The Soft Core of the Earth – Cabin Fever - Apollo Mapping
Posted on February 7th, 2023

The Soft Core of the Earth – Cabin Fever

Forgive me if I’ve written this all before, but every year it happens, as predictably as anything can, and thus, I’m always moved to express my misery of it. You’re just the blessed recipients of my frustrations. Lucky you.

Going home for Christmas is an obligation for me, not something I particularly look forward to. It wasn’t always this way. Shortly after moving away from my hometown, returning was enjoyable. In part because I was still young and not quite as jaded as I’ve come to be, but mostly because I still had friends in my hometown to hang out with, or at least enough returned home as well to do so. This meant there was always someone to go out with and something to do at night, so struggling through the monotony of the days was bearable. But, as time went on, everyone moved away, fewer people returned home, and I grew less interested in going out every night anyway. So, this meant all my time was spent at home with my folks, which don’t get me wrong, I love them, but they drive me crazy. And when I’m at their house I feel trapped like a rat in a cage. I’m always aware of this impending situation, so I try to ready myself for it. I bring plenty of work to occupy my time, and more than enough books and magazines to read. I always have my dog with me, so three times a day I escape for long walks, fresh air, and a break from my pen. We also eat out lunch and dinner every day, and while that also gets me out of the house, for whatever reason, every meal turns into an interrogation. I’m held captive and my parents see it as an opportunity to probe on whatever topic they please. It drives me insane.

My parents are the king and queen of unsolicited advice. My dad would say he’s just offering up his opinion, but I’m rarely looking for it, and it really is just him being passively patronizing in his own loving way. My mom is more of a lobber of non sequiturs, seemingly without any connection between questions about my friends, past experiences, people I barely know, topics long forgotten, and others that are so mundane that no one with even a hint of social awareness would ask them. Not because they’re offensive, but because they’re anachronistically pointless and irrelevant. My mom doesn’t really have social skills, or at least they’re not evidenced around me. It makes me wonder how she maintains friendships with others in her life, and from what I can tell, those are mostly tightly controlled, at a distance, and at her discretion. It’s one of the many bad characteristics I get from my mom. Maybe in another column I can explore those more, but as usual, I digress…

My dad is the opposite of my mom in all things social, which makes me wonder how they ever linked up. They say opposites attract, but I think that’s all BS. Slight tangent: I don’t believe there is “one true love” or “one person for everyone”; it’s just all luck and availability. That’s why most people are unhappy: they get stuck with someone who doesn’t align with their personalities very well, or as time rolls on, people just change, and they move further apart from one another. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is what it is. But that people still believe in true love and lifelong partnerships (also, I hate it when people refer to their girl/boyfriend or husband/wife as a “partner” – how vomit-inducing). Anyway, back to the focus… My dad thinks he’s being helpful and offering guidance, but after decades of doing so, he’s proven himself unable to read the room or pick up on my eyes glazing over just before they turn to fire born of irritation. I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t change strategies after years of not getting what you want in response, but I guess old habits die hard…

For Christmas, all I want is to be left alone and not have to leave the confines of my home. (Image retrieved from Pexels courtesy of Any Lane.)

This year I added a few extra days onto the trip so that I could use one to take the train up to the city and see friends from college, as well as to give me the opportunity to see a good friend who was going to be back in my hometown for Xmas for the first time in four years. Well, as they say, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Here in the U.S., we had one of the coldest winters on record across the country (as I write this, the high today will be 8° with a low of -7° and the windchill will be -21°), so my train to the city got canceled, giving me an extra – and unexpected – day with my folks. Then, that same weather resulted in the cancellation of my friend’s flight, so he didn’t make it home either, thus meaning two nights of escape had been erased from my plans… As was to be expected, most of my friends in the city gave me a bunch of grief for not making it up, telling me I should find other ways up (drive, Greyhound), or take a later train. I declined to do all for several reasons, but I was admittedly torn as I was really looking forward to seeing them. However, as “luck” would have it, the weather was just as bad as predicted up there, and they weren’t able to gather anyway. I rejoiced in this Festivus miracle that their nights were ruined, too.

Typically, I head back the day after Christmas, but I’d baked in an extra day so that I could go out on Christmas night, and instead, I just got stuck. I had to tell my parents I was moving up my departure plans a day earlier. It was hard to do so in such a way that didn’t hurt their feelings. I assume they want me to keep my sanity, which will only be possible if I can depart a day earlier than planned, but I knew I couldn’t say that.

In the future, what I really want for Christmas is to never have to come home at this time of year again. The weather sucks, it’s crowded everywhere, it’s overhyped, and every aspect of it makes me feel claustrophobic. I don’t know how to get out of it, though. Can I join another religion and say it would be against my beliefs to celebrate Christmas? No, they’d still want me there. Could I just Zoom or call? No, my folks would just be depressing to talk to. Does this mean I’m doomed to repeat this BS every year until they check out? Oh, god… As I said, don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and like to spend time with them, but just not at this time of year. During the summer when the weather is more accommodating at least I can be outside more regularly. I know life isn’t fair, but I also feel like I should be able to opt out of this after having done it for so long. Since moving away from “home,” I think I’ve missed three or four Christmases in 22 years. Maybe I should have just made it practice to NOT come home that first year away. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say… Maybe I can at least skip next year since it’s been seven years since I last did so. It would be so nice not to have to deal with any of this…

So, I guess the Christmas Miracle is a joke. It’s more like the Curse of Christmas for me…

This probably makes me sound pretty terrible. I don’t deny it. But typically, around my final day at home, as was true this year, my lingering teenage angst dissipates for a few hours, and an endearing glow and appreciation for my parents bubbles to the top and I’m thankful to be here and in their presence. As they age, I know I won’t have this luxury for much longer, so I try to embrace it, even if it’s in my own odd way and not quite of the Hallmark Channel variety. I guess my approach, time and again, is like swimming upstream, fighting the current, struggling against the flow. Once I give in, it gets a lot easier, even if it’s not exactly what I’d scripted for myself. Maybe Cabin Fever has Stockholm syndrome properties… Either way, like Thomas Wolfe wrote, ‘You can’t go home again,’ but here I am, and I’ll accept it even if it isn’t what it once was, because I, too, am not what I once was. That’s Christmas for me…

Marco Esquandoles

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