Coping with the Holidays

This week has been full of high and lows for me. Of course, I’m relieved to be done with the fall semester. And on Wednesday, I had an amazing conversation with one of my professors who has become a mentor to me. But I’ve never been good with completely free, unstructured time. Yesterday, I didn’t leave the house all day and wasted my time on the Internet. Though I thought I needed a “relaxing” day like that, it ended up making me feel sad and lethargic. Without my work to distract me, I am faced with the reality — this holiday season will be one of the hardest in my life.

My professor told me to write from the heart more, to be raw and unfiltered. This is me taking his suggestion.

This will be the first holiday season I’ve spent away from my family in a dozen years. Well, I should revise that — it’s the first Christmas at my mom’s instead of my dad’s. I’m glad to keep my mother company for the first time since she and my father separated, but I’m currently living with her, whereas I haven’t seen my siblings and my father since the summer. You might think that it’s not a very long time, but my siblings are little precocious middle schoolers and they always sprout a foot in between my visits. Moreover, they’re currently living with a psychopath and her new boyfriend while their father is halfway across the world in China. I can’t imagine how they must feel, and they certainly don’t express their emotions well. They’ve learned that from their two emotionally stunted parents.

I’ll send my 12-year-old brother candy canes (not the peppermint kind) and my 11-year-old sister a Year of the Horse stuffed animal, but I long to physically be with them. Each year, my presence is what provides their dysfunctional family any semblance of normality. I always spend weeks shopping around for the perfect gifts, bringing them down with me in my luggage. When I arrive, I’m the one who forces my dad to put up the Christmas tree. To my very Chinese father, I’m the one who explains the American traditions such as opening presents on the morning of Christmas day. Last year, my dad finally bought and wrapped gifts beforehand and it almost brought tears to my eyes. Before that, he used to tape an envelope with our names on it, full of cash, to the fake fir tree. This year, with neither my dad nor me present, there is a 0% chance that the Pistol Lady (my ex-stepmother) will celebrate the holidays.

Of course, even when my dad and I are both there, it’s no walk in the park either. Last year, days before I arrived, I received a call from my father, telling me that his wife AKA the Pistol Lady had served him with divorce papers. He was as shocked as I was. Though their marriage had been in name only for years, she was the one who had threatened to shoot him with a pistol if he mentioned divorce — hence, her pseudonym! Upon my arrival, I realized I’d stepped into a battleground. That holiday season, I waited outside a shady store while my father bought surveillance equipment. I comforted him when he couldn’t sleep all night because the private investigator wasn’t finding anything useful. I hacked my stepmother’s laptop and made a spreadsheet with the worth of all her properties. I broke it to my siblings that their parents were getting divorced. I fitted my grandmother with a ghetto recording system (my iPhone in her pocket) as she confronted her daughter-in-law with threats and pleas. Later, my dad would tell me that the Pistol Lady had her hand on a knife the whole time.

I’m honestly surprised that nobody died that holiday season. My grandma was seriously considering murdering the Pistol Lady so that she could “save” our family from her. It was the most painful thing to watch my father scream at his mother at the top of his lungs, begging her to stop.

One of the only times I saw her smile that Christmas.

You might be wondering why I would ever go back to that when my life here with my mother is relatively stable. I’d tell you that my siblings are what makes it all worth it. My dad is half to blame for the shitty situations he’s always in, but my siblings have no fault or choice in the matter. Despite everything that happened last Christmas, it still brings a smile to my face when I think of our trip to Universal Studios. How we rode the Mummy ride half a dozen times, how we were soaked and freezing from the water ride, how we finally convinced our dad to join us once.

I can only hope that my siblings have fond memories of that Christmas too. I hope that they know I love them, though I cannot go to them, because surely the Pistol Lady would shoot me in the front lawn.

Happy holidays folks,



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