The ghosts of Christmas past are memories that every human experiences, not just Scrooge. I’m no different in this regard and find myself especially haunted at this time of year but with good memories.
I grew up in a small family with one brother but my extended family consisted of many aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of which spent Christmas together in one way or the other. The majority of our Christmas get-togethers were at my Uncle Robert’s home (he was also called”Red”). My older cousins, Sandy and Robert, were part of the parties, and often my Uncle Tom, his wife Wilma, and their two daughters, Mary and Jane, attended, plus my Aunt Marge’s family too. Occasionally, Grandma would visit from California. My brother, father, and mother were also in the mix.
Because these family-centric occasions were part of my childhood, I grew up with expectations for my own life. As a baby boomer, I watched my parents and two of my uncles have long marriages, children, and grandchildren. My Uncle Red’s descendants with his son, daughter, and grandchildren, are still having full family Christmas gatherings. How do I know? The social media platform of wonderful Facebook. On the other hand, my brother, too, married, had children, and grandchildren, and remains in a close-knit family who spends the holidays together.
Then there is me. Divorced and alone. To quote that famous line from the movie The Holiday, “Loner, loser, and complicated wreck.”
My life has not turned out to be the picture-perfect ending as I hoped. I’ve been married twice – the first ended because my husband committed adultery; the second because of my husband’s uncontrolled temper and lack of love. We had one son together.
My son is divorced now from his wife, but we have visitation with his son this Christmas Day. My granddaughter lives with her mother, who was born from another relationship. I’ve yet to spend any quality Christmas time with her as she lives out of state. I’m in a fractured scenario that often leaves me alone during the holidays.
Naturally, the ghosts of Christmas past return to haunt me every year. The picture above shows me at fourteen years of age in 1964 during Christmas at my uncle’s. Apparently, I was deep in thought perhaps contemplating my future. As I contemplate it now, my life has not turned out as I thought it would. The hope of a long marriage, more than one child, happiness for my son, and more grandchildren have alluded me at every turn. When Christmas rolls around every year, I tend to slip into the doldrums, remembering the happy childhood of family that is far from the reality of today. If those positive and pleasant memories have not left me as I turn 69 next month, it reminds me how much the ghosts of Christmas present make an everlasting impression upon you as a child. I’m sure the ghosts of your Christmas pasts remain with you as well.
As I enter the last chapter of my life, I struggle with regrets, disappointments, and skepticism about the ghosts of Christmas yet to come. None of us can change what has transpired in our life. We don’t get to rewind and do it better until we get it right. Much of my poor choices in life stem back to my early childhood sexual abuse by a neighborhood boy. It marked me for life but I’ve never played the victim because of it. Instead, I’ve recognized and accepted the effect it had upon my psyche and the paths toward poor relationships that I chose. Perhaps I was doomed from the very beginning for unhappy ghosts of Christmas yet to come.
This year as you watch your children and grandchildren enjoy the holidays, do whatever you can to make their memories happy ones. No one knows what lies ahead in any of our lives, and since ghosts don’t normally show us the future to come, we can only live in the present. Cherish your husbands, wives, children, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren!
Merry Christmas to one and all.