- A little reflection…
Historically speaking, I usually spend Christmas in the fine state of Louisiana. There, I visit the extended family that does celebrate the holiday. Which means that every non-Jewish family member would get gifts, and I would gorge myself on all the food at each house we’d visit. Was this a problem for me? Not really, no. The problem was related more to a sense of belonging than anything else.
Simply put, I was surrounded by dozens of people at any given time. Family, no less. Those moments, especially those of the past two or three years, were among the loneliest I have ever experienced. Countless hours spent on the road, driving at least eight hours at a time, to visit family. People I saw at most three or four times each year. People I barely knew. People who expected me to behave as they do, to share their interests, and eagerly watched you grow, in the hopes that you’d become a man’s man, and meet a beautiful girl to marry.
Extended family is great, and visiting is always fun. But all I can remember of the past few years is sitting in the car, driving from place to place. Always attempting to lose myself in a good book, good music. Anything to keep my mind from wandering, and especially to keep from having to partake in the “male bonding” of my siblings. Ironically enough, leave it to the gay brother to be the only one who doesn’t enjoy crocheting blankets to pass the time on the road. I lost count of how many times I got lectured by my brothers, telling me that I needed to go buy some yarn and get to work. The concept that I didn’t enjoy it was lost on them. We were all of us expected to be the same. To enjoy the same things. And if, by chance, you differed, expect to be ostracized.
For the last few years, I realized more and more exactly who I was, and what it was I wanted (which was generally very different from what they wanted). I took it in stride, though. Last year, just prior to leaving on the big trip, I came out to my family. Support was offered, sort of. As in: “Yay! You finally told us what we already knew. Now, as long as you don’t actually act gay, we’re perfectly okay with it.” I went on the trip one more time. And it was probably one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.
- Fast forward to present…
I just experienced the most wonderful Christmas day of my entire life. I was not surrounded by dozens of family members. But I was not alone. I spent most of the day with my partner. Waking up with him, lounging around all morning together, exchanging late Chanukah and Yule gifts, taking pictures in the hopes of capturing even a sliver of the magic.
Going to lunch at a crowded IHOP. Waiting half an hour to get seated and then enjoy a nice lunch together. In the later afternoon and on into the evening, going over to a friend’s house to enjoy dinner and good company. Robert replete with Santa hat. Me in an Elf hat. Trying to blink away the little silver square that appears every time I blink following the flash of a camera.
Not wanting the day to end. Spending the remainder of the evening with Robert, exhausted but blissful. Looking into his eyes. Losing myself. Falling even more in love. After all the gifts, the activity, the company, the chatter, I know what is the greatest gift of all. Grinning from ear to ear. Literally.