I had never felt it before, the crushing holiday anxiety that my friends complain of. I never understood why people dreaded presents and food and seeing family.
I do now.
My mother and father grew up in small-town southern Illinois. They were high school sweethearts. Their childhood friends, her siblings, and and many of his siblings still live here with families of their own. These people have known each other all of their lives. Because of my father's job, my parents left southern Illinois right after marrying. They always intended to return "home."
It has never been my home. These have never been my people.
My father shook me awake this morning by father at six. I groggily dressed, brushed my teeth, and fell into the car to sleep for another three hours. We arrived in Carlyle before noon.
I hugged and smiled and excused myself to shower. After cleaning up, grandma told me about her cataract surgery and their new dog's personality quirks and the headaches involved in remodeling the bathroom. Then I started to tell her about work and my boyfriend and my recent vacation. Her eyes glazed over, then wandered anxiously. They settled on my mother.
"Julie? When do you want to eat?
And she got up to use the bathroom.
Two hours later. We are eating Thanksgiving dinner.
My aunt Judy says, "Jennifer, your hair is lovely. What do you do to it?"
"Layers and a good round brush. Some light styling wax when you're all finished helps too. Do you want to grow yours out?"
She looks at me absebtly. "Were you saying something, dear?"
My uncle John, aunt Nancy, and cousins Andy and Adam arrived not long after we ate. None of them looked at or said a word to me or either of my sisters.
I feel an intense longing for this place and these people to be the familiar home and loving family that they are to everyone but me and my sisters...
I resent that I am looked through and ignored while my older relatives take an active interest in my cousins' jobs and love lives...
I am angry that I had to get out of bed for this.
I feel guilty for feeling this way.
It should be noted, however, that grandma's new dog is wonderful company.