One year, Santa forgot me.
To be fair, I wasn’t a small child. I was a teenager.
So how did I come to be left off Santa’s list?
It was 1985. The year of the first successful heart transplant, Windows 1.0, The Golden Girls, The Breakfast Club, Live Aid, Take on Me and wearing your jacket sleeves rolled up Miami Vice style..
Fifteen. Teenager. Vegetarian. Knew Everything. Annoying.
I don’t remember how I came to be vegetarian, I just know that from 14 I declared myself a meat free zone. I lived on cheese, as 80s vegetarian options looked (and tasted) like Trill. Thank God for Linda McCartney, eh? Problem was, Mum never did understand the concept of vegetarianism. She gave me cheese in place of meat but then poured gravy over it which kind of defeated the object..
Maybe it was hormones combined with my undiagnosed autism (and copious amounts of cheese) but my teenage years were funked up and not in a good way..
I’d argue that black was white and I’d do it with a PASSION. Not content with being meat-free, I terrorised everybody else for being ‘murderers’. Dad took it all in his stride. He thought it was hilarious, but Mum was suffering from the menopause (or rather we were suffering from her menopause) and that particular year she and I clashed more times than a pair of cymbals.
By Christmas, I was struggling. Doing the social thing exhausted me mentally and physically. Going out took hours of stimulating myself with rock music and days of recovery time afterwards. Every time I convinced myself it would get easier but it never did because exposure only works with shyness and I wasn’t shy. I was autistic.
That year I’d asked ‘Santa’ for loads of records including The Cult’s ‘Love‘. I’d been borrowing my mate’s LP but she was pissed off with it spending more time on my record player than hers, so I was looking forward to getting my own copy. Gimme a whoop!
We were allowed to lie on the sofa watching films all day and the jar of Quality Street was ceremoniously opened. It was a good day and in the evening Mum challenged her inner Hyacinth Bucket (It’s Bouquet) and did a candlelight supper, which was V posh.
I felt very grown up.
I was even allowed wine. SHHHHHHHH!
Dad was on the Jack Daniels.
Brother was semi-pissed on Southern Comfort.
Mum was on the Stella (I’ll fight you and everyone else) Artois.
Everyone was happy.
Until it went tits up..
I don’t remember what I said, exactly. Maybe it was something about meat and murder again? I just know that I opened my big mouth and said something that had my mother slamming the louvered doors off their hinges as she flounced off into the kitchen.
In my confused mind, ONE thing registered.
Dad was rolling his eyeballs.
Brother was smirking at me.
Elvis was crooning Blue Christmas in the background.
My mother was turning the air blue in the kitchen in-between nose blowing sessions.
Tentatively, I inched my way into the war zone but took one look at her face and knew that grovelling was futile. She looked like Alice Cooper, only with red eyes. Even in my limited understanding of body language, I knew my best (and only) option was bugger off upstairs and leave Dad to smooth things over.
So I went to bed and endured one of the most miserable nights of my 15 year old life.
What, in the name of Ian Astbury, had I said to incur SUCH a reaction?
I still don’t know.
All I know is that I was forever being reprimanded for ‘showing off’.
Er, I’M AN INTROVERT?!
In hindsight, I know that the Christmas Eve fiasco wasn’t ALL down to me. I blame Stella Artois and lack of oestrogen. Stella because it always made my mother do the crying thing and lack of estrogen put her on a permanent hair-trigger. It could have just as easily been my dad or my brother who said something to upset her, eh?
But it wasn’t them.
It was me.
Mostly what got me into trouble were my meltdowns. I’d become overwhelmed, therefore out of control, and it was interpreted as me being a little shit – as so often is the case with autism.
Nobody knew I was autistic.
Not even me.
I unenthusiastically wished Jesus a happy birthday and prayed that he’d put in a good word with my mother overnight and she’d forgiven me for “ruining Christmas”. I lay in my miserable pit until I heard sounds of life downstairs, then slowly made my way down into the kitchen where Mum was perched on her stool puffing away on a Silk Cut. She narrowed her eyes at me. This look meant, ‘Approach me NOT. I’m still pissed off with you!’.
I slunk into the living room..
There, lit up in all it’s magnificence was our faux Christmas tree and underneath it were three piles of presents.
One for my brother.
One for my dad.
The third pile was my mother’s.
Didn’t say fuck – obvs -my life was hanging in the balance as it was.
For the first time in my existence, Santa had forgotten me.
I’D MADE THE NAUGHTY LIST.
Mum looked weird. Sort of angry and sad at the same time and that’s quite a hard one to pull off!
Brother was still smirking. That litle shit positively basked in my misery!
Tears slid down my face.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so sorry for myself in all my life.
Dad couldn’t take it anymore. He looked at Mum and said, “You’ve made your point Flo. Come on now. It’s Christmas”
Mum snorted and flip- flopped upstairs in her new mule slippers.
A few minutes later she appeared with my presents.
She went from angry to misty eyed in a matter of seconds and hugged me so hard I thought she’d busted my lung.
“And let that be a lesson to you, Madam!”
Despite having no literally NO idea what this lesson was supposed to be, I chose to keep my trap shut.
Maybe that was the lesson?
Ordeal over, I started ripping into my pressies with the finesse of a three year old on E numbers.
My first gift?
It was Love.
When I tore off the wrapping paper that Christmas morning in 1985, I had no idea that 32 years later, the lyrics to the title song would have such significance to my very existence on this planet.
I guess you could say that I’ve spent most of my life in the ‘wrong hole’?
Now don’t go and ruin this moment by thinking rude thoughts about holes? *serious face*
I mean ‘wrong hole’ as in trying to be neurotypical.
Spent a long time in this hole
Spent a long time in the wrong hole