I was up before the sun again but my wife joined me shortly after so we could Facetime the nieces and nephews and watch them open their gifts together and then head to brunch at my mother’s house to open gifts with our in town family.

As much as I love my family and enjoy giving and sharing joy with them, I’m looking forward to a quiet Christmas dinner just the two of us. We’re cooking together, our new holiday tradition. On the menu is lamb again, like on Thanksgiving, but this time with a new recipe, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, lots of wine, and a raspberry mousse cake for dessert. I’m very excited.

But until then I’ll have to feign the holiday spirit. I’m not feeling well still and Christmas day has always been a holiday tinged with some anxiety and sadness for me. Coming from a broken home and a dysfunctional family meant missing the family that couldn’t be there and fighting with the family that was. Coming from poverty meant feeling guilt for whatever gifts you got and shame for your angry over what you didn’t.

Of course, life it different now, but our childhood selves never leave and they never grow and we carry their pain with us too. To that little girl in me: I’m sorry. It gets better. I’m here and this Christmas will be better than one you ever knew with love and warmth and safety. Merry Christmas. I love you.

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