The first Christmas that my sister and I lived in Vegas was nothing like I expected it would be. When I first moved out there, I had visions of perfect peace– closure with my mom’s death, happiness to finally be getting to know my father–but that was all grossly ambitious. My father doesn’t celebrate holidays. I should have known better.

Dad decided that he needed to work on Christmas, so at 10am he drove my sister and me to the Fashion Show mall on the strip, handed us each two hundred dollars, and said, “Have fun!” As he drove away from us in the parking garage.

For those of you who haven’t been to Vegas, the Fashion Show mall is huge. It spans basically a whole city block (Whatever you’re thinking of as a city block, expand that by three times and then you’ll have a Vegas City Block), and has almost every store you can think of.

We were happy enough to go shopping. I mean, getting to pick out our own presents meant that we would only get stuff that we really wanted. In later years, when I was living with guardian families, I constantly got presents that I had no use for. One such relic that still lives in my closet is this hideous magenta rain coat that a guardian’s family thought would be great for me. I don’t know why they thought red hair and pink coat would be a good combo, but they did. I haven’t replaced it because I’m cheap as hell. So in my closet it stays.

The problem with this first Christmas was that we were left at the mall for my dad’s entire work day. Eight hours with no escape. After about the first three hours of shopping, we got cranky. And bored. And bought shit just to buy shit. It was weird. I remember us having to drag each other to the food court (located all the way on one side of the mall) for sustenance. As we sat and ate we really didn’t know what else to do. We bought everything we wanted, but it didn’t really feel rewarding? Like Christmas? Where was the wrapping paper? The cheesy cards?

I think even then, as teenagers, we knew that the stuff and the money spent on the stuff wasn’t the point. Thank goodness I had my sister with me. The only thing worse than being dropped off on the strip together would have been getting dropped off there alone.

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