December 1, 2010
Someone named meg started something called Radvent (RAD + ADVENT) this year and she’s publishing a writing prompt for herself and others each day of December. When I read about it I thought it was the best idea I had ever heard, and I am super-excited to take part. Here is the first prompt:
What were you doing five years ago today? As the holiday season began? Where were you? Who were you with? What did you want? What did you have?
1. I am pretty sure I have talked about this time before, but five years ago in August I moved to Canada and got married and my best friend died. By the beginning of September I was working as a nanny for a pair of three-year old twin boys which was hands down the shittiest job I have ever held. I mean, the kids were fine (except for being… three-year old twin boys), but the family had gobs of money, treated me like shit and routinely made me feel hopeless about myself and the world. They also had this massive kitchen with black granite counter tops which were impossible to keep clean. I am not kidding when I say I spent an hour each day either cleaning them or feeling crappy and disgruntled after they failed a surprise inspection. As the holiday season started I was full-on miserable at work which was made so, so, so much worse by the fact that instead of giving me a week’s pay as a holiday bonus, the mother of the family gave me a picture of the kids posing with the Santa Claus from the local mall. This was a particularly thoughtless gift because I had dragged the boys to the mall in heavy pre-holiday traffic at the mother’s insistence and we had waited almost an hour in line to see Santa and the mall was hot and full of children and my charges were acting like monsters (actually, it would be more correct to say that they were acting the way that I felt, for which I cannot blame them) and as much as the whole stupid thing annoyed me while I was experiencing it, getting a photograph of it instead of a large check annoyed me infinitely more.
2. So I was miserable at work and then my husband and I got an extremely handsome puppy named Walter. Walter was a very good puppy (and, as I mentioned, extremely handsome) except that he pissed on the motherfucking floor basically every day for a solid year. We were living in a very beige and very boring apartment on the seventh floor of a very beige and very boring apartment building and neither one of us could waver in focus for even ten minutes lest our extremely handsome dog partake in some casual, impromptu urinating just for the pleasure of it. Still, our first Christmas as a family was gorgeous. We both had the day off. Our apartment was flooded with dusty, late-afternoon sun. I came across an amazing Brady Bunch Christmas special that takes place when the kids are grown and have moved away from home on our tiny, rabbit-ears TV. We got the dog some festive tennis balls (to urinate on) and my new husband bought me a couch from Ikea, which he stored in the backseat of his sports car, unassembled, for more than a week. It was not a very large couch. I got my new husband socks, slippers, a wallet and a Swiss Army Knife, which all told were hints 17-20 of the marriage so far that I had actually married my father, although of course I didn’t realize that for years to come.
3. What I wanted, then, not for Christmas, but out of life, was to be happy, to feel productive and lucky and content. I desperately wanted to immigrate to Canada and get a real job; a job that used my brain and made me feel valuable, a job that would never, under any circumstances, involve scraping feces out of a brightly-colored pair of Finding Nemo swim trunks.
4. I didn’t get those things then, of course — immigrating took forever and I spent most of my time alternately terrified, apprehensive, miserable and confused — but I feel that way now, in spades, even though I live alone and have been single so long that my left ring finger is no longer marked by a strip of untanned white skin where my wedding ring used to be. I feel that way in spades. I am the very luckiest person I know. I am full of joy. I am finally where I want to be.