The Grinch

By Erin McLean

If you ask anybody who knows me what my feelings are towards Christmas, they will probably tell you that I despise the whole holiday season. Some, including myself, have used the term ‘Grinch’ to describe me, and despite not being green or living in a mountain, I won’t deny this, but I would like to set some things straight.

I do not hate joy or spending time with loved ones, I am present at most gatherings that have an open bar, and I have been known to make the occasional child or senior smile. Nor am I being spiteful because I am single and wish to partake in all the ‘coupley’ activities that run rampant cute-couple-christmas-pictures-29s59cxtduring the holidays. I am spiteful for other reasons; I am perfectly comfortable drinking eggnog with my roommate and dog (as long as there is rum in mine), I would rather make a gingerbread house by myself because then I wouldn’t have to share, and, last time I checked, you didn’t have to be nauseating to be capable of ordering a peppermint latte. Did I say nauseating? Oops. I meant in love. Darn you, autocorrect!

Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking: How is someone who is clearly so hilarious and sociable a hater of the holiday season? I wouldn’t call myself a hater, per say. I am not one of those people who finds it enjoyable to hate things – trust me, I find it exhausting. I prefer to describe my stance as someone who is an avoider of things that I associate with difficult memories. Suffice it to say, I avoid a lot of things and I have gotten quite exceptional at it. This is a skill that, I would like to add, has proven useful to me in numerous other facets of my life, including but not limited to: dating, eye contact with professors, and dodgeball.

Basically, what I am attempting to get at is that I have a plethora of difficult memories to thank for helping me avoid things like after-the-fact communication with various exes. I knew my dad would always find a way to still somehow keep me away from all the bad guys. How’s that for a bright side?

This piece has been in the works for a while. One could say that I have been *ahem* avoiding putting all these thoughts together, and trust me, the art of wrangling angst is even more difficult and Avril-esque than it sounds, but I think it’s time that I finally got it all out there. I have grown tired of the scoffs and eye rolls when people remind themselves that I’m ‘festively-challenged’. I get just as frustrated as my roommate does, if not more, when I tell her I don’t really want to decorate the apartment or go out and buy a tree. I don’t think that anyone understands that I want to do all these things, because seriously, I do. I just feel like I can’t.

And no, random person from my high school who thinks they know my life, this is not just a ‘dead dad thing’, and though I’m impressed that you somehow found this, please go back to pretending that I don’t exist.

Are they gone? Okay, great.

Before that rude interruption, I was trying to segue into the reasons why Isad-dog-1. will not watch Elf with you or help decorate your Christmas tree. So yeah, this is it.

When I think about Christmas dinner, I don’t anticipate an oversized, scrumptious turkey with an assortment of pies for dessert. My mouth doesn’t water at the thought of all the calories I will regrettably consume and I’m not excited to figure out how many plates of stuffing I can stomach.

I think about that one empty spot. The table may be packed, without a vacant chair, but there will always be an absence. Something will always be missing. My mom may have everyone seated elbow to elbow but I was there that first morning when she took out the middle insert of our dining room table. The table may be smaller now, but it’s not fooling anyone. All I see is what is not there.

When I think about Christmas shopping, I don’t think about the excitement of purchasing gifts to give to loved ones. The hordes of panicked shoppers flooding to the already crowded malls do not come to mind. I don’t relish in the satisfaction of finding that perfect something that somehow embodies my feelings towards someone and I could care less about finding it on sale.

I think about those presents we never got to give. All that’s on my mind is that bag of presents hidden away in my closet on that first Christmas when I had all those gifts and no one to relieve me from them. I’ve tried to forget, but one doesn’t simply forget the feeling of complete hopelessness, when one realizes that expectations meant nothing. A part of me, larger than I would like to admit, actually believed that if I bought my dad all those presents, he would have to live past Christmas. Naive, I know, but logic just isn’t a factor when you’re desperately trying to hold on to someone. Sometimes, all I can see is the look on my brother’s face as he sat on my bed with his present for my dad and asked me if I could hide it too. I hid them all away, for both of our sakes, but we weren’t hiding that tomato sauce stained pillow from when we ate spaghetti on the couch after mom told us we had better not spill. No, this time, we were trying to get away from things that cannot simply be tucked away behind our old Halloween costumes and soccer uniforms.

When I think about Christmas decorations, I don’t think about the joyous activity of putting up the tree with all its fixings and decorating the front yard. I don’t envision beautiful, twinkling bulbs hanging from window panes in all their multicolored glory.

I think of that first year when we were the only house without lights because we couldn’t put them up ourselves. We could have asked for help from an assortment of tall neighbours but I think we were trying our best to not dwell on all the things that were missing. I can still see my mom, looking at our house from the driveway, with a look of defeat sketched deep into her face. She turned to me, remarking that, “It’ll take some time getting used to.” Looking back now, I realize she wasn’t so much referring to the lack of Christmas lights on our garage as she was to the empty side of the bed.

When I think about opening all the presents underneath the tree, I don’t get overcome with the suspense of not knowing what I will receive. I don’t spend the weeks leading up to Christmas coming up with theories as to what could possibly be in all the wrapped boxes bearing my name.

I think about that first Christmas and how we all avoided the living room because in the living room, there was the tree, and under the tree, were the presents. I remember not even wanting to look at any of them, let alone touch or open them. Call me a brat, but I had no interest in unwrapping things that weren’t what I wanted and I already knew what was inside them all, or rather, what wasn’t. Every Christmas, I relive the morbid opening of presents between my brother, my mom, and I on that first year. My brother unwrapped both mine and his, leaving no box or bag unopened. It was as if there was a slight chance that he would uncover what he wanted. He never did, and I have never since had the experience of unwrapping a present without picturing his face.

This is all just a really roundabout way of trying to explain why I’m not okay, why Christmas isn’t okay, and why losing my dad was not okay. Nothing about any of this will ever be okay.

So, forgive me if I don’t want to sing Christmas carols or express sympathy when you complain how stressed you are about having to get everyone on your list the perfect Christmas gift. Actually, I am not even going to apologize for this. You should know better than to expect these things from the ‘Grinch’.


Erin McLean
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20 year old Torontonian. Firm believer in using stacked books as furniture, telling people how you feel by writing poetry they will most likely never actually read, and the Oxford comma. The only thing preventing me from spending all of my awake existence in cafés is the fact that I can’t bring my dog inside. Waiting for the day when I meet someone who gives me feelings equivalent to the ones I experience when I am reading my favourite book while drinking the perfect cup of tea.

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