Many people suffer during the holiday season. They imagine the holiday that is advertised to us in this culture as being available (at least, to everyone else). We imagine everyone else engaged in happy banter at tables groaning with fabulous food. No one rolls their eyes when Uncle Burt pours his fourth glass of Scotch. No one sniffs back tears because Cousin Ralph said her dress was ugly. No one feels empty inside even when they’ve eaten all they can.
In the dream holiday, everyone leaves the table smiling. Everyone helps to clear the table and clean the kitchen. Still smiling and laughing, everyone gathers around the piano. Standing close together, they begin to sing Christmas carols.
The contrast with the reality of our own flawed or fractured families and celebrations is brutal. Sometimes it’s harder to deal with the loss of a dream than with the loss of a reality. A dream has a sweetness and a purity about it that makes us want to hold onto it, closely, forever. Reality is more complex, sometimes painful and sometimes joyful, but a mixed bag at best.