Well, I have survived yet another Christmas.
For many, it has been a rough year economically and that meant cutting back on Christmas celebrations. Not an easy thing to do in the season of giving. Our hearts and minds say we want to give to others and spend time with the people who are important to us, but our finances say that may not be possible. It really is a balancing act at holiday time.
I don't do much on Christmas anymore. I do, however do a fair bit of socializing beforehand. I try to spend some time with the people in my life - family and friends - and share some of my baking with them.
It has been close to 20 years since I actually went home for Christmas. We almost always had our gathering on Boxing Day. I think the first year I missed was in the late 1980's. I remember the weather was a bit warmer than normal and it was quite icy. Travel wasn't advised in some areas. The bus depot was about a 20 minute walk from my apartment and I recall nearly falling a couple of times as I hauled my suitcase and gift bag along the slippery sidewalk. I bought my ticket and sat waiting for departure time. I heard several travelers talking about the road conditions and even a couple of drivers saying they wished they didn't have to drive. Granted it may have been because it was Christmas, but it didn't make me feel confidant about the trip. I went to a pay phone and called home collect to see what the weather was like. I was assured that as long as drivers took things slow it would be okay, but I just wasn't feeling that great about the adventure so I cancelled my trip home and got a voucher to reuse my ticket at a later date. My brother offered to come in and pick me up but having him drive an hour each way just seemed too much to ask and I still would have been stressed about the road conditions.
That was my first Christmas alone. It wasn't great, but it wasn't horrible either. Yes, I missed the family and the big meal but I wasn't dealing with my stomach in knots over the weather and safety!
The year I lost most of my sight, 1990, I was home a few days before Christmas but came back to the city for Christmas as I just wasn't emotionally or physically ready to deal with a crowd - even if we were all related. I'd only been out of the hospital about three weeks and really wasn't seeing much of anything - nor was I navigating well outside of my apartment block. That was tough, but I went to the dinner in the building and spent time with some friends which made it easier.
I went out the following year, but the commotion and non stop sounds was a bit more than I could deal with. Another factor was that so much stuff is moved around to make room for the holidays and I wasn't able to help with any of the prep as nothing was marked for me to see or use. It was more frustrating than relaxing or enjoyable. I've only gone out to a family Christmas gathering once since then and that was the year my dad died. He died in November 2003 and my sister had a gathering at her home the first weekend of December. It was a lot more somber than usual of course, but it was good to see everyone and spend some time together.
It's not that I don't like Christmas or that I want to be alone on Christmas. It's not that I don't like my family or the Christmas gatherings - I do! They are a great bunch - well at least our immediate family is! I also love all the food and traditions. I just hate the commotion. I find it really hard to visit with anyone when there is so much going on. There never really seems to be enough time to spend with each person that you want to or you get stuck in conversations you'd rather not!
Over the years, being alone at Christmas has been a mixed bag of emotions. It can be peaceful yet painful. It can be lonely but relaxing. It can be stress free with no travel yet sometimes I still miss the family banter and camaraderie. I miss watching the kids open their gifts and the card and gift game our family played for years.
So how do I spend my Christmas?
- I make sure I have various non-Christmas things I can do if I get that lonely feeling. Things like books, non-holiday movies or PC games. One year I even sorted receipts!
- I choose the music - mostly non-traditional Christmas stuff that is a little (or a lot) off the beaten path. The less traditional, the less apt I am to get sentimental.
- The menu and meal times are up to me. I don't have to fight with anyone over who wants white or dark meat (I do a turkey breast and dressing in the oven!) or what type of salads to do (NO tomato aspic!). I try to make something special without going overboard.
This year was pretty good - although I have had better. The emotions were a bit more raw, but that could well have been menopause! I read, played PC games, did some online shopping and ate lots of good food. I did however forgot to take the turkey breast out of the freezer until noon on Christmas so had to adjust coking time for supper. I made Turkey Breast, Mom's Dressing and a baked potato in the oven and steamed broccoli in the microwave. Had some Terry's Dark Chocolate orange for dessert! Washed it all down with sparkling white grape juice. It was delicious!
All in all, it was a pretty good day. The weather wasn't great for travelling and I was glad I didn't have to be out on the roads. I kept thinking about the family and friends that I knew were travelling - and hoping that they were all safe and sound. (As far as I know they all are!)
I'm thankful to have the family and friends that I do. They don't push me to do things I'm not comfortable with or make me feel guilty for not participating in family traditions. I'm thankful for the time I do spend with each and every one of them and how much they have brought to my life.
As for next Christmas? Well, who knows? I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.