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Vincent Caruso
The Irritation of the Holidays

Why do the holidays get so irritating around the house? I know they do for me and I've seen it in the movies. The conflict and tension of the kids coming home for the holidays. I don't think everyone has this problem. When I was a kid, there seemed to be no tension. Now, the kids are having kids and the wee ones can be spastic or cry. The holidays by sheer proximity of all the family in the house and hotels can be a source of stress and anxiety and a host of psychological problems. But this is family?

The family I thought was a haven from the cold cruel world, not a competing set of egos and ids and superegos. Sibling effecting sibling. Why is it all so bothersome that some people want them to end before the holidays begin? I don't know how many times I've heard, "I hate the holidays." We must first define that the holidays begin sometime before Thanksgiving and end New Years Day. The Christmas lights go out right on that day, if you will.

I think as an adolescent I felt a keen sense of phoniness in others who exaggeratedly loved Thanksgiving or Christmas. While there are people who love the holidays and gifts and food and family, there are always the unspoken problems of each other's lives that we shove under the Christmas tree rug, to make everyone happy. No politics allowed. No problems allowed. This could just be my family, but it seems to be the modern season for the reason. We sew on our happy faces, until the others go, and then we gossip about why the son of so-so acted like he needed to be punished half the time, or the uncle seemed so angry when he drank. It's always the details. Did you see how Mom went off her diet, and so on and so forth. It gets all so irritating, so Grandpa watches football the whole time. Brother hangs out with his friends half the time.

And then when the holidays are over, the good and bad things are remembered. But more than anything, for me, at least, I am confused and feel the after-holidays blues. Do you feel that way some years? Like the fact that the family mob took over the house, you hated it at the time, and then zero, empty, no one around, dust. Maybe I'm just at the age where I feel the isolation after everyone has left, like at a party. A party of your closest people.

I propose it isn't the holiday irritations that are the problem. It's the disappearance of them, them being family. That, in fact, modern society has separated by highways and planes what once were tight-knit families. That you lived near your grandparents, uncles, aunts, brothers, and sisters, as well as near your parents. And that the reason the holidays can be so distressing at times is in fact the loss of contact and closeness with each other. That we need to be really close by each other, like in a tribe. We have become so accustomed to being without each other that when we are with each other, the silence of unspoken problems are deafening and irritating.

So while we're thankful for this time, it is only brief. And you can look at that three ways. Thanking God it will be over soon or Thank God we have holidays to spend time with each other, in mild and overlooked irritation, or that if my brother lived down near my sister, and my sister lived near my uncle, and my uncle was close to my other uncle on my mother side, etc., that if the village and tribe lived near each other these certain days we congregate to celebrate with each other would not be so annoying, stressful, or, at its worst—and it does happen—psychologically destructive.

But since life is not like this, I wish you a warm holiday greeting, and wish you health, and safety, and less irritation.

Vincent Caruso currently works and lives in Miami, Florida, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing. His work can be found in Reconstruction, technoculuture, and Prick of the Spindle.

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