But at Christmas time just listening to the endless “Oh, what are you doing for Christmas? You going home? Where’s home for you? Big family?” conversations takes its toll. So last night I was thinking about all my childhood Christmases always held at my grandparent’s house.
So I go on google earth and have to spend a good twenty minutes trying to find their house, find it and then get disturbed because in my mind it’s red and white, the same colour as when my granddad built it single-handedly in the 1970s after him and my grandmother saved up all their lives to buy their own farm.
But no, the street view photo is from 2011. The house is now beige. My granddad has been living in one of those semi-independent care home/village type places for over two years or so now (He must hate it, this was a man who’s garden shed was a huge barn where you could find anything and where he once built a plane out of boredom). I’d forgotten this because in April it’ll have been four years since I moved to England, and nine years since my parents split up and I only got to see my grandparents a handful of times after that.
This then reminds me that my grandmother died four and half years ago and I never really spent any time with her after mum and dad split up. This then reminds me how embarrassingly emotional my dad was at her funeral and how odd it was that all my aunts and uncles were so composed and calm whilst he went to pieces. I thought at the time “Yeah, play it up drama queen, the will’s already been written”, and spent more time thinking about his antics than about my own grandma finally at rest after a long and horrible battle with cancer.
This, matched with the shitty non-present he sent me (In a reused envelope with two fifty cent cards (my birthday is the 28th), signed in my step-mum’s handwriting), made me realise I didn’t even know where he lived anymore; I forgot he moved to Australia. I didn’t know which part. I can’t remember any of my stepsister’s children’s ages. I looked up their address from the cards and judged him for moving to a new country but moving to the same sort of non-descript beige subdivision he lived in in New Zealand.
Then my brother emailed me trying to organise for my technologically retarded mother what time she should ring me to wish me a merry Christmas. So when she rings in about an hour, as she flaffs about I the kitchen attempting to cook a chicken but really just burning everything, all I can really say is that despite all my complaining and judgements of them, I kinda do miss my family. They’re not perfect, but when everyone else is complaining about theirs and dreading sitting at the table and making posts about how they nit-pick about about their life decisions my extended family never do that, I always looked forward to seeing mine. Sure, they’re all FUCKING CRAZY, dysfunctional, thrice-married, alcoholic, amoral, badly-dressed, compulsive breeders who find it impossible to stay faithful to their spouses but for the first sixteen years of my life I had a solid familial unit and an extended family who were all up in each other’s business. Decisions were made and discussed as one, I had cousins who I adored and aunts and uncles who would jump in front of a car for me, and the idea that eight year later I’m sitting here at the literal other end of the world looking forward to my Christmas day of Mexican food and Battlestar Galactica DVDs is completely alien to what I raised with.
Is this just what happens in one’s twenties or have I for so long run from family after watching it disintegrate so completely that I forever shut myself off from ever being a proper part of one? Not a massive, “OMG what is meaning of life!?” moment but more a “Huh, so this is where I am” realisation.