An Autistic Christmas

Winter has definitely arrived in northeast Indiana. I look outside and the snow and a blown tire have sat for days in our front yard. I still have a few things to prep for Christmas Day but I’m torn in my loyalties toward family and friends. I also find myself a bit more distant even though I try not to be.

Growing up Catholic, my family always goes to church. As a kid, we went to the overcrowded 5:00 service on Christmas Eve just so that we wouldn’t have to get up early the next day and go then. It was a nightmare because I had to wear uncomfortable clothes and endure the noises: screaming kids, families who only appeared a few times out of the year, priests that rambled, the church organ and choir. I wanted to be in there as little as possible because of all of those factors. As I grew up, we went to the shorter midnight Mass at 10 pm (there has to be a better name).

Getting gifts for others was another challenge. For family, I knew what their interests were and what they owned so as to avoid duplicates. This was easy. All I had to do was hide their presents in my room until that day. Currently, I still can’t drive so I’ve had my parents take me shopping; not ideal but necessary. I know what emotions I can expect when they open their gifts. With friends, I also know their interests but I have to do some guesswork because I don’t generally know what they already own. I hope the end result is happiness but I can’t tell from year to year. However, exchanging gifts with friends feels more rewarding to me because I get there’s a sense of genuine unconditional care. With family, it’s expected and feels forced at times. 

On Christmas Day, it takes about an hour for everyone to open their gifts. After that, everyone goes their separate ways until lunch and dinner with some socialization inbetween. I take my spoils to my room and start to make a dent in the candy.

When I’m with friends, yeah, I know I have to socialize but it’s more relaxed because the way we socialize is different. I have more of a voice with them than with family. There’s more spontaneity because I don’t see them as often as I see my folks. I almost wish I’d spend the day with them but sometimes the closest I get is via text.

My mood is more or less calm during the day. After all, it’s a day of celebration; why should I worry? Why should I care? It really only changes if I’m asked to do something I don’t want to. At that point, I’m more or less annoyed until I return to whatever it was I was doing.

As I grow older, I find myself wishing to spend the holidays with other autistics. So far, I can only do this online. Just the idea of celebrating in our own way with no need for pretense is a grand idea; one that may be possible in the coming years. For now, I just do what I can.

The holidays can be stressful for any number of reasons but that shouldn’t mean going through it alone. I want you other autistics to know that I’m here for you. Merry Christmas and flappy holidays.

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