I love the house we moved to in early 2009 and I generally find the low ceilings cozy, but last winter there were many days the house seemed too dark. Funny, since our old house also had brown wood and brown carpet, and not enough windows in the right places, and in so many ways I prefer this house, but… I figured it was midlife angst or delayed adjustment to the move.
I don’t think Craig and I are the only childless couple who even after many good years together struggle to establish meaningful routines at Christmas. We always have things to do, with each other, other family, and sometimes outreach beyond that – and some years we have made major trips, as in, off the continent – but still, there is an internalized perception that Christmas is for kids, or people with them.
I did have a strong inkling last year that some emotions from the past were churned up when right around Thanksgiving my shipment of a gumdrop tree (I don’t even like gumdrops, but I wanted to acknowledge the 1960s family tradition of poking them onto plastic tree limbs) disappeared, the package apparently stolen….also and maybe not less importantly I had ordered an orange crystal pendant I wanted to wear at Thanksgiving – gumdrops and costume jewelry for the special day – and when I first put it on the chain for the pendant broke. Yes, I overreacted to that, the world seemed dark and dysfunctional (which it is, but on higher-endorphin days we try to ignore that fact).
It was fun to entertain Craig’s family on Christmas Eve, at least those who could get here with the unexpectedly heavy snow, but that same weekend I remember calling my sister-in-law B. and her asking if I had been drinking. Uh yes? Holiday, hours spent alone (I like to be alone…don’t I?), thinking of deceased family members, doesn’t that fit the profile of someone who would fill up a glass before dialing a phone number?
As I go through more life ages and stages I am getting more…and less…adjusted to missing my mother and my oldest brother at holidays, and the traditions, or at least activities, we did and didn’t share. I am glad that widowed sister-in-law B. has a new husband as of 2010 and is making new traditions. I also established new routines when I married Craig, but every holiday I still feel an unexpected yearning …stuff that’s either not expressed or maybe only occasionally expressed in a therapeutic setting – for my family of origin (the 6 of us intact until 1974, before my stepfamily and several deaths) and our traditions, imperfect as they were.
Craig has at least two families, being an adult child of divorce, and I have a few extended families myself. You would (I would) think this cluster of people would feel warm and homey. Sometimes it does – other times you miss your original little unit from the childhood decades, or just want to go out to a restaurant as a family/couple of two and have wine with dinner and please only yourselves all day – the restaurant concept being not a bad Thanksgiving, as I will testify. (No muss, no fuss, being with your favorite date!)
Decorating a tree is a hassle, worth it if you care – many years I have, some I haven’t… We have a small mini tree that’s prelit that I no longer bother to decorate, and for Christmas 2009 we pretended that tree was a décor accessory and left it up and sometimes lit till…maybe April?
I also bought a cheap Wal-Mart tree (we had been boycotting nice big trees since our dog Billie ate two of them in her teens) that since I waited too long to go shop for ended up an odd size/color, skinny/tall/black, the Wal-Mart early December remainder of whatever they had had when their Christmas stock first rolled out. “Black spruce” but looking almost witch-like in shape and color. I put ornaments on it, got out my camera and posted images on Facebook but something was not right. Not really wrong, but not right either.
I think last Christmas went wrong inside Sarah – I don’t blame the tree. Regarding gifts – I got some nice ones, practical ones plus unexpected, from Craig (he stood in line at a holiday-crazy accessory outlet store and got me a chartreuse watch with a puppy on the dial!, which I love, of course). My sister somehow managed to sneak a handmade blanket under the tree, mailing it to my cousin who has a key to my house, without my realizing it was from her…the drama was heightened because we have another relative who shares my sister’s name, so I didn’t even figure out the gift tag till I opened the package.
(The perfect gift - it just took me by surprise!)
Last winter I didn’t have all the colorful art I have today – although even with all the couple of hundred (yesssss) of colorful paintings in this house, on overcast days it still feels dark. Which makes me think/wonder/worry, if I hadn’t bought the art, would/should I have spent that money on new lighter-color kitchen cabinets, painted the walls bright colors and? had enough in the bank not to worry too much about resale-ability if our jobs or marriage, or lives otherwise, took a downturn…are these thoughts wrong? (More wrong than the lack of preparation?)
(To Be Continued…)