One of my irritating lite radio stations informed me that we have shockingly few days left until the holiday season begins. In many homes, this means peace toward men and those awful silver trees and keeping spiked cider out of the hands of Uncle Roy. In my family this usually means reservations made at one of two places open on Christmas Day and no products requiring assembly. And that little stocking stuffer we fondly refer to as My Mother Not Talking to Me.
Silence is a tool my family uses with great skill, the Miyagis of my clan passing it down through generations, a craft refined through rigorous training. Mother is the master of this interpersonal device. She has gone as long as six months without talking to me, in the days before email contacting me instead by letter to tell me just what else is so highly irritating about me and my role in The Fight That Started it All (that particular time). At one point, during the tropical storm that brought a panic I had not before known, I stood in my living room in two feet of water not knowing if she would even pick up my frantic call. She did.
But she isn’t right now. We had a terrible fight, the kind that leaves you gasping for breath through tears just as you did when you were seven. The familial routine, fear of months of the silence and my new instinct to treat people better than I have in the past, Goddamnit! prompted me to write a sincere apology within minutes of arriving home. I had written many of those words dozens of times before, knowing full well I would never hear an apology from their recipient. I’m sorry I blew up, that was out of line. This is what was going on in my head at the time, and why I felt hurt by what was said. I have become quite adept at these letters, ensuring it’s about my feelings and not her actions, taking responsibility for my role in The Fight That Started it All (this particular time). I’ll try to be better. I’ll really try. You are so important to me and I love you very much. Her reply: more Kris bashing, more pushing the buttons that make me explode. It has now been six weeks since we last spoke.
Then last Thursday, the email came. Kris, your sister is coming to town. We really hope that you’ll join us when she is here, as we miss you when you are not around and a part of our family.
And it feels like you’re opening a gift on Christmas morning that you just wanted forever and never thought your parents would really buy! Hope exists! Maybe things won’t always be this way!
But you know to keep reading. Because the beauty can never stand alone, the arms never completely open and welcoming. An ultimatum had to follow, a backhanded statement paraphrased in my disappointed mind as we’ll allow you back into the fold if you take responsibility for the Bad, Very Bad and Wicked Bad ways in which you treat us. Because if you fix you, our beloved Kris, and get the help that you really need, all will finally be right with our family.
And suddenly my hot air balloon is hanging precariously from a tree. I’m left standing with surprised friends as the boy I kissed just passes by with a turned head. Brought to my knees by manipulation and a kick in the gut when I was most vulnerable.
And as I tear up in my office I remind myself just as so many times before: this is not okay. This is not an acceptable way for people to treat each other.
Yesterday: a visit with my sister. And the question: what are you trying to prove by not giving in? Just say or do whatever they want you to and move on with it. Nothing changes, Kris. Nothing.
And I want to shake her and my Mom and my Dad and scream until something clicks. Has this black sheep worked this hard on herself, learning to take responsibility for her role not only in this life but theirs, only to reward those behaving badly at her expense?
That isn’t even a real question.