Traditions: Blaine reflects on the Christmas traditions his family used to partake in when he was younger, and how much things have changed since then.
Blaine remembered when they had traditions.
When he was a kid the first weekend of December they'd drive an hour out to so-called 'farm country' and go to the same tree farm every year. They'd trek through the snowy fields, searching for the perfect tree. His parents would always pick the biggest, widest tree they could find that fit in their large, high-ceilinged living room. It was always a fir, they had the sturdiest branches for their heavy ornaments, his father would say every year.
Each year they took a picture of the three of them pointing at the tree. His mom every year would take a picture of his dad crouched down cutting down the tree, the 'underwear shot' she'd call it, and his dad would pretend not to know what she was doing. Then they'd carry the tree back to their car, tie it down, and go out for a family dinner. They'd always make sure to park their car so they could see it through the window because Blaine always worried someone would steal their 'perfect tree.'
They'd always get the tree on a Saturday, and put it up the following Sunday. Blaine always got to put on the first ornament, his 'baby's first Christmas' ornament. The family would spend the next week slowly putting on all their ornaments. They'd watch all the Christmas classics, 'A Christmas Story,' 'A Christmas Carol' (the Disney version and the Muppets version, in that order), 'Miracle on 34th Street' ("The one withMatilda in it, mom! Not the old one!"), 'The Santa Clause,' and for some reason 'Moonstruck' and 'the Fugitive' (he knew it was because his mother had crushes on Nicholas Cage and Harrison Ford).
His dad would set up the train underneath the tree and Blaine would watch it for hours, just making it go forwards and backwards and playing with his 'Little People' and making up stories. One piece in particular, an old woman doll, had lost her hair piece so from age 4 on she was referred to as 'Crazy Grandma' who had to be tied to a wagon and kept in the animal cart with the lamb and horse. His dad would play with him while his mom watched fondly from the couch, sipping her coffee.
Every year they would go and get a Christmas picture taken in matching sweaters, and they'd have to get three hundred copies printed so every family member, friend, neighbor, coworker, and business partner got a card. Each year they'd get a copy of the picture framed and every year they'd take out their photos and hang them on the empty wall beside the tree.
Every night his mom would hang real candy canes on the tree and the next day Blaine would find each one and eat every single one.
The gifts his parents would give each other went under the tree first, followed by the ones relatives sent in the mail, and it would remain that way until Santa came and filled it up with gifts for Blaine.
Every Christmas morning Blaine would be the first one awake. He'd sneak into his parents' room and lurk at the end of the bed, poking his parents' feet until one of them stirred. Then he'd fly onto their bed, screaming that it was Christmas morning. His parents would rise and his dad would go downstairs to make coffee for his mom. Blaine wasn't allowed down yet and had to wait at the top of the steps while his mom freshened up in the bathroom. His dad would sit at the bottom of the steps with his video camera and go back and forth between filming Blaine and the living room that Blaine couldn't see. He'd proclaim "I don't know, I don't think Santa came this year. All I see is coal!"
When his mom was finally ready for the morning she'd appear at the top of the steps with Blaine, who'd look back and forth between his parents excitedly. "Can we go down, can we do down?" And when his parents finally said it was ok, Blaine would all but fall down the stairs to get to the living room. He'd fly in and screech in excitement at the sight of all the gifts. Then he'd notice the open fireplace door, the soot on the floor by it, and the almost completely eaten cookies (the foot of the gingerbread man was always left behind, always the foot) and the empty cup of milk sat on the table. Blaine would jump up and down and cry "Look! Look! He came!" Then Blaine would tear through all his gifts, while his parents calmly drank tea and ate toast. After all was opened, he'd play with his gifts until he passed out, only to be woken up when it was time for the giant feast his mom made, despite the fact only the three of them would partake in it.
Blaine loved Christmas, every year was something to look forward to. Every tradition was special and Blaine loved going through each one.
But when Blaine was 7 his father was promoted. They didn't go out to get the tree that year, his dad hired someone to get it for them. He and his mom decorated the tree by themselves, their movies on in the background. His father didn't make an appearance most of the time. Blaine told himself it was ok, his dad would be there next year and they could do the traditions then.
It didn't happen the next year.
Or the year after.
Every year they lost another tradition.
