This is the first time in a very long time, if not forever, that I have chosen to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas alone. I haven’t stayed up for the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve in so long that I don’t consider that a ‘holiday of celebration’.
It’s not that I have chosen not to celebrate the holidays, it’s simply that I have chosen to celebrate them in a way that puts zero percent pressure on me.
My childhood Christmases, as I recall them, weren’t horrible. As kids, we didn’t make a list for Santa of what gifts we wanted, so sometimes we got something we liked, and sometimes we didn’t. Although we were far from ‘poor’, at least one gift was clothing of some sort, underwear or socks, often, and one gift had some educational purpose (my mother, the school teacher!). Luckily for me, my educational purpose gifts were books – either Nancy Drew and/or The Bobsey Twins – so those were always gifts I liked because I enjoyed reading.
As adults, all now living in separate dwellings away from home and all having very different lifestyle, buying gifts for siblings became even more difficult than buying gifts for parents, though that was also difficult. Brad and I were the single ones, while Mark had fulfilled our parents’ wishes by having a spouse, a child, an actual home with mortgage, etc. Brad was often strong enough to omit himself from attending some ‘family time’ events – for me, especially once the folks moved to Florida – I felt far too guilty to do the same.
My older brother, Mark, was less than a year older than me. We had, however, nothing in common. I saw a lot of my parents in his behaviors, and I was still struggling to break away from doing what my parents thought (wanted) me to do with my life. I literally felt like an outsider at these family events, because, once Mark and Sally had a child, everything focused on the grandchild. And I’m not afraid to say it – in my opinion, the grandchild was often obnoxious, needy of attention, had no boundaries or respect for people older than she was, and had a sense of entitlement. I will never forget the year she got up from where she was sitting, walked over to me, turned around and bent over and let out some gas. She then turned back to me and said, “Smell my fart, Aunt Jody”. Everybody but me managed a chuckle, but I was mortified not only by the behavior, but by the fact that none of the adults thought it was improper.
In order to escape from some of the sense of being an outsider and to excuse myself from what I considered obnoxious conversation (my niece would say things like, “When I have to fold dad’s underwear, he always reminds me that the brown side is the back”), I was pretty insistent that I help with the clean-up from our meal together. As I know I’ve mentioned before, I find washing dishes in a sink of hot, soapy water to be therapeutic, but it was more because I needed to just get away from this forced family fun time.
I do remember actually enjoying the time in the kitchen with my sister-in-law, Sally. Sally was a totally type B personality and easy to be around. We’d have conversations about nothing I’d remember the next day, but there was no pressure in being around her. In truth, I have to credit those moments with Sally of being my fondest memories of our grown-up family Christmases.
When I moved almost 6 years ago, my love of cooking and playing hostess propelled me to offer to host Christmas for my best friend and her family and invited my beloved brother to be there as well. Then, my best friend’s husband’s health took a turn for the worse, and he chose to no longer come along. Then COVID struck and my brother and I opted for a quick day visit for him to come here – we social distanced or masked during our whole visit. Of course, he’s always quick to remind me that I try to do too much in terms of a meal, but that’s part of who I am. In 2020, planning for my bestie and her son to visit, I have to say that I was a little disappointed that only my bestie came. WAIT! Not that I wasn’t grateful to have some one-on-one time with her, since the pandemic had been keeping us apart, but since she doesn’t enjoy cooking, I could have made anything for a meal and she’d have enjoyed it.
So, for 2021, I decided that I truly needed – and deserved – holidays that involved absolutely no pressure, no need to get dressed and cleaned up for the occasion, no need to rush through trying to clean my place good enough for company, no need to cook a meal that included things other people liked that I wouldn’t normally cook for myself, zero stress over having to buy gifts for people who are just too difficult to shop for, having to wrap said gifts (this is where having my brother here was handy, because he enjoyed that task and I abhorred it!). No need to have the TV on to entertain others, especially since I don’t think watching parades on TV and listening to celebrity commentators talk qualifies as fun. I will still keep up my tradition of putting a candle in a cupcake, lighting it, singing happy birthday to Jesus, then blowing out the candle and enjoying the cupcake with my coffee. After all, that’s what Christmas IS about!
No forced family fun time, no pressure on myself to cook a feast, no presents to give or receive, and absolutely zero guilt about not doing any of it… Sounds like a perfect day to me!