At the end of the day, a 12-year-old girl should hop off the school bus, smooch her pup, scuff her way down a dusty, gravel lane, and bury her nose in the delicate, pink petals of the wild rose bush, which marks halfway home. Then, she ought to run open arms the rest of the way to the white house with green shudders, letting the screen door slam behind her on the way to an after-school snack. Instead, 10 or 12 steps after the sweet rosy whiff, she’d round the bend and see her dad’s white Chevy Silverado parked in the drive.
She’d approach, absorbing connections and contrasts (it would be years before she would know the word juxtaposition): tires pointed straight away or turned at a sharp angle; gravel gently snugging the tires or spitting a trail behind; horse brays for the special treat or silence in front of the small, make-shift barn.
I learned that sharply turned tires, spewing gravel, and too much quiet meant Dad wasn’t simply home early but had spent his afternoon at the Eagles, playing poker and swilling chilled glasses of Seven and Seven. I considered my options before entering the house, and promised myself, someday, I would choose how my future would unfold.
I approached Christmas like I did my dad’s truck: Do Mom’s eyes betray the smile plastered to her face; are my sister’s lips pinched tight; did Dad take one of his “nerve” pills before he stirred saccharin (or something else) into his coffee on Christmas morning as we opened our stockings? These special secrets (and so many more) stayed locked up tight within our household. Outsiders only saw the lucky upper-middle-class family–happy and healthy.
Now, the holiday season often leaves me mulling over these packed-away memories. Was it my mom’s desire to create a perfect holiday alongside the unofficial rule of NO DRINKING ALLOWED for any adult, juxtaposed to my present-day lackadaisical celebrations where ALL take part in festive libations, which bring these recollections back? Is it scrolling through way too many idyllic posts on social media?
Sometimes it’s hard to find the cookies-and-cheer memories, in spite of the fact my entire family tried to shelter me from those not-so-good times. Also, I’m not quite sure why I choose to bump into some of these memories since they’re so far in the past. After all, I’ve made peace with that time, and there were years of holidays that included sobriety. Perhaps this holiday season was different because I was surrounded by many loved ones. It’s hard not to reminisce, right?
This year, we laughed and shed a few tears as we shared family stories that only my sister and I find disturbingly funny. No one needed to keep vigilant watch of the whiskey or wine bottle on the counter. The day was about as perfect as truth allows. I was mindful of the present and accepted what got me here. Oh, and I stayed the fuck off social media.
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