I hate these instances where Christmas just suddenly creeps up on you when you least expect it. I’ve never given so much thought about broken families and how lonely it seems to have just a couple of people to spend Christmas with. Moreover, the people you want to spend Christmas with lives so far away.
I wonder what it’s like to be mum…being so far away from the only family she’s got. Maybe she doesn’t give much thought to it, just in case she starts feeling the loneliness. I know mum, she doesn’t think about these sorts of things, it’ll just make her sad. She’ll just find something to distract her…she’s spend Christmas eve playing cards with the rest of the Filipino community in Papua new guinea…and she’ll try to be happy. She’s a happy-go-lucky woman.
Then I thought, if she was here in the Philippines…dad would be here too. Then I would have to choose between Christmas with mum or dad.
Here’s a story for you guys, what happened over a decade ago…
Dad at the time lived in Pasay in a tiny apartment with kuya and my stepmom. He was still struggling with his job at lasalle as assistant dean, and at the same time, he had just opened up his own accounting firm and was handling business in their bedroom. Back then, when I came home to the Philippines, I’d stay with my cousins at Fairview, spend Christmas there with the whole family and relatives and I used to have the best time with my cousins. In ’99, I came home after graduating from 4th year high school, or 10th grade and stayed at my cousin’s place. On Christmas eve, I was getting ready for church when my dad turned up at the doorstep with my stepmom whom I’d be met for the first time since they got married. He gave me an option, to spend Christmas with them in Pasay over dinner…or spend the usual Christmas at my cousins. I insisted to stay, I wasn’t ready for a change and I wasn’t ready to move on and spend time with dad…I would’ve found it awkward, and I wasn’t ready for it. So my dad and my stepmom quietly left, my brother decided to stay behind. On the way to church, I had that ‘pang’ feeling in my chest, and I felt guilty…guilty cause my dad travelled all the way to Fairview to pick me up, and I had just rejected their offer. It wasn’t every day we got to see each other, and I treated them that way, especially on Christmas eve.
At church, my brother sat next to me, and while waiting for the mass to start…he told me what had happened the year before. He said they were having dinner on Christmas eve, when my dad decides to talk to my brother about us…and how it was sad that we couldn’t be there, my brother at the time could feel the tears coming up, my dad could see that he was sad and that it had felt that he didn’t want to be there, so dad said if he wanted, he could go to Fairview and spend Christmas eve over there. My brother didn’t want to feel the pain he was feeling, so after dinner, he took off and left dad to be with the relatives. As soon as he left, he cried…it was the first time he had felt how broken up our family was.
As I sat there listening to his story, I tried so hard to fight the tears back. And for a while I couldn’t forgive myself for treating them that way. Ever since then, I’ve tried harder to spend time with them, to enjoy what little company and joy we have of each other…cause it’s hard you know…but they’re the only family I’ve got here.
I can’t even remember the last time my family had a proper Christmas gathering. I can’t remember mum and dad being a couple, four of us kids running around doing Christmassy things. I can’t remember any of it. And it hurts to know that there isn’t a little bit of memory in my head to put a smile on my face about Christmas. The lights are beautiful, the paroles are enchanting…Christmas songs make you all giddy and giggly inside…the fact that every street there are Christmas lights…kids running around banging their tins and singing simple Christmas carols. But beyond all that…spending Christmas with a broken up family…it hurts. I know I’m not alone…and I probably shouldn’t even feel sorry for myself. But it’s just once a year right?
But sometimes, once a year seems like a lifetime of sadness just thinking about what should’ve been…