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Sappy Movies and Sad Memories

The annual reminder of why I hate the holidays...

By Morgan BlandPublished 3 months ago 5 min read
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Sappy Movies and Sad Memories
Photo by Samira Rahi on Unsplash

When I hear the phrase “holiday hijinks”, I think of classic Christmas movies in which the holiday turns out alright despite whatever setbacks may happen. The Grinch steals all the Whos’ stuff but ultimately learns the true meaning of Christmas. Rudolph finally earns the approval of the society that shunned him when he helps Santa Claus deliver the presents on Christmas Eve. Ralphie Parker is rewarded for the various shenanigans he endured throughout the holiday season with the BB gun he wanted. Even in my all-time least favorite holiday movie The Christmas Shoes, two of the main characters lose a mother during the Christmas season, but one is able to help the other.

That movie is a Thanksgiving day tradition for my friend (let’s call her Nancy). Well, I call her my friend, but she’s really the closest thing to a mother I have left. Every year, she invites her family (including her many grown-up children’s significant others and their families), friends, neighbors, and anybody else with nowhere to go for the holiday. We do the usual Thanksgiving dinner, after which the kids go outside to play and the men go somewhere else to do their thing, Then all the women gather around the big tv in Nancy’s living room to watch The Christmas Shoes, a movie with more sap than a maple tree!

Every year we watch The Christmas Shoes, Nancy and the other women vacillate between drooling over Rob Lowe and crying over the sad story. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the couch stone-faced but secretly hating every moment of it. So why do I hate that movie so much? Because I basically lived it. Like the main characters in The Christmas Shoes, I lost a parent during the holiday season, and like the little boy, I had the perfect gift in mind (although I didn’t need a good Samaritan's help to get it).

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This challenge asked for a story about a holiday gathering gone wrong, and it’s a prompt I found very hard to write because all my holiday gatherings in recent memory have gone wrong. Sometimes a fight among family members ruined the day; sometimes it was an illness on the holiday in question. Other times, the inability to obtain a certain gift or food derailed the day. Even the holiday gatherings where nothing dramatic happened still went wrong because I was too exhausted from doing for others to properly enjoy the day myself.

I can pinpoint the exact date that my holidays took a turn for the worse: December 22, 2010. That was the day my dad died in the hospital after a two year long battle with lung cancer. Unlike my mom, I wasn’t naïve enough to expect a miracle, that he’d somehow beat the cancer and come home for the holidays. I knew his days were numbered, but I prayed that he’d at least make it until after Christmas because I knew what would happen if he didn’t.

My mother’s side of the family has a “the show must go on” mentality when it comes to family gatherings. In their eyes, the only acceptable excuses for missing a family gathering are serious illness, scheduling conflicts with work or a spouse’s family gathering, or transportation issues. Other than that, you have to be there no matter what else is going on in your life. I knew that if my dad died before Christmas, my mom and I would be expected to show up, put on a big fake smile, and act jolly in front of the family. And that’s exactly what happened.

Most daughters would be holed up in their rooms crying their eyes out on the day after their fathers’ death (unless they had a truly awful relationship), but I didn’t have that option. The day after my dad died, I was out Christmas shopping. It was up to me that year and every year since then to make sure we had presents under our tree, candy in our stockings, our traditional meal on Christmas Eve, and our obligations to the extended family met.

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Ironically the only gifts I’d had a chance to buy before all this happened were gifts for my dad himself. I bought him a bottle of his favorite cologne, an electric blanket (because he always complained of being too cold), and a few other simple things like books and t-shirts. As soon as I realized he wouldn’t live long enough to use his gifts, I wanted to take them back to the store but my mom forbade me from doing so. She insisted I bring the gifts along and give them to him when I visited him in the hospital for the last time and brought them home with her after he passed. I begged her to either get rid of them or let me give them to someone else because I couldn’t stand to look at them. They were nothing but a bad reminder, and I couldn’t function while being constantly reminded of my loss!

That’s the same reason why I asked my family to not mention my dad during Christmas or give me whatever gifts they had for them that year, and it’s the reason I hate the movie The Christmas Shoes with a burning passion. Watching that story unfold on Nancy’s TV every year leaves me no choice but to think about my own loss, and I can’t let myself give in to grief, especially not when people are counting on me to make the holidays special! If I did, I’m afraid I’d let those emotions consume me like they did my mother, and I don’t want to do what she did. I don’t want to ruin someone else’s festive fun with my personal problems!

I don’t know why I continue to put myself through the emotional torture of watching The Christmas Shoes every year. Maybe it’s because telling Nancy why I can’t stand that movie would be even more emotionally draining than watching it, or maybe it’s because I love spending time with her more than I hate the movie - which is really saying something! Either way, this Thanksgiving I’ll probably be gathered in Nancy’s living room for the annual viewing of my all-time least favorite Christmas movie once again.

Friendship
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Morgan Bland

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