A holiday connection

Like many Canadians, my family is separated by divorce. Since the age of 5, my parents have stayed as far away from each other as possible. Like most divorces, their’s was a messy affair, and it was not unusual for us to be caught in the middle of the fierce crossfire. But time heals all wounds, and in our adult years, my parents have managed to become civil to each other. I would even go so far as to call them friends.

This year, we had all agreed to rent a cottage so all of us could have Christmas under the same roof. It was an ambitious undertaking; my two sisters are married, and both my parents are in serious relationships. Add to that the fact my brother in law’s parents were down from Bermuda, and you had yourself a full house indeed. Still, thanks in large part to the hard work of my sister Melissa, we found a suitable place that could accommodate our needs.

We were all excited to go, but each of us knew the 7 days of family fun could be a gamble; after all, there was no way to know if we would all get along for such a long period of time. But upon our arrival at the lovely dwelling, our fears melted away into wonder. The cottage was bigger and more beautiful than we had imagined. We could not have asked for a more perfect setting.

Before we had left, I had intended on trying to have a private conversation with each member of my family. In the past year, I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about the meaning and importance of familiar bonds. I realized in my youth, I was an unemotional and distant child. I would bury myself in my artwork; the only real way I could express my emotion. As I’ve grown up however, I’ve come to appreciate the love and support my family has given me. Since I could not afford much in the way of material gifts, I thought I could instead try and make a deeper connection with my family, and reflect with them on the significance of our bond.

The conversations themselves were private, so I will not discuss them here. Sufficed to say, I cannot imagine a Christmas that could have gone as swimmingly as this one did. I not only got to connect with my immediate family, but also my new one. And because we all knew the purpose of this trip indeed had been to connect, we were free to express ourselves in an honest and open way. There were many tears of joy, many hugs, and many kisses that were exchanged that week. There was not one person who walked out who was not affected or changed by the experience. It was a Christmas to remember.

The effects are still with me. I have come to realize all human relationships reflect the need to connect in one way or another. We can only truly feel complete and loved when we lower our defenses, and allow others inside. Human beings that cannot trust others, or feel constantly under attack must be lonely indeed. There is a human compulsion to try and bond with others, marred only by our more jaded side. It is a shame that some people can never get past it.

This holiday will stay with me for a long time, and I shall never forget the lessons learned. When someone asks me “what did you get for Christmas?”, I will tell them I was able to share some of the most significant moments and insights of my life. Not a bad present, eh?

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