This morning, I sat in a cramped church pew for the first time in years. It was uncomfortable not just because it was crowded, or because I’m not very religious at all. It was uncomfortable because, regardless of the dozen family members that squeezed in next to and around me, I felt lost, displaced, and awkward.
It’s not that I was unwelcome. My aunt had invited my siblings and me to come see my cousins perform in the little nativity reenactment. It’s not that I was treated strangely or differently. It had been a year since I had seen everyone, and no one had really changed — which is always my biggest fear, living 1000+ miles away from my entire family. But there was some change, nevertheless. This time, however, children hadn’t aged or grown taller. Instead, my aunt and my uncle — the two who had only just before been practically shunned by the rest of my family for assaulting my other uncle — sat in front of me, next to the very same uncle who was beaten. Normally, this would be considered good. It was progress. And while it did make me happy, the fact that my own mother was not among them showed me just how much damage she had done in the short time since she had moved back to my hometown.
We’d (or, rather, my mother) had been expelled from the general family before. Years and years ago. The last time I was here, it wasn’t that way. Everyone was getting along. We’d all go to my aunt’s and have coffee and see the cousins. Now it’s just awkward, because I know every time they see me, they see my mom. My little cousin thought I was my mother at first, due to my different color and styled hair. And, for some reason, that made my stomach turn.
After mass, we all headed over to my aunt’s for coffee and snacks, just like old times. But I hovered in-between rooms, in-between the childhood and adulthood, not knowing where I belonged — if I even belonged anywhere. The kids were upstairs in their own worlds, playing and running around. That wasn’t exactly appealing to me. But the adults were sitting at the dining room table, drinking coffee, gossiping and discussing their absurd views on god in schools and whatever. I tried to endure, but I started getting frustrated and a little bit disgusted. Especially with my grandmother. Usually a beacon of sense and stability in my otherwise insane and shaky family, she quickly conformed to the idea that one of the reasons that led to the Sandy Hook school shooting was in some way connected to the lack of god in schools. They were quick to voice how upset they were over the fact that people were encouraging the use of the term “holiday” over Christmas, as if it’s some huge problem.
Now while I do see it kind of absurd that such a fuss be made over political correctness, especially when Christmas is about the birth of Christ in Christianity, I do not see the problem with being able to recognize that there are other kinds of people in the world who think and live differently, and addressing their holidays — like they demand others do as well — isn’t trying to foster as much alienation as it is trying to foster inclusiveness. This may not have been done exactly the right way, but as impartial as I try to be, I can see the good intentions behind it. Some people just like being the victims, the martyrs. It’s almost like they want to be persecuted. They are just looking for reasons to be angry.
Atheists will be quick to let you know that Christ more than likely wasn’t born in December on the 25th, that in fact the church moved it there to overlap and overtake a popular pagan solstice holiday in hopes of integrating others into their belief system. That may be true, and they have every right to inform people, but there comes a point where all of it becomes so obnoxious, from each side.
No one is trying to take Christmas from you. Christmas is not sponsored by the government. Christmas itself is not a right. The freedom to believe in Christ and celebrate his birth is, though. But so is believing in Yahweh and celebrating Hanukkah. It is the government’s job to be secular. Most founding fathers were not, in fact, religious, so saying the Constitution or the nation was built on Christian values is moot.
Here I was, ranting about feeling out of place in family, and I end up with a silly political/religious sermon. I apologize. It just bothers me.
Anyway, I suppose in a way it ties into just how far I’ve drifted from the people I once identified the most with. And I felt pathetic, because even though I was so happy to spend time with the little ones, I wanted nothing more to just hop on the next plane back to Georgia. I’ve been wanting that for the past few days, actually. And I feel like such an asshole. I’ve cried and complained about how much I’ve missed my family, how I’m devastated they’re all growing up without me. But a good percentage of the time I’ve been here, my temper and my patience have been so short; the lack of privacy and of my own space have eaten away at me. And one of the few people who I relate and connect to — my boyfriend — will not be visiting, and I feel like I’m dangling without him next to me for support. I know that’s unhealthy and weak, but it’s the truth.
How more pathetic could it get? Oh, right. My beloved bird is having seizures daily. I don’t think he’s going to be around much longer. And now, my mom wants me to take him back with me, when I begged and tried to get him when he was healthy. Yay me.