Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Time to Let Go of the Bitter-Sweet Memories of Holidays Past

The Holiday Season is about spending time with the ones you love.
The Holiday Season is supposed to be about spending time with family.
The holiday season is supposed to be a happy time.
By the time I was about seven years old, the holidays were anything but happy.

By the time I was twelve years old, "family" was pretty much non-existent.
What there was of my family consisted of bitter, resentful people, out to hurt each other as well as feel sorry for themselves.
Not exactly ingredients for holiday cheer.
If there was a chance to be with "family" during the holidays there was sure to be drama in store for anyone involved.
There were years where my mother and her husband had put presents under the tree for me and my brother, but when it was time to visit my mother, the presents were gone and we were told "we sent them back because you kids don't deserve them."
There was a year that my uncle had gone out of his way to buy amazing presents for everyone in the family...this pissed off my mother so much that she insisted that my bother and I give them back.
I dreaded the holidays.
As I got older and was able to work (I had my first job at fourteen) I made sure to work every holiday. I would always be the first to take the longest and latest shifts in order to stay away from home as long as possible. Not only did this help me earn more money, it afforded me the freedom to stay away from the family as much as possible.
Christmases were fine when it was kept small...just my Grama, my bother, and me...add anyone else to the mix and it was a recipe for disaster.
By the time I was on my own at seventeen, I was managing a retail store in the Glendale Galleria so I had a perfect excuse why I wasn't going to be with family for the holidays. Coworkers, chatting about the holidays, would be asking each other "what are your plans for the holidays?" I was happy that I had excuses like "I have to work...," "I have to close," or "I have to be back to open at 5am." These excuses were enough to keep people from asking questions about my family.

By the time I was nineteen years old, I was dancing more and no longer working in the mall during the holidays. I was so lucky I always had gigs booked on the holidays. These gigs were always so much fun and we were always too busy traveling, rehearsing, dancing, sleeping, or staying out all night celebrating to ever discuss families. It was a great time!

Performing in the Andy Williams Christmas Show
at The Andy Williams Moon River Theatre
in Branson, MO

During my early years as a performer, both my mother and my Grama had already passed away, my brother was married, I was on my own and had no desire to discuss "family" and "holidays" with anyone.
By the time I got to Branson and was dancing in the Andy Williams show, it was the first time I began to feel as if I was a part of a family.
I was 24 years old.
It was the first time I had the opportunity to really enjoy the Christmas season with other people.
It felt good.
I was surrounded by kind people who knew how to make the most of any situation. They missed their families but also took the opportunity to embrace their "theater family" and share their generous holiday cheer with everyone around them. I learned so much from these wonderful people-many of them I still consider dear friends.
It was during the time I was in Branson that I purchased my first Christmas Tree and Christmas ornaments, and decorated my first Christmas tree. I still use the same teddy bears for my Christmas tree now that I used on that first Christmas.
The little bears I bought in 1996 while in Branson, MO.
Those are still the same ribbons I tied on them to make them look Christmas-y.
This is our Christmas Rosemary Tree today in 2012. 
When the Andy Williams show ended, I moved back to Los Angeles and happened to move into a little apartment above my high school sweetheart's Mother's house. It was during this time that I felt I had been welcomed "home."
Though I still had that "stay away from the holidays" issues and I was sure to have booked a catering job if I didn't get a performing one, I always had Christmas morning at Tina's to look forward to.

When I finally met my wonderful husband Andrew, I wanted to begin our own Christmas traditions.
Enjoying our first Christmas as husband and wife
in front of our little fireplace before heading off to
Tina Heinz's annual Christmas Eve Dinner

I couldn't wait to have Andrew come with me to Tina's house for her wonderful Christmas Eve Steak Pie Dinner.
It was once I was with Andrew that I realized how much I cherish Tina as family. Tina, her son Nick, his wife Bernadette, their children, Bernadette's siblings...these are people I see only  a couple of times a years but  they are people I love more than I even realized until I met Andrew and wanted him to meet my "family." They are my family as much as my brother is my family. They have always welcomed me. They have always welcomed everyone I've cared for. No strings attached. No questions asked.
Tina has been know for inviting random strangers to Christmas dinner and making certain they feel welcome.
One year when she heard me talking about two dance students from Japan who had nowhere to go for the holidays, she told me to invite them. Though they barely spoke English, she made sure they had a wonderful time.
I wish I had taken pictures of all our great Christmas Eve Dinners at Tina's. There is always so much going on, so much eating and talking that I have always forgotten to take pictures.
Tonight, I will remember to take pictures!

As far as traditions go, I know Andrew will work on Christmas morning...
It's totally fine with me...I completely understand him and respect his desire to work.
I will most likely go kayaking.
Had Christmas Morning 2012 all to myself
while kayaking along the coast from Newport Beach to Laguna

It doesn't get much better than this
Had Christmas Morning 2012 all to myself
while kayaking along the coast from Newport Beach to Laguna

Though our Christmases may not be traditional, they are filled with love and laughter. I am looking forward to creating new holiday traditions with my wonderful husband that will hopefully include opening up our home to others who just want to enjoy the holidays in a relaxed and welcoming place.
A picture from our tree last year 2011
We used this pic for our Christmas Cards this year

I have learned that my "family" consists of the people who I love and who love me too. My "family" consists of the people who I like a lot! The people I respect. The people who are respectful. The people who I am proud to have as friends. 
I cannot wait till dinner at Tina's tonight!
Happy Holidays Everyone!


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