Do you know the feeling when some thought, usually a guilty and bad one, creeps into your mind but you’re not ready to accept it yet? It flits in and out and by the time you are ready to accept the thought, grab it, and call it your own, you’ve pretty much learned the lesson you needed to learn. The lesson may be learned at that very second, but for me, it’s usually not owned until it has been written and most probably read.
Our whole Christmas vacation in Aruba was first discussed over a year and a half ago. Times were tough, I had been very sick with numerous illnesses, one after another, for over a year and a half. Our marriage had been in trouble the whole summer. My husband and I were miserable both together and alone and I felt betrayed. The key factor that used to hold us together was trust, but I felt that trust was broken. Verbally. At that time, I remember vividly asking my mother “if this all works out and we can make it through together, do you mind if the four of us go away together over Christmas break?” Knowing what we all were going through, and the fact that the children were very upset, she reassured me that it would be fine: “You definitely deserve it! ”
That was then, a year ago. After getting through the summer and my husband and I working our problems out, again, I asked my mother if it was still ok. “Yes, she said, definitely.” What I had forgotten to do and this was totally my mistake was share these plans with my sister which was my fault. We talked and I apologized and she was gracious.
Going to Aruba had been a yearly discussion since my seventeen year old son had been invited a multitude of times to stay with his best friend at his best friend’s grandmother’s house in Aruba. Huge house. Ok, mansion. We had never seen it but all of my son’s other friends had been there with their families. Tim was not able to go several times because we all had plans and, I didn’t want Tim to be away without us at Christmas. It just never felt right.
The tradition of Christmas with a Jewish family is an unusual one. My parents raised us with no religion, other than culturally Jewish, but we celebrated Christmas. When I was very small I remember having a Christmas tree, ornaments; Santa Claus, reindeer, the stuff that dreams are made of. The only real tradition in our family was that we spent it together. It wasn’t easy all the time. People would fight, or act immature, gift-giving and receiving became an angry or sullen event at times, my sister would think we gave too much or not enough but the 4 cousins were together and that, at the time, seemed enough.
It seemed to be enough until 8 years ago when 6 days after Christmas on New Year’s Eve, my dad passed away. It was also the day before my parent’s wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day. After that, nothing was the same, ever. Christmas for me, and probably others was absolutely depressing and horrible. I wanted to move Christmas to my house but apparently there was no wiggle room for any other alternative. In my estimation that was a major mistake.
Once my sister and her children went on a cruise paid by our mother but in the end, my mother and brother in law decided not to go. My family stayed behind to be with our mom on Christmas, we didn’t want her to be alone. Surprisingly, she was furious at our decision. It was another one of the countless, “we want to be thoughtful and be with you actions” that always seems to blow up in my face and I become the evil one. Part of my life back then. Part of my life when I accepted it. Not anymore. It was a pattern and I tried to crush it with every bone in my body. Progress.
The Fessler, then Fessler-Bernsein, then Fessler-Friedmann Christmas tradition in our family, is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube with a container of vanilla icing; the best part. This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we finally passed down the tradition of icing the cinnamon buns down to our children many years ago. We also had scrambled eggs and bacon, hard rolls that now have turned to bagels and presents; too many presents or too few, name in a hat, no way. Just for the children? My sister and I were jealous, after all, we were children too. But not having the sound of the Christmas bell ringing in the holiday by my father was key. One can’t replicate a tradition if a big part of the tradition is not alive anymore. But so it went….until this year.
This brings us to the present when we were scheduling our flights, the four of us, to go to Aruba. The grumbling started gaining momentum and soon my mother was hysterical trying to make us cancel it at the last moment and “guilting” us beyond belief. It wasn’t fair to anyone but when feelings are hurt, fairness flies quickly out the window along with the early morning singing doves?
So, we are here in Aruba, having a lovely time, entitled to have a good time after my health problems, our marital problems and now my husband’s unemployment status. We had paid for the trips many months ago and we decided we did not want to cancel; it had already been paid for. Our son, Tim, is staying with his friend Aaron in his grandmother’s mansion and Jillian, Dan and I are staying at the Marriott and enjoying ourselves immensely. The sun is hot, the breeze is beautiful and the water, my most beloved element, is light blue and sparking. Everything is great here. Except it isn’t.
I miss Tim. I actually am a little upset, sic, hurt, that Tim wants nothing to do with us. Kind of like my mom probably feels about me? I have no idea. These are the lessons we are born to learn the hard way. Tim is probably doing all sorts of things I probably don’t want to know about living in the Bachelor Pad with Aaron, aka “the pool house.” He stopped by unannounced once with his friend to say hello because his friend’s dad gave them a mini-lecture on how it would be nice to see your family on Christmas Day.
Ouch. These are the lessons we are born to learn the hard way. I do mind that my son is acting invisible, a little arrogant, and very much cool and distant. The irony is not lost on me. His age, 17, is not lost on me We gave him permission to go and to have fun, not fully thinking that he would, to the extent of not even sending an e-mail or picking up the local phone to say hello. It burns and it stings and I feel like a complete idiot. What did I THINK would happen? Well, actually, not this.
We try to teach our children good lessons, life lessons. What have we taught our son about this trip? Yes, we felt he was owed this vacation, yes, my mother said we should go, yes, we love it here in all it’s beauty…….but the truth of the matter is at this moment, I feel like I want to cry. I want to cry as my disappointment as a mom and begrudgingly as a daughter who now feels just the tiniest of guilt.
The Christmas tradition in our family, which is the most traditional thing we do, is that we have store-bought, refrigerated cinnamon rolls that come in a tube. This has been a tradition since my sister and I were children and we have passed down the tradition now to our children who now frost the cinanmon buns. It really isn’t anything much, the store buns are the same every year, every year we fight about how crispy the bacon should be or how many presents we should buy. But, we’re together and while I love being on vacation, anyplace warm, watching the four cousin battling over which cinnamon bun to ice and how much wouldn’t be so very bad. We learn from these experiences. Whatever goes around, comes around, the very definition of karma. It bites.