When he was 7 the filming and waiting at the top of the steps stopped. When he was 8 they stopped getting family photos. When he was 9 they stopped putting the train up, Crazy Grandma got thrown out. When he was 10 there were no candy canes to find on the tree. When he was 11 his dad wasn't even home for most of December.
He was 12 when his mom made some new friends at the country club and suddenly didn't have time to decorate the tree with him. That year he was alone in an empty, silent house as he placed the 'baby's first Christmas' ornament on the tree. He didn't watch any of their movies that year.
Blaine was 13, fresh out of the closet, when his parents weren't even home for most of the season. Blaine was home alone up until the week of Christmas, when his parents came home from their business trips (though he didn't know what 'business' his mother had). Before they got home at the beginning of the month Blaine opened one of the ornament boxes to find his 'baby's first Christmas' ornament broken, in pieces at the bottom of the box.
Discovering the ornament was like flipping a switch. Blaine sat, hunched over the box, broken pieces in hand, and just wept. Ugly, noisy, painful sobs ripping through his chest as he sat alone in his vast, barren home. He'll never forget the sound of his own sobs echoing down the marble hallways.
He got a fake tree that year.
His parents didn't even notice when they got home, they spent pretty much the whole holiday glued to their laptops and cell phones. They didn't even get up on Christmas morning, and Blaine sat by himself next to the Christmas tree for most of the day, didn't even open one of the store-wrapped gifts. It was then Blaine decided he hated traditions and that they could go fuck themselves.
The next two years he was at Dalton. He didn't even bother coming home, they were the best Christmas he had had since he was 6 years old.
His parents didn't even notice he hadn't come home. He wondered if they had even bothered to themselves.
But now he was back home, he hadn't heard from his mom since Thanksgiving. His father had sent him an email though, simply stating he would not be home for Christmas but Blaine was still at Dalton right? So he'd be fine, see you in a few months.
Blaine cried himself to sleep that night.
Yeah, traditions could go fuck themselves.
Blaine wondered if he should even bother putting up a tree. He still had the broken pieces of his first ornament. Maybe he could glue them together and hang it from the cactus in his bedroom, would that count?
Blaine hadn't even see a real tree since he was 12, so when he went to Kurt's house one day after school and saw it up he sort of stopped. The sight, the smell. It filled him with so many feelings, so many memories of when he and his parents were actually a family. He listened as Kurt babbled on abut decorating the tree and Blaine do you want to help because they were going to watch 'A Christmas Story.'
Blaine had politely excused himself to sob in the bathroom for a while.
One day later he was invited to Friday dinner with the Hummel-Hudson clan. He gladly accepted, happy to get out of his empty, decoration-less house. When half-way through his casserole Burt had nonchalantly asked Blaine what his family was doing for the holidays. Blaine had frozen, it was like all the air was sucked from the room. He glanced around the table, everyone was oddly stiff, refusing to look at him and oh Godthis had been a thing hadn't it? They'd discussed him and his family and wondered why he cried when he saw Kurt's 'baby's first Christmas' ornament hadn't they?
He calmly told Burt his family had no plans as sadly his parents would be unable to make it home this decade.
The table had gone silent. Why had he said that? Why hadn't he just lied? What was he going to say next? 'Well, sir, my plans are to actually sit alone in my room with a cactus and break any fragile item I can find while weeping silently. What are you guys doing?'
Burt had paused, a look passing across his face, before he stabbed his food with his fork and calmly asked if Blaine would like to join them for Christmas dinner?
Before Blaine could speak Kurt was all but out of his chair, excitedly chattering about all the traditions Blaine would get to partake in. How they did rock-paper-scissors to see who got to open the first gift, how they always had scrambled eggs and toast with cinnamon for breakfast, how they all drank tea and watched whatever movie one of them got for Christmas that year because someone always got a movie. Blaine smiled at his boyfriend and just nodded along, listening intently to every tradition Kurt described. They sounded so great coming from his Kurt. Not even just hearing them, but being invited to join in.
He had smiled brightly and accepted Burt's invitation as he asked if he'd like to spend the week at their house if he was just going to be home alone. That night, in the guest bedroom of the Hudmel house, he had cried himself to sleep.
But they were happy tears that night.
Because he realized he could start some new traditions, he didn't have to wallow in what used to be. He could make new memories, better memories, with a boyfriend who loved him and a family who actually accepted him. A family who was way better at remembering he existed than his own.
Ok, maybe traditions didn't have to go fuck themselves.
But his parents could.