The one time a year I could count on seeing my dad was at Christmas. Right around dusk on Christmas Eve he would ramble into town and land on our doorstep. When the knock came that we’d been expecting my siblings and I would hot foot it to the door. There Dad stood, my big Greek Santa with a black hefty garbage bag flung over his shoulder filled with oodles of presents. His grin was wide and jolly just like Santa wore, just like a daddy wore, full of pride for his children during this magical time of year.
He was giddy with all the season represented, that he could bring joy to us. He hopped up the handful of narrow stairs into the entry of our living room, swiftly swinging his bag off his shoulder and onto the floor. Simultaneously he dropped to a knee and scooped us into his arms. He belted a jolly, belly-filled laugh then shook us ever so slightly. One by one he delivered a round of loud kisses ever so slightly too hard on our cheeks. Each was accompanied by a loud smacking sound. My kiss was delivered last. Entranced by his presence I watched his every move, which is why I noticed him quickly flick away a tear that had escaped in the process of it all.
So much had gone wrong for our young family, so much was kept secret. From the beginning this big catholic High Holiday was a time we were shuffled from one house to the next. Off into the crisp dark night we traveled across town to Dads relatives, then later still delivered to mom families home. At last we landed back to our home for the arrival of Santa.
At the time, in my mind it was sometimes awkward, it was bliss, it was confusing, it was tiring, it was exiting. It was our way and I loved it for what it was. I felt loved by so many and for many years I was oblivious to the strain that my parents situation placed on our entire extended family.
It wasn’t until I began to create holiday memories for my own family, for my children, that I understood how hard it must have been for my parents. The energy it had to take to put their animosities aside. Place their intimate questions of Dad’s sexuality on a shelf temporarily so they could give us the magic of the holiday season. A time to go within, look at what is truly important. A time meant for love, grace, family, and family time.
My family was breaking and even labeled unorthodox, dysfunctional, or unfit to some. But in my young eyes I was so happy. I was happy for a mommy that loved me, happy for my Daddy that was bigger than life when he entered the room. In those moments my dad looked at me like I was more precious than gold. In those moments all issues that surrounded his secretive gay life where gone.
I felt like pure gold. I felt if I could hold onto that moment, that feeling, everything would be okay.