This sad holiday story is about mistaken identity.
Kristeen had met the love of her life away at college. His name was Alberto, but everyone on campus referred to him simply as “Al”.
She first met him near a fountain, right in front of the University Center, where his deep voice had created a small audience around him, mostly young ladies. She wandered over with purpose that day, to discover what he had to say, and it turned out to be nothing important. He had a certain charisma that attracted her attention very easily, and could capture the attention of others with ease as well. Anyone who met him remembered him and liked him.
It didn’t take long for the two of them to realize they were interested in each other, and soon they started spending time together off campus more and more. To her, everything about him, especially the undoubtable truth he was really into her, was great. He had awesome grades pursuing a challenging degree in law, he worked really hard, and was really serious about making her feel valued.
She really didn’t expect to, or want to fall in love while at college, but there was no mistaking it was happening to her, no way for her to choose her way out of it. Up until the holiday season rolled around it was a pleasant unexpected thing, like a reward life was giving her because she’d worked so hard on herself for so long. Al validated all the things about herself that she valued, so he made her feel like they fit together.
She was really looking forward to having Al drive down to where she lived, a few hours away from campus, to join her family on Thanksgiving. She had pretty much made up her mind already she was inviting him. A few days before Thanksgiving, after they had finished lunch, she brought it up to her mother that she was bringing him along.
“I’d rather not have guests for Thanksgiving.” her mom told her coldly, stood up and exited the room. This was not like her mom. She’d never heard her mom speak like that nor did she ever recall her mother refraining to invite anyone to her dinner table – she always made ridiculously large amounts of food that people would have to take food home.
Kristeen didn’t end up inviting Al to that get together. At the time she didn’t allow it to bother her, that the opportunity for him to meet her family had come to pass.
Another attempt, later in the holiday season, to get her parents together with Al totally flopped, but this time Kristeen emerged from it with hurt feelings that were beginning to fester.
What was going on? Was it about Al or her? Did her parents really not see that she really liked him, that being with him was a big component of a lot of happiness she’d found recently? Was her being happy irrelevant? Maybe it really was about Al? Did her mom think he was too attractive or had too big of a presence, and that they wouldn’t be a good match long-term?
The rest of the winter was a little colder, both outside and inside for Kristeen. She started to doubt whether Al sincerely liked her, had trouble seeing why he did, and just wasn’t able to feel comfortable around him the same way, like it was wrong for her to envision a future with him, or at least a future where everyone involved was close and happy with each other. Eventually they started dating other people and drifted away from each other in life.
So what happened?
Kristeen’s mom never told her, but before Kristeen was born her mom made some very personal choices she ultimately regretted. The feelings afterwards bothered her often, often to the point they became toxic. She was afraid to share her choices and how they bothered her so much with Kristeen, Ultimately she had decided to keep these things to herself. She recognized how these feelings triggered her toxicity and was afraid whether taking about it would change things about how Kristeen saw herself or her mom. So it remained unsaid for years.
Right before Thanksgiving, when Kristeen described Al to her mom, her mom was excited for her. Her mom was so impressed by how Kristeen described him, how accomplished and smart Al seemed, that she Googled his name. Unfortunately what she found, at the top of the search results, was content that was published years ago, generated around high school debate club meetings. There were things discussed, published in a school blog, that involved a debate around people’s right to make the same choices Kristeen’s mom did and struggled with afterwards.
They weren’t statements Al had made himself, but with the way that the content was published, it wasn’t clear who was making those statements or what position Al had taken at all. The bottom line was that when Kristeen’s mom Googled Al’s name, that was the first search result shown to her. She didn’t really understand how search engines work, like the great majority of people in the world. When she asked Google about him, this is what Google returned – this is what Google said he was about.
She was trying hard to forget about it and not let it get her emotional, but when Kristeen mentioned the boy’s name to her it was just too much. She really didn’t want uninvite him – that wasn’t her intention – it just she didn’t have the mental energy at the time to discuss it. In hindsight she should have taken it back, called Kristeen and told her to bring him. Later it was forgotten by both of them. Al never found out that Kristeen wanted to invite him to meet his family on the holidays.
That’s the sad holiday story. May your holidays be filled instead with joyful emotions.
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