In the spirit of hating my parents, I’m going to tell you about Christmas 2000 at the Velvet Family Compound. I shall set the scene.
I was living in Atlanta with my then boyfriend, AtlantaBoy. My parents were so pissed when I announced that I was moving there in 1998.
Dad: You have proven yourself to be the biggest disappointment of our lives.
Mom: Where’s Atlanta? Are you telling me there is land south of the end of the Jersey Turnpike. (Ok, I’m kidding. She didn’t say that, but they both thought it.)
Mom really said: Get all your shit out of my house because you aren’t coming back.
Fine. I took what I could and left the rest for the trash, and moved. When I would call home from Atlanta, they would say, “Oh, Velvet,” in a massively snotty voice. It was never good. Then a year later, in Sept, 1999, I went home to Connecticut for a week. When they were driving me back to the airport my oldest brother said, “Too bad you weren’t staying for this upcoming week because older brother is coming in from Michigan.” I asked why no one told me and my mom blew me off.
Two days later, back in Atlanta, I get an email from my dad:
Velvet: If you call here in the next 14 days and we don’t answer, don’t worry. Your mother, brothers and I are going to London and Paris.
I was stunned. How could I have just been there for a week and no one mentioned a fucking trip to a continent none of them had visited? My mother said, “It didn’t cross our minds.” I cried in my boyfriends shoulder for weeks. How could this family hate me so much for moving out of the New York metropolitan area? Subsequently, I didn’t talk to them for many months, and when my brothers (in cahoots with the crazies) would email, I would answer back with just one or two words.
Time went on and I just wanted them to like me again. So move ahead to Christmas of 2000. My mother requested that I come home, alone. My boyfriend was never invited because my parents refused to acknowledge his existence. Mom said it was going to be the “last time we would all be together” and that was her reason for wanting me to come alone. (My mother has been using that line since I was 11 and my oldest brother went to college. The math on that works out to 21 years that I’ve been hearing the “last Christmas/Vacation” crap.) So I show up at the airport in N.Y. and no one is there to pick me up.
I wait a few minutes, then pull out my brand spanking new Sprint PCS cell phone (PCS stands for Piece of Cocksucking Shit in case you didn’t know.) I try to call but of course have no signal. So I go to a payphone and make a call “home.” Here we go.
Velvet: Hey, is anyone coming to get me?
Mom: What are you talking about?
Velvet: Please tell me you didn’t lure me up here to play a trick on me.
Mom: The airline said your plane was canceled.
Velvet: Well, it wasn’t. I’m at the airport.
Mom: I’m telling you, you’re plane was canceled.
Velvet: And I’m telling you, I am STANDING IN NEW YORK RIGHT NOW.
Mom: Well why would they say that it was canceled, let me see if I have the right flight number.
Velvet: Does it matter? I know what New York looks like (unmistakable gray clouds.) If you’re not coming to get me then I’ll take a cab into the city and find a hotel.
Mom: I’m sending your father.
Dad arrives 30 minutes later and I’m just seething mad. Plane canceled my ass. But then I walk in and my mother greets me like I was the Pope bringing 8 gallons of holy water and a couple of bagels. It was like an episode of the Twilight Zone. She has never been that happy to see me in all my life. I sit down with her and we are watching t.v. Then I hear the front door open.
Older brother who had moved to Grand Rapids walked in the house and went straight upstairs without saying hello to me. It had been 3 full years since I had seen him, to this day the longest period of time we’ve gone without seeing each other. I go upstairs to say hi and give him some shit and he tells me that our parents are mad at him because he went to a friend’s house in New Jersey instead of staying home to await my arrival. (The arrival that they also said wouldn’t be happening because the plane was canceled. These discrepancies are the sign of insanity.)
The weekend unfolds and it’s obvious how mad they are at my older brother, and suspiciously how “back in the fold” I am all of a sudden. When I returned to Atlanta, my boyfriend was so happy for me. Imagine a man shunned by a family for years being happy for his girlfriend that a bunch of psychos finally accept her.
Here’s the thing. I was always in the doghouse for having the wrong boyfriend, the wrong haircolor, going to the wrong college, getting C’s instead of A’s, moving in with the boyfriend, leaving New York, bartending at night and on the weekends because my crappy job didn’t pay the bills. Whatever it was, I was in trouble for it. I had anticipated in those first few years of living with AtlantaBoy that if we got married, no one in my family would come. I never realized that that fateful weekend in 2000 was the beginning of an event unprecendented in my family – one of the chosen children was now on the outside of the circle. And I was somehow back on the inside.
In the year 2001, older brother’s relationship continued to deteriorate with my parents. Even as I quit my job in the summer and drove across the country with AtlantaBoy (i.e. became more of a “loser” in their eyes,) they were happy to hear from me and acted like parents again. Older brother went to Connecticut in August, 2001 and that was the final straw. Mom wrote him a letter about how selfish he was for something he did that they didn’t approve of, and he wrote back. No one writes back! But he wrote back, thereby launching the Letter Writing War of 2001. It was ugly, and both of us saved our letters and ended up showing them to our respective therapists who were appalled at how we had been treated. During all this conflict, I found out a lot of things, most notably that my parents specifically directed my brothers to keep the London Paris Extravaganza a secret from me. And they went along with it, until the tables turned on each of them. What goes around, comes around.
When my brother got married in 2003, our parents boycotted the wedding. Every other relative was there to support my brother. My Aunt and Uncle unofficially filled in as the role of the parents. Older brother dropped me off at the airport after the weekend. When we were saying goodbye, I started to cry. He took my bag off my shoulder and put it down on the sidewalk.
Brother: It’s okay. So they didn’t come. It’s fine.
Velvet: It was supposed to be me.
Brother: What was?
Velvet: It was supposed to be my wedding they boycotted.
The impact of these two people missing their son’s wedding will be felt forever. They are not in pictures. They are the talk of all their friends, who hold them up as the worst of the worst: “Well, at least we’re not like the Velvet Family.”
People do shitty things to me and I suck it up and go on with my life. But when people do shitty things to someone I love dearly, the pain is immense and permanent. It’s somewhat of a consolation to have my brothers to lean on, but it is bittersweet. Remember that I was on my own in the “doghouse” for the better part of 15 years. My sister-in-law reminded my brother that his few years pale in comparison to what I endured. Once he became the whipping boy for my parents and their lofty aspirations for their kids, he started to see what I was saying all those years about them being extreme. Once my oldest brother (always a favorite) saw that our parents didn’t go to our other brother’s wedding, and that they totally ignored the existence of his girfriend just like they did to my boyfriend, he too realized what was up. Both brothers have fessed up that they never knew it was this bad and that I was going through it alone.
Will I miss them on Christmas Day? Nope.