My Christmas present to myself this year is a Travel Free Holiday. I will not be stuffing US Air, Independence, or BP/Amoco's stocking this year with my annual Holiday Travel Dollars. Because I am kicking it back DC-style. With My Guy. Who specifically requested we spend Christmas together. Well, it turns out, with him and his family. At the House That Will Be Christmas This Year. A mini-Disney-style extravaganza with 4 professionally-decorated Christmas trees (or one that will have the "homemade" ornaments that will be hidden in an upstairs landing). A Bigger-Than-Life-Size snow globe in the yard and who knows what other "lawn ornaments". A house totally re-arranged for Christmas decorations. Furniture hauled out. Ivy and red velvet brought in. A decorated house to rival any Better Homes and Gardens centerfold. A Semi-formal sit-down dinner. And, well, lots of booze. Which you need at this point really, right?
But this "gift" I've bestowed upon myself (which last year, by the way, was a tiny sapphire band from Tiffany) does not come without some mixed emotion.
When he first asked me I thought that perhaps we would have our own Christmas on, say, Christmas Eve. A deux. I was going to spend the day cooking and baking. For My Guy. Which "Come One, Come All, The Freak Show is in the Big Top. Tickets are going fast. You have to see it to believe it!" But there is an interesting turn of events that my head is now privy to after I already concocted this Special Holiday for me and him in my own head. See, his family has "events" planned. Christmas is an Event. That consists of something like a Formal Dress Sit-Down Dinner on Christmas Eve at the parent's "rental home" on the Potomac, as in River. Gift Exchange at 9 AM Christmas morning, followed by Christmas Brunch. And another Dinner Extravangza. With happenings in between. Or something like this. I have yet to get the details and I am not sure all that I am going to be part of. Frankly, I don't want to partake in all these festivities. Give me a bucket of chicken and a six-pack and I'll curl up on my couch in my treeless home. Isn't it supposed to snow?
The Christmas I am used to is quite different. First of all, Christmas - for my family - has never been in the same spot and doesn't always include all of us. That is what happens when you grow up - move away - move around - and build your own families. Christmas is wherever we feel like it, whoever feels like having it, and whoever feels like going. Sometimes we are all together and sometimes we aren't. So with that, I hate the stress of picking whose house I stay at. Both my sister and brother have been married for years now so they have their own stress of where to spend the holidays. Home or in-laws? But I am the Spinster Sister. (Well, I know they don't think that but my dad's side of the family thinks that.. Questions have been asked like: "What is wrong with her?" What's her problem?" and "Why is she so selfish?" They don't send me Christmas cards because I do not have family. To which I reply, "Single People are People too.") So since my dad's passing I have the stress of staying with my mom, staying with my sister, or staying with my brother. In this situation I would pick my mother and everyone wants mom so this just means triple travel time for me - from my home to my mom's home to my sister's home to my brother's or any other direction. So I don't think my family blames me for having an option to spend the holidays travel-free, spinster that I am.
But this decision does not come without a degree of guilt. Quite simply, I'll miss my family and what I remember as Christmas. Which is different depending on whose house it is at but there are some things that warm my heart with Christmas cheer and what I remember from various Christmas Pasts: The dress code is Pajamas. All day long. The tree is never perfect but filled with sentimental ornaments - all handmade - in the second grade. Can you say green paper Christmas tree with a picture of my brother circa 2nd grade pasted on - off center? So, a tree with character, nonetheless. The garland is in pieces - a new beautiful 25 foot long strand is never bought. So there are sections of garland tucked into the tree. There is no train under the tree but there are a million old-looking Santa Clauses parked throughout the house. Just move the one off the toilet when nature calls. And the tree is always taken down the day after - if not the night of - Christmas. My mom wanted her house back in order. But there is always a big breakfast with nothing off the No-Fattening menu. Plenty to eat all day long. We drink lots of beer. We probably fight. And we never get to open anything on Christmas Eve. THIS is Christmas. THIS is what I know. THIS is what I am going to miss this year.
I won't get to eat keilbasi on Christmas Eve. I will miss seeing my nieces' and nephew's faces when they open their presents. I will miss tasting whatever new beer my brother-in-law has discovered. I will miss my momma. I will miss her talking about my daddy - she will want to share stories - to which my brother will leave the room because his eyes will well up. I will miss trying to make a joke about that. I won't get to see my mom's wrapping job this year which gets worse and worse every year. (She is the reason gift bags were invented.) I will miss this.
Instead I will be at the House That Will Be Christmas This Year which will be oozing a different kind of Christmas cheer. I will be a visitor to this Wonderland because it is not My Family. Decorating perfection is not comfortable to me. (Eclectic, imperfection, and kitsch is more my comfort zone and one could argue - lawn ornament - kitsch. I might not argue.) Yet I am excited to spend time - to spend the holiday - with my boyfriend - family and all. And they are fun in spite of their making Christmas an event where pajamas are prohibited. They pour plenty of booze which hopefully will stifle any insecurity or shyness I have. [Hmmm...Will she excuse herself to use the bathroom then reappear in her pajamas? --Inquiring Minds] Silly, drunk people make me feel s-m-r-t. Seriously, I am enjoying getting to know them better. I am flattered that after only three months of dating it was important to him for me to be there. He says that he enjoys family-time much better with me by his side. I think I know what he means.
So in preparation for the Christmas This Year I am practicing the following line, "I love the snow globe!" so it doesn't come out like, "What the #$%&*$# is that!? Your house has been hijacked by Blow-Up Lawn Ornaments R Us."
Peace on Earth
Goodwill to Men, Women, Some Children, Airplanes, and Holiday Lawn Ornaments
Happy Holidays to You and Yours and any In Between