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a dark Christmas

Granny’s house always seemed perfect to me. Her home was just that, a home. It was always warm and inviting. The pillows and sheets were soft and cool. I can still taste her roast beef with gravy and her delicious coconut cake. Although I did not spend a lot of time at her home I definitely enjoyed every minute when I was there. At least this had been my experience thus far. 

It was Christmas Eve and for the second Christmas I was on holiday pass from the reform school. I had been in reform school for almost two years now. I hoped this would be my last Christmas being a resident at Sheridon House reform school.

My mind and emotions were all over the place. I was excited to spend Christmas with my family but, given the uncertainty of my dad and the reality of my reality, I also felt afraid. Also in the back of my 12-year-old mind was the fact that if my granny hadn’t been willing to let me stay with her I would have been spending Christmas at the school. My dad was drinking and drugging and my mom has been absent for at least a year. 

It was almost 4 pm and family members would soon be arriving. Granny was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner. Granny always went above and beyond with Christmas dinner. Every single dish she made was delicious, but her roast beef in gravy and coconut cake were my favorites. 

As my family began to arrive I could feel my anxiety rise. I knew my family loved me, and they were happy to have me, but there was still this shadow due to my dad, and other things that were always present. I always felt unwanted because of my dad’s failures. 

In my family’s eyes, at least to me, there were always feelings of disdain and pity. I was my father’s child, rebellious and angry; headed towards drugs, destruction and death. But there was also this pity for the life I did not have due to the life my dad chose. Both of these feelings made me sad and uncomfortable, and this made me angry. I felt resentment toward my dad and at the same time jealousy toward my cousins. 

Without question, being around my family reinforced the life and family I didn’t have, the life I so desperately wanted.


Sitting in the sunroom I stared at the Christmas tree. Even though I was angry with my dad I still wanted him there. I was the only one there without a mom and dad. I was surrounded by family that I felt was not my own. Surrounded by family, I still felt all alone. 

The adults soon began passing out gifts. Traditionally this was all about the kids. As they passed out the gifts I noticed they were bringing me a lot of gifts, I mean a lot. I began opening the gifts, one after another. I received clothes, jewelry, gift certificates, cologne, video games and a pair of boots. I received so many gifts I couldn’t keep track. 

As I sat there next to the Christmas tree, surrounded by wrapping paper, boxes, bows, gifts and family, none of that seemed to matter, because the picture, like my heart, was incomplete without my mom and dad. Then there was the pity I felt. All these gifts were my family showing pity because my dad could not get me these things. I was unable to feel I deserved the gifts because I was just like my father. All of this made me uncomfortable. I felt sadness and anger. 

Not being able to hold back my emotions I got up and went outside. This too was a difficult and shameful task as it made me stand out and be pitied even more. I felt ashamed of my dad and the anger I felt toward him felt justified. Yet I still longed for him to be there. All of this was overwhelming.

Sitting outside my granny’s house I felt like running away. Even though part of my sadness was feeling like I was all alone, in that moment, it seemed actually being all alone would give me some relief. So there I was, sitting outside my granny’s house surrounded by Christmas lights yet my world could not have been any darker. 

After a few minutes my cousin Jennifer came outside to sit with me. Jennifer was about 8 years older than me. She and I came from very different lives but she was always someone I could connect with. 

“I know you’re bummed about your dad. Can I tell you something, Devin. I know your dad is not here right now but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. And I know he does not want you to be sad right now.”

“Then why ain’t he here!” I replied.

In that moment I found what I long knew: my reality clashed with what I long desired it to be. 

This piece was written by Devin Bennett

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