December 19, 2014 by rebelwithalabelmaker
I love Christmas. So much. The fact that I believe in neither Jesus nor Santa (not in the literal way I was taught when I was much younger) doesn’t stop me. We have just done what people have done for hundreds of years… taken the stories and made them a part of who we are today, in this moment. There are so many nativity stories…
The year I fell in love with your Dad, it was a secret. For a number of reasons. The only people who knew were Gary, Maureen, and I. We were still deciding what to do. With Maureen being so sick for so many years, it was acceptable for your Dad and me to fall in love, so long as he divorced Maureen first. We were struggling because we didn’t like that idea. And we didn’t like the idea of spending our whole lives pretending not to love each other, either.
I remember Christmas that year so clearly. I remember sitting on the couch in my parents’ house, surrounded by lights and singing and carols, with everyone laughing and carrying on with all of our traditions. No matter what you bought him, Uncle Mike would try it on—usually over top of his current outfit. That year, Grandma Sandi bought him pink polka dotted women’s underwear. You can guess what happened next.
I felt broken-hearted that your Dad couldn’t be there—part of all the joy and fun. There is something about Christmas that makes it extra hard to be apart from the people you love.
In our culture, there are lots of people who love someone and can’t tell the truth about it. We call that being “in the closet”. This time of year can be very hard for people who are in the closet and have to hide part of who they are from their families. Or for people who don’t have families at all. Or for people who have families, but their families are broken.
That’s why I love the image of the Mom and the Dad and the baby in the manger. The story we tell, the story that has lasted for hundreds of years, is about what happened in that stable. A few steps away, there were hotels filled with people who are the regular kind, but what everyone remembers is this little family and the strange characters who came to visit them. Wise people, and shepherds that protect and care for animals, and angels, and all kinds of people gathered with them in the beautiful home that they created out of love.
A family that you create out of love with whomever will stand beside you is called a “horizontal family”. And the people in that family often look a little mismatched, like in the picture. Every year when we put up the lights and sit by the fire and listen to carols, I look over at your Dad and I am filled with joy that every Christmas I get to be with him. I never dreamed it could be like this.
And, in that same moment, I also think about “closets”. I think about all the kinds of closets—I imagine all the ways in which people have to hide who they are or some parts of their lives from the people they love. The baby in the picture grew up to do many things, and inspire many people. Everywhere he went, he talked about love, and about how we treat one another. If he were around today, I believe, it would break his heart to think of people separated by closets. Thinking about his words makes me think about who I want to be. I want to be somebody who stretches my mind to accept people who are different from me—in the ways that are easy to accept, and the ways that are a struggle.
This is why I love the red and green lights we put up at this time of year. Red and Green are opposites on the colour wheel—they are very different from one another. But when they stand side by side, they fill up our house with the feeling of family and holidays. If all the green lights were still in the closet, it would not be beautiful like this.