In my dreams last night I was a little girl and looking through the window at a Christmas tree. In my heart all the old hurt woke up and when I woke up, the longing of the child I was was in bed with me. Yesterday I spent the day with my cousin Michael who is in town for the holidays and we had a long conversation about faith and how the religion of my childhood, The Jehovah's Witnesses, was the anti-faith. Even while I was in it, I hated my religion. The god I was supposed to believe in was an unreachable absence instead of a presence. Even as a child I doubted the existence of a greater power and in my mind mocked the religious around me. I wanted to believe because my family was made of believers and a part of me was scared that when the end of the world came, I would be left in the fire storm and my family would be lost to be forever.
I think of as a child looking through the windows of houses with Christmas trees and feeling guilty for wanting one so badly. I loved the smell of the pine needles and the way the ornaments reflected the flashing lights. I wanted to know what is was like to shake gifts and try to guess what was inside. My parents explained to me why we didn't celebrate but it made no sense to me. I couldn't figure out why the god I was supposed to love and fear was such a mean dude who didn't want little kids to have any joy. I dreaded the holidays every year, knowing that my jealousy and sadness were things I had to keep to myself lest I was found out in Jehovah's eyes and damned to not be in the "new order." I knew all the words to Christmas Carols and sang them in my head.
When as a teenager we finally left the religion, there was enough of the indoctrination left in me to make our attempts are entering a life of holiday celebration painful. I remember receiving gifts for the first time publicly (I always had family members who would sneak X-Mas gifts to me. I would feel guilty and excited about taking them), and how it somehow made me feel dirty and fake. I believed in nothing. I was more comfortable standing outside the looking in, unobserved, on the joy of others.
I still have a little of that as an adult. Or, a lot of it. I love that family members are in town right now and that in the evenings this week we'll go make tamales with my grandmother. But once January second arrive I'll feel more alive and responsive.