This time of year brings out a myriad of emotions for me.
As a kid I had no patience for surprises. Put a present under the tree and tell me that I must wait for several days to see what's inside? Well I'll just carefully slide under the tape to see the end of the package and then reseal it.
Reminds me of a conversation I had with my boss recently. I told him that I prefer when people are blunt. None of that trying to guess one's way though the minefield; one knows completely what one's standing is. This was in response to being told that others don't like "my attitude." Attitude from my part is a response to a lack of communication or a lack of respect. But then I pointed out to my boss that even if the lack of communication is on someone else's part, the end result is my fault. I'm getting tired of cleaning up other people's messes.
Back to the surprise thing. Surprises are good. Just don't make me wait days, weeks for them. Because I will carefully peel back the tape on the end of the package to see what's in there. This would be why after I turned 11 or 12, my mother stopped putting name tags on her Christmas gifts. This just meant that I peeked at them all of the packages and guessed which were mine.
At seventeen I stopped going to church. (My parents are Presbyterian.) This should not have been a surprise to my parents. I had gone to church, attended Sunday school, been an active member of the youth group for years.
I was 12 or 13 when I first began to question. I asked my mother about those years she did scientific research work. How she balanced her faith with her belief in science. Her answer was that she left her religious beliefs at the door -- much like African Americans leave their cultural identity at the door in corporate America. It made sense to me at the time.
At 17 I decided that I was agnostic. The summers that I was 18 through 20, I would pass the family church every day on my way home from work. The pastor would be out front sweeping the stoop and I would stop to chat with him. I would ask him questions about faith and other belief systems. He never once suggested that I return to the church. The only time I set foot back in that church after age 17 was for his memorial service. Because I had to say goodbye to the person who had christened me but had also respected my choice to walk away from it all.
Christmas? It bothers me greatly because it's a part of that life I've been trying to escape. It's not that I hate people who celebrate Christmas. What gets to me is the lack of respect for those who claim to be Christian toward those who are not Christian. The idea that being American is Christian bothers me. OK. Let's get real. It's the idea that one is white, heterosexual and Christian that is OK. If one does not fall into all of these categories, then one is suspect. And I go into work each day and feel like that if you fall into the latter two, then the first can be forgiven on some part.
I have walked through life feeling like I have to hide away a part of myself. That if I let this part show, I am somehow less.
But there has always been that one person who has been the best at seeing the real me. That person who asked me in October if I wanted to take a peek at my gift since she knew my habit of peeling back the tape. That person who knew that I fell in love with drinking tea at age nine and has seen my eyes light up ever since when I see a tea set. Unlike my father who tells me to pretend to be someone I'm not because that makes everything better. And who would never have bought me this gift because he knows so little about me.
I know that when my mother is gone, I will pull out this tea set and remember all of this. That no matter how crazy she makes me, she knows me so well. Like last year when she gave me a cookbook on Indian cooking. She knows my passions without even asking. And that's a rare thing.
I originally posted this on November 28 but promptly took it down after others suggested that I send the text to my mother. I then became paranoid that with her limited computer skills she would use my words to find this blog. Yeah, I know it sounds all kind of crazy. But then again most of you do not know my mother. Those who do know how unbalanced her presence makes me.