It was a different feeling this year for the holidays. They felt pleasant and warm. Everyone seemed light-hearted despite the lack of money from the previous years recession. The all to familiar feelings of obligation and guilt was seemingly lifted. There was something different this year, she was happy.
Emma wasn't exactly a Scrooge. For the longest time she had wanted to love Christmas. The soft warm white lights and deep red poinsettia's with the glitter on top of the leaves. The smiling faces on the little figures of Santa and his elves. Even the nativity scenes that righteous people put up in their yards, seemed less abrasive and beautiful in there own right. It was what Christmas had brought her all these years, that made it much less then a sparkle. The family coming into town, gift giving and "quality-time." It felt like the awkward charade it always felt like. A week before Christmas Emma would tense up and feel more alone then ever. Then the big day. Eating, drinking and forcing small simplicity out of her mouth and racking her brain for any sincere conversation pieces that might be available to her. Then finding solitude in the family she spoke to on a regular bases. Then being shamed for having such a strong relationship with these people. The food would come to save the day, and then the conversations could be turned to chewing and all was well for a short period of time. Until the strange friends of her grandparents came up to make even more meaning less and awkward conversation. It was at this point the self hatred began for somehow creating the social-butterfly reputation for herself.She spied her father from across the room sitting in his chair of solitude and wished once again to be small enough to sit on his lap and crawl into a ball. Be protected by his nature that was pleasant, but direct.
This year was different. Emma had her own. He was strong enough she felt to handle the strange side show that the holidays had been for her all these years. And he made her feel safe. His family's Christmas seemed to run much smother then the one's she had come to know. They were so loving and inviting without the feeling of being stuck in an episode of the Brady Bunch. Emma and Tom had made the decision to split the Christmas Day between the two families. She had not had the pleasure yet of having someone over for this once a year extravaganza, however she decided to role the dice. The day with his family went well, everything feeling so rushed. It's hard to find a sincere moment, when you can't stop looking at the clock. Then they made the trek up to Emma's parents house.
There they all were waiting. There they were all together, eating, drinking and laughing. It was nice. Tom had created this buffer that had taken the edge off conversations that would normally end Emma's letter to Santa asking for a gun with one round. She was smiling really and everything she said wasn't exuded with sarcasm. It didn't really fell like the holidays at all.
On the car ride home that night, who knows it could have been the three whiskey sodas, the perfectly placed Christmas lights or even possibly real feelings. Emma lend over and looked at Tom and said, "I love you" for the first time.
Tom paused for a moment, then quickly reassured her that she had maybe a couple more then she thought and continued to drive. It took her a moment to realize what had happened. Then the all to familiar feelings of forced sentiment, guilt and most of all shame ran though her entire body. Maybe she had had to much to drink, because all of a sudden she thought she might be sick. There was a loose belt shrieking in Tom's truck, but Emma couldn't tell if it was coming for the truck or inside her own head. They made it down the hill and too their driveway.
She was right back to were she started, she was home for the holidays.