My son Martin and his girlfriend Alison were in Costa Rica visiting her sister and her family who live there – so our Christmas dinner will be in January – late – even after the Ukrainian and Macedonian Christmas celebrations. When a friend asked me why I wasn’t having anybody over and cooking a big poultry roast dinner – she thought it was because I couldn’t afford it – I said “I can’t be bothered.” Really, I was glad to spend the time alone – I didn’t starve and I got phone calls from my son and his girlfriend, my friend from across the street, and from an old school friend. I chatted for close to an hour with each. And I played my Hayley Westenra and Sarah McLachlan Christmas CDs while opening my presents – even had it serendipitously timed to open the one from Martin and Alison when they called.
For dinner I did a roast – sort of – chicken drumsticks (I’m allergic to turkey), baked yam, scalloped potatoes, stewed rhubarb (from rhubarb I’d frozen from my garden in the summer – some of my mother’s traits live on), and vanilla ice cream…and lots of eggnog and chocolates.
Then there were all the get-togethers with friends before and after Christmas including some dinners out.
It’s a far cry from 10 years ago when I spent Christmas Day alone – my son was visiting his paternal grandmother and aunt, uncle and cousins in Vancouver. I was sick with a very bad flu and feeling alone – I even called my ex and wished him a Merry Christmas. But when I phoned one of my closest friends she just didn’t get it – she kept saying I should get on a bus and come over there for dinner and her husband would pick me up at the bus stop – she lives outside of Toronto. Newsflash dear friend – I was too sick to go beyond my front door.
I guess this Christmas was my variation of the warm close Christmases I spent with my late Mom and Dad. We managed to make our individual quirks work for memorable Christmases – and they weren’t always the same – sometimes we spent Christmas Day at home, just the three of us – sometimes we went to my dad’s sister’s for Christmas with her family. In my memoir which I’m writing (still – query off to an agent this month – New Year’s promise) I describe a composite of my family’s Christmas. Here’s just a little bit.
Between Christmas and New Year’s, every other year, the living room and dining room are filled with clinking glasses, low chatter, and the near-midnight snack served on the dining room table. Mom has whirled through her cleaning frenzy, vacuuming the two or three months’ collection of dust bunnies hiding under the furniture, and denuded the tabletop of its usual sewing paraphernalia. Our good friends, The Armstrongs – George, Margaret and their spinster daughter, Eileen – from across the street, drop over to visit and mother lets me stay up late. I half listen to the drone and whisper (one year mother had laryngitis) while keeping one eye on the TV in the corner and the other eye (and stomach) focusing on the spread in the next room – delicate sandwiches filled with egg salad or salmon, minus the crusts now banished to the pop-up garbage can in the kitchen. When Mom finally gives the “come and eat,” signal, I stuff my pre-teen body with a midnight meal, while grabbing looks at The Bells of St. Mary’s. Warm room, congenial conversation, and the midnight feast lull me into a cocoon of false security.
Excerpted from You Can Go Home. Copyright 2009 Sharon Crawford. (And no, I’m not explaining that last line above. You’ll have to read the book when it comes out.)
I think I learned something this season. You don’t need your whole family descending on you for Christmas…and Boxing Day…and other days… and New Year’s Day to have a good Christmas. And if like me, your closest family is away for Christmas and your next-closest (read all my cousins) are in other cities and countries, you don’t need to sit alone and moan. Visit with your friends and spread it throughout the holiday. And on Christmas Day…don’t mope because you are alone. Christmas is what you make it. And so are the days, weeks and months after. A friend (who is also a writing colleague) and I are getting together one evening later this week for a short walk and then a coffee and a catch-up talk.