Vote Charlie!

Dad’s Christmas at Mom’s

Posted at age 27.
Edited .

Tonight we had the first of two annual Christmas celebrations, though this year both will be held in the same house.

Back when I was eight or so, my parents divorced. This naturally led to “having Christmas” at both houses, which worked out fine for my brothers and me. Over the next bunch of years, my youngest five siblings arrived, and some years after that, the whole family ended up going with us boys to Christmas eve at Dad’s. I’m not sure now when the parents started getting along again, but it’s much nicer now than what I remember of the years after the split.

After Tim and I moved on to college and got our own places, Dad’s house saw little of us, though my younger brother Ben lived there on and off for years. Grandma also moved in once she was unable to live on her own, and she consumed much of Dad’s time till she passed away two years ago. Finally this past year, Dad moved out and sold the house, and now rents with my uncle not too far from where my mom now lives in Brookfield. So this year, Christmas eve was tentatively to be held at my uncle’s, but it seems that might have been stretching comfort levels a bit too much, so we had it here at Mom’s instead.

I’m always surprised how many gifts he manages for my youngest five siblings he didn’t father, as well as gifts for my two brothers and older sister, and her kid, Maxx. They all don’t mind, though! It is nice to get the whole (or most of the) family together, despite the chaos and inevitable arguing and yelling.

This year was actually fairly tame on that front. It’s been strange being back. The kids seem less energetic, less lively. They all have their own rooms now at this house, and seem to mostly spend their time in their rooms texting on their phones. Some play video games, but it’s not as loud as in the past. I guess it is nice in a way, but I also wonder if they are feeling fulfilled. I clearly don’t spend enough time getting to know their aspirations. Though I guess it goes both ways.

I did hear a fair amount of complaining as always this year. Mom has the usual household stuff to deal with, and this year there is added construction projects in several rooms and cleaning that has taken much of my time this past week. The problems queue is a long one. Some of the other kids have issues with relationships and cars and tickets as well. They are certainly growing up quickly; I just hope they are equipped to lead fruitful and joyous lives. Tristan showed me some visual programming projects he has been working on to create little games, which was pretty cool. Ricky does play piano now, and was in a play, The Music Man, so that was pretty impressive. As far as I can tell, none of the others have things they’ve been working on. I’m not even sure if they read or anything like that.

I hope I’m just being too hard on them, and this is a case of older generations thinking the world has gone all wrong, but really everything is fine. Or maybe I’ve just not gotten to know their passions that nonetheless exist. Mom says they are generally doing better in school since leaving the Milwaukee Public School System. And the older three have jobs. Things could be worse!

Anyway, today I rose to Mom beckoning me to help the carpenter with a toilet installation so he could move on to the utility sink, after which we could put back the laundry machines. My week supply of clothes had been exhausted, so the timing was good. Those projects and cleanup took all day, during which Kim, Logan and Maxx arrived. I was still cleaning the living room floor, and getting soap all over the place, when Dad arrived. I had a break to catch up with Logan about his and Kim’s job and living situation, and we talked about my somewhat ridiculous recent foray into day trading, for which I have Yizhen to thank. And after the food was put out and everyone started eating, I went up to shower and then wrap my gifts, and we had Christmas!

But first, I had the 13 of us — a number that took me a few tries of counting, as Ben was working, and Maggie’s partner Jermaine lives with us now — gather in a circle to have a bit of a workshop.

Yesterday in the shower a strange idea struck me. And frankly, I wasn’t expecting to make it through what I wanted to, but I was pleasantly surprised. I told everyone I had observed they seemingly all have so many problems lately (booing ensued, as they sensed something weird was coming). I said, “You know that thing where everyone says something they are thankful for? (hesitation, but no booing) Well, we’re not going to do that.” I told them we are instead going to name the biggest problem that’s been on our minds recently, and I would start. We managed to get around the circle, with a fair bit of tangential discussion that actually somewhat relieved me, because it meant they weren’t all antsy to get through it and holding the delays against me.

Afterward, I played a section from the audio version of The Untethered Soul, from Chapter 10, “Stealing freedom from your soul.” The excerpt described the phenomenon of never ending “problems of the day” and how it is your mindset, not things in the external world, that needs to change in order to achieve happiness and freedom. After the seven minute segment, I did not initiate a discussion, but some of the kids asks questions, which Logan mostly fielded. Overall it seemed to at least not be totally ignored, so maybe at least they will ponder letting go of some things they can’t control and contributing to a happier atmosphere in the family. The same goes for the adults.

Then we opened presents, chatted, tired and retired. On to the next one!