would have been close to correct.
Continue reading “like it’s a holiday”…
My first year of university was spent on the 15th floor of a residence on campus, the same summer Pearl Jam’s cover of Last Kiss became a radio staple for over 35 consecutive weeks. Unsurprisingly, it started playing in the elevator when I was once making my way to the cafeteria with a floormate, who winced upon hearing Vedder’s gravely voice and did her best to talk over it, explaining her dislike of sad music.
I was taken aback. Depressing lyrics and minor chords were an enormous comfort to me. As the sole child of a dysfunctional home, the only thing I could turn to when my parents started raising their voices at each other was a set of headphones and Discman, and I’d been hunting for sad songs like a ravenous stray ever since I was old enough to appreciate music.
The same became true of upsetting movies with difficult scenes. Moments of violence, tragedy, and grief would leave me glued to the screen. I was fascinated with the way people processed their pain (or didn’t). War films were particularly apt for this, as relentless years of depression caused me to relate to any soldier with a thousand yard stare. That glazed, expressionless face spoke of a person who had long given up on making sense of the countless horrors and endless suffering they had gone through.
The lights are on, but nobody’s home.
Continue reading “dead man walking”…