I can’t stand most holidays. The idea of having to sit around with folks I spend most of the year trying to avoid out of social obligation always sets me on edge. Is my grandpa going to scowl at me from across the table because I don’t want to hold hands during grace? Will my relatives act mortified when I express an opinion that doesn’t fall in line with theirs? Is someone going to ask about my writing the way you’d inquire about a toddler’s finger painting projects?
Yeah, probably. So, why do I enjoy Christmas so much?
It has everything to do with my grandmother, Leona Paciulli. This time of year was incredibly important to her. Less about her devotion to Catholicism and more about her dedication to family and friends, she went out of her way to make sure you knew she cared. To her, it didn’t matter what path you were on or if you didn’t agree with her on everything. One year, when a close friend of mine was on the outs with his family she bought him clothes and set an extra chair at the table for him on Christmas day.
That was who she was. She put others before herself. Her actions not only mattered to her, but she took the time to consider how they affected others. Community and family meant the world to her, and she went the extra mile during the holidays to extend that love and warmth even to strangers.
So, the simple answer is that my grandmother loved Christmas and it reminds me of her. Christmas lights trigger memories of sitting shotgun, while she wheeled the gargantuan canary yellow Chevy Nova through neighborhood streets, cup of hot chocolate in my lap. Opening presents reminds me of when she would sit quietly and smile while we pulled gifts out from under the tree because all she wanted was to see some genuine joy on our faces.
My grandmother took custody of me while my parents struggled to figure their shit out, and stuck with it even during my teen years—looking back at latter I think she should have left my ass on the corner of El Cajon Blvd with a FREE KID sign hung around my neck. She passed away in 2006, and I’m always going to carry the weight of things I wish I hadn’t said or hadn’t done—that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Every December, though, I try to curb my whiney cynicism in order to reach out and embrace the world in the way my grandmother used to.
It’s the least I can do.
Anthony Trevino is the author of the New Bizarro Author Series 2015-16 novella King Space Void published by Eraserhead Press, the horror comic Fruition, and also made an appearance in the True Detective tribute anthology Walk Hand in Hand into Extinction from CLASH books.