“What is the antidote to resentment?” She asked the question, eyes opening wider, almost surprising herself. “It isn’t about finding the opposite and then composing a game plan. It’s about finding the antidote and then making space for it; just opening up.”
I was eight years old or maybe ten when we had Christmas in Florida with my dad’s side of the family. It was a strange year with a lot of awkward tensions in Texas and a vacation seemed nice. Christmas in Florida, however, is surreal to a person who has always experienced some form of winter around the holiday. Even in Texas it got cold and the lights on the palm trees in Florida were disarming.
The entire family gathered at my grandparent’s house in Fort Lauderdale. All of my dad’s siblings with their children were there and the mood was that of a frenetic celebration. Earlier that year my uncle and cousin had committed suicide, but there was no talk of it. The adults carefully stepped around it, numbing themselves with alcohol and board games. I played with my cousin – the sister and daughter of the ones who had died. We spent our time jumping rope on the patio that was covered with well-worn itchy synthetic grass. We spoke nothing of the losses and kept busy by speculating over our presents to come.
Christmas morning was incredible. We walked into the living room and were greeted by a tree drowning in presents. I had never seen so many – they stretched out into the room. The excitement was palpable. We tore into our presents one by one and the morning flew by. My cousin and I had received several matching gifts: outfits and stationery. I adored my stationery set, complete with sheets of decorated paper and envelopes to match. The whole set was wrapped in a lovely ribbon – it was almost too beautiful to open. I was stuck in a reverie looking at my gift until my mother approached me, startling me out of the daze. My cousin really liked my stationery and wanted it instead of hers. Could we switch? I said that I really liked the one meant for me and wanted to keep it. My mother grew earnest and said the right thing to do was to switch with her. I felt my heart grow dark. I clenched my jaw. I realized it really wasn’t a choice. My mother continued mentioning that my cousin had gone through a hard year and couldn’t I see that? I sighed and resigned myself. I begrudgingly handed her the set.
Later, I was given the other stationery – the one that was originally meant for my cousin. I sat it aside – its presence cast a shadow, but I smiled and went out to the patio to play.
“The stories may seem petty, but,” she continued, “they are important to speak out loud because they are the building blocks that must be systematically removed and held – their one-time value acknowledged – before the whole site can be rebuilt.”