Christmas is especially hard on those of us who grew up in homes with an addict for a parent. Children who were parents to their own parents. People like me, who spent the better part of twenty years wanting nothing more than a "normal" family with a "normal" Christmas, like the ones you see on television. Of course, I know now there is no "normal," only life.

But that doesn't change that I spent most of my life feeling like an outsider looking in, my nose pressed sadly against the glass of your window, desperate to get inside and have someone love me; someone care for me. Honestly, in my heart of hearts, I worry that I still do.

Most of the year, I can pretend those feelings don't exist. I can tell myself that I am enough; that there is no normal and that I need to get over the idea that everything I do must be total perfection.

At Christmas, I just can't.

All of those old memories burble uncomfortably to the surface and I'm left panting and shocked that I even endured it. I don't even know how. The year my mother canceled Christmas...but just for me. Everyone else got their presents, but not Young Aunt Becky. She got nothing. She had no one. That was cruelty at it's finest. And no one ever intervened to say, "Hey, that's not okay."

No one ever did. Like so much of my childhood.

My heart breaks for that little girl, the one who loved Christmas with all of her bursting-at-the-seams-heart, and I wish more than anything I could go back in time and tell her that it gets better. That eventually she will learn to be enough for herself. I want to go back and hug her; to love her; to brush the tangles from her hair, buy her proper clothes and and wash the obvious neglect away. I can't, but I'd give an arm to do it.

Some day, I hope to be able to trim my tree without having to bite back sadness. I hope to hang the stockings without my heart breaking into a puddle of feelings even I can't identify. I know that day is coming. It's on the horizon. Because I'm learning to love that confused little girl, Young Aunt Becky, in a way no one else did.

And then, I hope, my Christmas will indeed be Merry and Bright.

Merry Christmas, Pranksters. I hope that your Christmases are filled with love and light.