Disclaimer: This is not a plea for sympathy or invites or company. It is just how it is for me this Christmas and what I’m doing about it.
Christmas has always been big for me, and Christmas 2015 is the first one in thirteen years in which I will be alone in the house with no spouse (she’s moved on), no guests (I’m not much of a host), and no family (they live a gazillion miles away). It will be me, and my fur kids. Two cats and a dog. I had a terrific turkey dinner with friends last weekend and will be having dinner with great friends on Christmas Day, but will be coming back to the quiet house.
Christmases before I moved to Calgary were filled with carolling, tobogganing, playing Santa Claus, playing Joseph in the Nativity scene, selling Christmas trees with Dad, parties with friends, and midnight church services. One year I even spent Christmas dinner in a bunkhouse with real cowboys and trail guides, eating off paper plates and singing Christmas carols to guitars and harmonica. It was the best!
Christmases as a child were exhilarating. Many were spent in a small town that had horse-drawn sleigh rides, carollers, and a dedicated adult who walked around town and tossed snowballs on rooftops to make it sound like reindeer were landing. The gifts under the tree the next morning were astounding. Not usually expensive, just cool and fun and full of love. It was a Norman Rockwell life.
The only gift I will receive this year will be from my mother. Same as last year and too many of the years before that. I knew that this was going to be a tough Christmas, being the first post-divorce and all, so I’ve made sure that the tree is up and fully decorated, but it looked pretty sparse with just the one gift (probably a too-small sweater, again) under it.
Getting maudlin, I started to think about the great gifts I’ve been given over the years by friends and family, and that’s when I realized that I still have most of them. Yes, I’m a pack rat. And that’s how I’m going to save my Christmas.
I’ve decided to take the best 20 or so gifts I’ve received in 55 Christmases, wrap them, label and bow them, and stick them under the tree. There will be the teddy bear from my first Christmas in 1960 and the handmade bear I received thirty-five years later. There will be the mint coin sets our grandparents gave us from 1965 to 1981. There’s the replica of Charlemagne’s sword, and the custom, handmade, personalized pen I received only a couple years ago.
There’s a novel I helped to get published, a framed photo of my youngest nephew, a carved lion my mother brought back from Africa, and a silk tie my late roommate Tracy brought back for me from her trip to Europe when we lived together.
The list goes on, and is diverse and odd, but the one thing all of the gifts have in common is that they were from people I will not be spending Christmas with this year. Some of the givers live away, but some, like Tracy, my father, and my grandparents, are dead.
This will be an emotional Christmas Day, because as I open each gift I’m going to take a moment and think about how much that loved one means to me, whether they’re across the country, across the city, or passed on. I will be physically alone, but I will be so completely enveloped in love from Christmases past that I hope it will become my new tradition. I fully expect to weep like a child as the emotions slam into me, but I’m hoping it will be cathartic.
Because I’m the one who has done all the wrapping and labelling, the only surprises will be whatever rises up from within my heart. I’m pretty sure that there will be cat meows and dog whimpers as my trio all try to figure out why their pet papa is curled up in a ball on the carpet in tears. But that’s okay, because they are fully capable of being my comfort. Sadly, the one dog who was created from a piece of my heart and given tiny pooch form has been gone since October 2014, and I think she is who I will miss most. Whenever things got tough in the ten years she was at my side, she simply climbed up in my lap and shared her heartbeat.
Anyway, that’s my plan for Christmas this year: reliving past giftings and past Christmases, and once again feeling the love that fills my life.
May you have a marvellous Holiday Season, no matter what you celebrate. If you’re alone, know that it’s only in body, not in soul, because I’m there with you in spirit. If you’re surrounded by family and friends, give them all hugs and thank them the gift of their presence in your life.
That’s it, that’s all.
Tim (and Sedona, Kerouac, and Calliope).