Monday, November 14, 2011

have yourself a merry little christmas

I grew up with incredible Christmases. A house with not just one but sometimes four Christmas trees. To explain what it was like with such a huge wonderful family, two fireplaces, snowmen - everything. We had everything. Holidays were that time of year my Mother put out all of her Swarovski crystal and all the oriental rugs. The house was perfect, every bed and then some was full and Nat King Cole played on the stereo at the perfect volume.

It is because I had such perfection that I am completely at ease having a different experience now.

I've had a lot of strange Christmases in my adult life, and my plans this year, though dull, still bring me joy.

After College I tried to go home for the holiday. I was struggling to figure out how to pull everyone together again. I went home, I cleaned and decorated, and cleaned some more. I tried to but failed at pulling off the miracle my Mother had for dozens of years.

The past was perfect and gone, happiness wasn't going to happen until I moved on.

I married and spent a couple Christmases pretending I could fit in someone else's family. I learned how to bake some amazing cookies and perfected the art of throwing a huge over the top Christmas party. I even called it a Fezzywig. My ex grudgingly went along with it. I tried so hard to bring a little over abundance of the Holmes house into the lives of the people in my life. It was a small success but when my marriage ended so did the traditions I was struggling to make. In my heart I know I will Fezzywig again someday.

Faced with my first Christmas alone in the world I chose to travel. The experience was incredible and worth repeating over and over. It changed me, my values, how I feel this time of year - Everything, it changed everything. I have become a more self reliant and flexible woman where I was a very stubborn child afraid of change.

Part of this was accepting that wherever I am and whomever I am with, Christmas is glorious. I have never had a green man steel my tree and roast beast, but I got the same lesson.

The first year away it was a bit awkward for me, to be living with a host family where I felt like I was intruding in their Holiday. But I thought of the guests we loved having join us when I was growing up and I just melted into their hospitality. This open arm acceptance with too much food and community was the feeling that transcended Nat King Cole and the glitz of my childhood home near the holidays. It was home, completely home.

There was still so much to do, vegetables to cut, things to fuss over - everywhere. It always feels so wonderful to see the business necessary for spending time together being shared by the very hands that reap the benefit.

It gracious and lovely, and it happens even between strangers. That is Christmas.

I am not much of a fan of the giftyness of it all. This is a girl who once cried cause she thought he dog Beau was left out without a gift. The next year my parents put one of those ridiculous dog stockings up for him. I also properly freaked out when I though I didn't get the "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego" computer game I begged for. I had opened a roomful of gifts and it wasn't there. I lost it, yelled at my parents and cried. My mother told my brother Pete to give me what he had gotten me, it was the game. Not my best day. Wretched thing to do, but to me on that day, knowing where the gifts came from, I felt like no one listened. Of course my mother would set Peter up to be the hero, as if he needed yet another reason for me to adore him.

I remember thinking they all wasted their money on stupid things when all I wanted was that game and they didn't bother to get it for me. Trust me, I spent a lot of time not getting what I wanted - thankfully my parents knew better than to satiate a fickle child. This is my contrition, I should never have behaved that way. But maybe that's what happens when there is just so much of everything and my child-mind was overwhelmed.

This year I will celebrate peace and quiet. I will have a nice run and probably go see a movie. I will spend the day packing for a New Year's trip to South Africa and reading a bunch of stuff I have been putting off until after the semester. And this year, for the first time ever on Christmas, I will be alone. I will be fine, but I know its not what people who love me want me to do. But I think the folks who know me get that this is just fine.

Its not that I will be visited by three ghosts - those ghosts got nothing on me. My life has been a race recently and this pause is needed, I assure you.

My life has been a walk down a long hall at some beautiful hotel. I started at one end opening doors. I spend a little time in each room and move on. Each room is unique with a different beautiful view. The room I am in now is far quieter than I am used to. But I know the noise will return in another room further down the hall. All those traditions and decorations I stored for future use rooms ago will appear again. Even the Swarovski crystal.