The older you are, the weirder Christmas gets
But it’s also an opportunity to celebrate new relationships
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on December 20, 2022.
“OK, Mom, we’ll watch that show when I see you next on Thanksgiving,” I texted my mother and put my phone down to finish some work.
“Are you serious? Or joking?” she texted back.
I stared at my phone, wondering if I’d said something accidentally funny or accidentally offensive.
“Huh?” I responded.
“You don’t want to hang out on your birthday?” she asked me.
I leaned back in my chair and laughed. I’d completely forgotten about my bornday. In 40 of 41 years, that had never happened. In fact, I used to go to people’s homes with a handful of highlighters and markers to draw balloons on November 11 and write “Shamontiel’s Bday” right in the middle. At one point, I was so used to doing it that I’d buy a few family members photo calendars with the drawing already on there.
I love holidays — especially considering my birthday is one: Veteran’s Day.
The “I have everything” age for gift-giving
The only holiday I liked almost as much is Christmas. (I like Thanksgiving solely for the food and hanging out with a select group of family members, but the Pilgrim versus Native American history sorta ruins it for me every year. I have a permanent scowl on my face on Columbus Day too.)
But this was the first year that I was absolutely stumped when my mother asked me, “What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for Christmas?” I have officially reached that “I have everything” age. I cannot think of one tangible item I wanted this entire year that I couldn’t buy for myself. The only thing that would be of use to me right now is money — not even gift cards. Just give me a check and let me do fun things like 1) pay bills; 2) get the Internal Revenue Service to leave this self-employed worker alone; 3) figure out and commit to new ways to make residual income.
Of course parents are able to add onto their Christmas excitement (and scramble to make money) by passing on the torch to the younger generation. Meanwhile, I’ve been voluntarily childless all of my adult years. Not having kids isn’t why Christmas is weirder to me. What really makes it a weird holiday to celebrate is that as you get older, the people who raised you start disappearing.
Loved ones pass away, holidays continue
Christmas week always had three major priorities for me: 1) spend the night over my parents’ house and open gifts at midnight; 2) go to my grandfather’s house the next day and hang out with him; 3) visit my former Girl Scout leader, cracking jokes and filling each other in on what’s been going on in our lives.
I don’t know when I started going to my Girl Scout leader’s house, but I’m assuming it had to be in my college years when I got my own car. This has been an ongoing routine for at least two decades. A month before Christmas, both of them also always wrote me a birthday check for whatever age I was (ex. $30 for age 30) since I was a kid. I started wondering if I forgot about my own birthday because I never got those two checks that arrived on time every year since I was a child.