This week, after months of silence, upon receiving an invitation from my oldest sister, I put a veritable polecat amongst the pigeons by announcing to her and the family that I wouldn’t be there on Christmas day.
And as my Guilt and Anxiety rose, and dammit, despite trying really hard, I ended up justifying why and that I was going to be doing some volunteering for a charity instead. I also suggested that I would try to be up later in the week if I had the petrol money when my other sister and her brood will be there.
A curt ‘Yes, that would be fine.’
Oops. Guilt and Anxiety are rudely shoved to one side as Anger, Indignation and Resentment are now in da house.
After all, it’s not like they don’t know about my financial hardship, no matter how much they’ve closed their ears to it, and the fact of the matter is, I just can’t afford them, let alone all their presents, cards, goodies that I usually pack my car with as I plan my pilgrimage oop North come Christmas eve.
So let’s break it down:
WHEN I NEED THEM, they ignore my subtle cries for help, compare my situation to ‘being a bit hard up’ and tell me that ‘we’re all struggling’ then lie low in the hope that they never have to offer financial aid, let alone a temporary roof above my head. As if I’d ever accept it, given what they did the last time I had to stay at theirs.
Here’s a lovely, heartwarming Christmas story for you.
After a few weeks of staying with my sister some years ago, on leaving their homestead, I was presented with a bill. You know, like one you’d get if you stayed at the ‘W’ Hotel or something except this was scrawled on exercise book paper. That said the only thing missing was the gratuity. I was billed market rate for the room, food, share of bills, council tax, old chipped mug that I broke, you get the picture? Pretty much everything you would charge a complete stranger if they were renting space from you. Except I was her younger sister, who had arrive back in the country post breakdown, didn’t have a penny to my name, and had only just secured a job and accommodation. After that, things got even worse, with more financial demands and a total relationship breakdown, but sorry, I digress….
BUT come Christmas they expect to be able to dig me out, like a dusty old Christmas tree decoration, plonk me on the sofa, shove a paper hat on my head, prop me up at the table, drag me out to some hideous local carol concert, force me to watch an equally awful (no, actually it was even more excruciating) pantomime and then 3 days later, bid me farewell and neglect me for another 12 months?
Before you wag a stern finger at me and open your gob to lecture me oh my lack of good cheer, I’ll openly admit that it’s not all bad.
- I do love to see them.
- Christmas Day is usually a lot of fun.
- The food, both mine and theirs, is great.
- I even occasionally get a decent present or two, though never anything to get me really excited. To be fair, I think you need be passionately loved, or at least fucking someone for that privilege.
So am I passive aggressively using this as an opportunity to hurt them for not supporting me in my hour of need?
Well I can honestly say, hand on heart, ‘No.’
Right now, my financial situation is so precarious that, if the money is not in my current account, I don’t spend it. I stay in, eat from my freezer/cupboards and wait until my benefits arrive, so unless I want to hasten a move to a cardboard box underneath the arches for the New Year, I cannot risk buying presents, food and goodies for 13 adults and kids, something I have done for decades without a murmur of complaint (well, maybe one or two) even though, until recent years, I rarely got so much as a box of Ferrero Rocher or something ropey from the Boxing Day sales in return.
Incidentally, does anyone else think FR are pretty shit? I think they suck and would personally sooner receive a six pack of bog roll than cheap chocolate, so the Ambassador can stuff them up his ring piece one by one (foil on or off) for all I care, but I’m digressing again….
THEN my other sister comes back and says she won’t be there before New Year so I wouldn’t get to see her anyway.
Suits me bitches. I’ll spend the petrol money on M&S Christmas food and hole up with the cats for the week, so ‘Ho, frigging Ho’ to the lot of ya.
I know that despite all this, my family are feeling let down, and some how think they are justified in being frosty with me because I’m not playing ‘Aunty Presents’ this year, but fuck, what do they actually expect me to do? Get into more debt? Plus i can do without any more unexpected bills right now, especially those written by hand on scrap paper.
I, in my way, am sad too. But to be honest, it’s about time.
Aunty C (my counsellor) has been nagging me for years to start claiming back Christmas, making my own traditions and hosting my own dinners, because she, like me, fears that I’ll be going to my sisters forever, and in the end, I’ll be sat on a commode, dribbling into a plastic bib in between courses, dining on a lunch that has been put through a blender and spoon fed to me, then propped up in front of ‘Call the Midwife’ swimming in sherry, whilst the young ‘uns party, in the hope that I quietly pop my clogs and remember their kindness in my will.
Ugh. An aged, incontinent, pathetic spinster Sister is one ghost of Christmas future that I’d sooner not ever have to encounter.
Maybe my future Christmases will be different every single year from now on. Maybe I’ll host. Maybe I’ll go away. Maybe one day I’ll even spend the day in bed with a lover (HAH!). What I can’t do any more is cling to my family and sit on the kid’s table just because I don’t have a life of my own.
What I will always do from now on though, is something for a homeless charity every year. Because, right now, the ghost of Christmas Present still occasionally put his bony fingers on my shoulders and breathes icy air raspily in my ear as if to remind me of how close to destruction I have come, and if I ever get out of this situation intact, I will never, ever take having my own home for granted again.
My sisters’ kids are nearly all grown up now, and already are more mildly indifferent than excited at my arrival, which is how it goes when kids grow up, and how it always will be. Nothing wrong with that. Plus they all get an alarming number of presents money and vouchers, so I’ll be amazed if they even notice the absence of either myself or my offerings.
And to requote Nanny McPhee “When you (sort of) want me and no longer need me, then I have to go. It’s rather sad, really, but there it is.”
So I’m standing firm on this one, for all our stakes and stepping away from that table of my own volition once and for all.
Always leave them wanting more, that’s what I say 😉 And let’s face it, in this supposed time of great austerity, where the divide between the ‘have’s and ‘have nots’ is ever wider and where the desire for more and more ‘stuff’ brings out the worst in everyone, isn’t it time to be grateful for what we already have and not only for one day?