It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Until maybe it isn’t.


This week’s Robinson Drive flashback flooded over me, almost literally, in the cold bathroom of my lunchtime break stop. As I squatted to potty (yes I hover and yes I clean any splashage, don’t judge), Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers were suddenly shouting at me from above…”there’ll be parties for hosting (always a good time on Robinson Drive), marshmallows for toasting (yes, please) and caroling out in the snow. There’ll be scary ghost stories (wait, WHAT??) and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” I usually think of ghost stories in conjunction with holidays like Halloween, but you do you, Williams Brothers.


Here’s what actually happened in that freezing cold bathroom. It was like being transported to pot-hole heaven, when Andy Williams started crooning. I could INSTANTLY see the regal, textured curtains in the living room of 38255 Robinson Drive. The floral couch, subtle (as opposed to ‘matchy-matchy’) against the wood-paneled walls. On either end of that precious couch were hanging glass light fixtures that could cause a mild concussion if you foolishly hopped up from playing, without paying attention to proximity. Perhaps that’s where I got my nickname of “Sh%# for brains.” Thanks a million for that, Ken.  It’s funny now, but I won’t lie, it stung at the time (both the words and the light fixture concussion;). I often joke that I thought that WAS my name (Sh%# for brains), until I went to Kindergarten, and they called me Tracy. That’s just how I have always handled my sensitivity to words and to the world around me – with humor. While sticks and stones have never broken my bones (yet, knock on wood), words have often hurt me. And Robinson Drive was a battle ground of hurtful words. Hurting people, hurt people…


When I think back on the ‘Christmases long, long ago,’ they certainly weren’t picture perfect, although the snapshot above could fool you.  Pure joy, running deeper than my dimples, when I discovered the baby doll in that box. The wonder, the magic, of how Santa knew EXACTLY what I wanted. My stylish big brother next to me, checking out my treasures; don’t you worry, Scotty Boy – you can play with it while I’m napping. 😉 The tree in the picture, that we most likely purchased from the Boys and Girls Club tree lot, and carefully (and very quietly) brought it home to fight it, usually crooked, into the tree stand. There was often (almost always) an energy of anger or irritation with Ken, that existed very close to the surface. Holiday traditions, such as putting up the tree most often looked (and sounded) like the furnace scene out of ‘A Christmas Story.’

Photo Credit:

And even that little girl, full of joy and wonder (and a fun nickname), knew to keep a safe distance from any project that might go south, especially during the holidays. Hurting people, hurt people…


I don’t remember much about the guy in the picture above (happy Ken), but I sure wanted to know him. I’ve heard lots of stories about how he absolutely adored me as a baby, and toddler (the years I don’t remember). And I’ve seen a few pictures of my tiny infant self in his lap, next to an ashtray with a lit Merit Ultralight, which surely explains a lot about that problem I had with my brains;). I DO remember a guy who coached boy’s basketball through the Boys and Girls Club, and I think the team was quite fond of him. I heard he was a “nice guy,” but I didn’t really know that guy. I remember a guy who could sell lumber and nails with a smile to all the customers at Monmouth Building Supply, but I didn’t really know him either. *I* knew the guy who drank 4 cans of Hamm’s Light on the way home, just to be able to face an evening on Robinson Drive. Hurting people, hurt themselves too…

New Bikes. And the infamous Green Recliner.

Ken played that Williams Brothers vinyl on repeat during the holidays, especially when he was on The Sauce. I thought of the year where he went out ‘shopping’ on Christmas Eve (pretty sure I was in middle school at the time), and as the day wore on and he didn’t come home, I knew he had taken a detour to Rocky’s. I don’t remember how bad the fight was before he finally passed out in the green recliner, but I’ll never forget that he actually bought me a gift that year. It was a white, leather-bound Bible and I cherished it. While it wasn’t popular on Robinson Drive to be a ‘Jesus Freak,’ it was my faith through those years (and still today), that gave me hope of a brighter future and a Father who loved me, despite my sh%# for brains. Hurting people, don’t mean to hurt people…

So it’s safe to say, I get a little sideways wonky around the holidays. Because, not unlike SO many other people I know – the holidays were some of my toughest, loneliest days in childhood. And no, I don’t live there any more. My childhood is NOT to blame for the challenges I face as a parent, or as an adult. But those flashbacks are very real, and the scars can be ripped open when certain memories are triggered. Because I’m human, because sometimes, I step into feelings.

And now, as a parent myself, I understand how very hard it is, to navigate the holidays. I want to create lasting, positive memories and traditions. And while I want to see their eyes light up at the excitement of treasures beneath the tree, I want to make sure they know and experience the treasures that Amazon cannot deliver. I don’t want my hurts of a childhood lost, to become their burden to carry, so I work hard to be aware, to own my junk, to try my very best to choose a different path. When you know better, you DO better…

And what happens, when despite all of our best intentions, the most wonderful time of the year, is far from wonderful? What happens when we’re facing the holidays with hurts and with memories of broken promises, failed dreams, and loss? The most revolutionary thing we can do, is to choose love, to show up anyway, and to rush toward the heartache.

 ‘If there’s a silver lining to the emptiness, here it is: the unfillable is what brings people together. I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness and my emptiness.’
-Glennon Doyle Melton, ‘Carry on Warrior, Thoughts on Life Unarmed.’

So that’s the best I can give you this holiday season – my truths. Some days are hard and ugly and lonely, and even scary. There are days when the silence is deafening, and the rejection is SO very hurtful, from almost 40 years ago, and still today. Hurting people sure do hurt people. But guess what? Loving people, love people. So let’s save space today, for being the people we needed when we were younger. And for being the love we wish we had been shown. Love may not be a victory march, but it is always, always worth it. ❤