When I was a kid in New England, Christmas was a good time. We did the whole “chopping down a tree” thing, made hot cider and cocoa, listened to Christmas music, even participated in some pageants. We had Christmas Eve dinner and opened presents with my mom’s family on Christmas Eve, because my uncle was incapable of waiting until Christmas morning. He could barely sit through dinner and was always leading the charge from dining room to tree. Christmas just delights that man. Go figure, he’s Jewish. Christmas Day was reserved for my father’s family which was huge and usually became a raucous, slightly drunken affair that lasted until long after dark and required a new dress and tights with no holes and patent leather shoes that I polished carefully with Vaseline.
The point is, I have fond memories of 20+cousins and 20 foot trees and an entire living room filled with discarded handmade wrapping paper – blank newsprint my grandmother had covered with star-shaped potato stamps in red and green paint.
And as my childhood gave way to adulthood, as I married and divorced and remarried, everything remained very predictable and consistent. Mom’s family on Christmas Eve, dad’s family on Christmas Day. A nice little holiday.
And then my dad left. I was 23. My brothers 18 and 21. We were no longer children, but that didn’t mean that Christmas morning, when we woke up and discovered that our father had left our mother that morning – yes, he left her on Christmas – that didn’t mean that our Christmas would be unaffected. Can you imagine waking up planning to go to your father’s family’s home for Christmas, only to discover that your father was….gone?
How do you explain that? I honestly have absolutely no memory of that day. I woke up, I asked where dad was, and my mother stood with her back to me, washing dishes and probably crying, and just said “He left this morning. I drove him to the airport.”
Christmas has never been the same. Oh, she tried. But I was never able to bring myself to celebrate Christmas with his family again. My 20+ cousins and the 20 foot tree just……it just didn’t happen anymore. And then I moved to Hawaii.
Which is how I find myself adrift on Christmas Day. I could do whatever I wanted on Christmas Day. We have no plans. I usually wait tables (the money is killer on Christmas) but this year I won’t have to work.
I need a plan. My kids need a plan. We need to do something. We need to create our own version of Christmas, without extended family or snow or fresh-cut Christmas trees.
I am looking for inspiration everywhere. Ideas are most certainly welcome.