Today, I looked up and realized that Christmas is less than a week away. How did that happen?? I’ve reached an all-time low. As I wonder how I’ve managed to stick my head in the sand to the point where I’ve forgotten about Christmas, I realize that it’s because nothing will live up to what was my absolute favorite Christmas.
We have a rocky history, Christmas and I.
For years, I’ve had different ways of dealing with Christmas. Being an only child, and living in an area where I have very little extended family, family Christmases were always pretty boring. The idea of visiting my extended family on the east coast didn’t sound like a terrible idea to me, but was annually vetoed by the parents who didn’t want to travel and pack all kinds of crap just to be immersed in what might have been their own traumatic family memories. As my mother was the youngest of 11, and my father was the oldest of 8, I can’t say I blamed them.
So, we stayed home. Our Christmas dinner was held in the same room, at the same table where I ate dinner nightly and there were no additional guests that made it feel especially festive. We had a tree every year, but even as we decorated, I dreaded the chore of having to take the tree down on New Years’ Day — because my mother would have crumbled with shame had we left our tree up even one more day into the New Year.
We didn’t have the Norman Rockwell Christmas (or even the trashy Kardashian Christmas), where the whole family gathers in their PJs and gazes in merriment at the gifts below the impeccably decorated tree. First of all, there was only one of me. There was nobody to gaze at. Second, I was lucky if my mother wrapped my gifts half the time — not that I really cared. I could count on getting a major item that was on my “Santa” list (unless my personal team of Santas determined that my request was ludicrous and was therefore deliberately absent from my gift selection. I once asked for a baby sister, and not only was there not a baby under the tree, that entire topic was never introduced. I later thanked them for their prevailing common sense [and ultimate decision that they couldn't run the risk of having another like me]).
Then there’s my father’s odd collection of gifts. Love my dad, but he’s a horrific gift giver, and he’ll wrap anything and put it under the tree. To add insult to injury, he hermetically seals whatever he wraps in as much Scotch tape as they sell at Walgreen’s, which means that you’re fighting for your life to reveal what will undoubtedly be something that you don’t want. We had to have a talk when I struggled to unwrap an oddly shaped gift that ended up being a giant candy cane stick. Really, dad? (As proof that you live and learn, he’s taken to giving me checks instead. A tradition that he should have started years ago.)
At some point we began going to the more exciting homes of others to celebrate Christmas (because anything was more exciting than staring at my parents). This was all good — or at least a welcome departure from the holiday doldrums — until I realized that I never really enjoyed other peoples’ food, nor did I enjoy downloading the entire previous year to the relative strangers with whom I shared the holiday table.
At some point — well into adulthood — I decided that Christmas would be MY day. The first year I ordered thai food and watched marathons of Trading Spaces. My parents were somewhat jealous (because even the worst Pad Kee Mao is better than dry turkey). I was thrilled. I felt like I was stealing time from the world, and I added elements each year. Some years I went to matinees, and other years I chose to be somewhat social and visit friends for a handful of hours. Was I lonely? Hell no!
As an aside, only children tend to be one of two ways. Either we have to be around people all of the time because we grew up solo and lacked a feeling of belonging. OR we can be alone all day and not really notice until it occurs to us that we haven’t spoken to anyone all day. It will surprise you to learn that I’m the latter.
When I began dating the BF, he made me participate in Christmas. He has a larger family, and they tend to make more of a big deal of these things. He insisted that I go with him to his sister’s house on Christmas Eve the first year that we were together — even though we’d been dating mere weeks at the time. His sister-in-law asked if we were exclusive, and I had no idea what to say other than “Ummm . . .did you ask HIM that question? What did he say?” (She and I are great friends now and laugh about this in retrospect)
I’ve been slowly trying to acclimate him to my version of Christmas, and he beats me over the head with his. I’m gradually pulling him over to the dark side (even though he’s kicking and screaming to keep some semblance of Christmas tradition).
But by far, the best Christmas in either of our memories was our Jamaican vacation. Eleven blissful days of sun and seclusion at an adults-only resort which included a Christmas morning of spa visits and a phenomenal private lobster dinner on the beach. Does it get better? (In case you’re pondering, the answer is a resounding NO, it doesn’t. Say what you like about family tradition, but seriously? Nothing gets you excited about the birth of baby Jesus quite like eating freshly caught lobster tail while waves crash mere feet from your table.) While everyone else was fighting the snow, we were laid out on the beach. While other people were bundling themselves up in preparation of braving the cold and dealing with their most irritating relatives, we were swimming with dolphins. Granted it wasn’t perfect. The BF had a cold for the first few days (and managed to forget to pack socks and underwear) and I got stung by a jellyfish, but I’d do it again. (And before you ask, NO, he didn’t pee on me) Seriously . . . if you’ve never traveled to a warm destination for Christmas? Treat yourself!
I wish I were treating myself this year.
This will be our 5th Christmas together, and I’m still mourning our 3rd Christmas. Last year wasn’t so bad because we were planning an extended trip to Miami in January. But THIS year? I haven’t done a lick of shopping (except for things that I’ve bought myself), and having had two colds already this season, I’m not overly anxious to be in social settings where people are breathing in my face and wanting to shake my hand.
So, now I’m at the point where I almost wish we hadn’t taken that vacation, because everything else will pale in comparison.
Or perhaps I need to start planning our vacation for next year. If I’m going to stick my head in the sand, it might as well be REAL sand!