The line-ups at the LCBO yesterday hit the back of the store, and it’s a big store. Apparently I’m not the only one who kind of wants to curl up and hibernate with a bottle of wine during the holidays. I think our city actually made some sort of news for emptying liquor store shelves as though the apocalypse was coming. Which doesn’t really make sense, because I think if the apocalypse were coming I’d be looking for canned goods, water and toilet paper, and hoarding all of my homemade pickles and jam instead of giving them away as Christmas presents. I kind of get the analogy, though. There’s some sense of impending something-or-other around this time of year. I want so badly to say I’m so looking forward to it, and I just can’t wait to drag that giant tree into my living room and struggle under it (after begging help from a friend, because this is one of the things I just haven’t been able to master as a singleton) so that it doesn’t fall down a third time. I do wish it didn’t hurt so much to haemorrhage money maniacally in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. I want to say I’m perfectly happy going to all of the family celebrations as the only one not cozily coupled up, or that I never give it a second thought. I would love to tell you that I will clean up my Christmas tree right after New Year’s Eve, and that I won’t park it outside of my front door for the next three months. But all of those things would be a little bit of a stretch of the truth. And I know I’m not alone. Every single person I saw out shopping in the days leading up to today looked nothing short of miserable. Some were bordering on hysteria, some didn’t even try to pretend, and just silently shook their heads, which kind of translated universally into ‘I would rather be just about anywhere else in the universe than here, in this never-ending line-up.’
My mother asked me the other day if my kids had any real traditions that they look forward to at Christmas, and I guess the ones we have are different, because we’ve had to be flexible. Ours are small, like there is always night skating over the holidays. I always give my family my homemade pickles or jam at Christmas dinner. There are always new Christmas pyjamas, although this year that meant bears, camouflage and stripes, and we’re okay with that. It means putting on Christmas music and drinking eggnog until it makes us sick, and Christmas cookies and decking the tree out in my homemade birds, of which they do have their favourites. It means having that hopeful moment in the dark before we light up the tree, in anticipation of what is, without fail, a very imperfect and crooked tree. This year the tree is too tall for the star on top to fit, and so the star is all askew, and it just seems fitting. Things are often just a little askew in this house. And that’s okay.
Part of what gets me through the holidays is food. Planning it, making sure I bring something to whatever dinners to which I’ve been invited. This year I tried my hand at pâté, made with chicken livers (Thanks, Mom, for liking that!), truffled brie wrapped in phyllo pastry, and artichoke dip. All very festive, and the preparation gives me a sense of purpose.
Dinner with family is always an adventure, five adults and five children and a dog hiding in there somewhere finding a way to make sure everyone is happy and well-fed and full of good cheer. I usually have to drive the 20 minutes home at the end of the evening, and last night on the way out when I had myself worked up about whether or not I had forgotten anything, whether or not my kids were wearing matching socks and had I remembered to clip the fingernails of both hands on both boys, and what if no one liked the pâté,and whether or not I had packed deodorant because I was doing the body-sweat-hair-curl cycle, I decided that 60$ in cab fare would be well worth it, and I would leave my car there overnight. Would you like some red, Tanya? Yes. Please.
Happy kids, happy Mom, and their first cab ride. Another memory made. I can’t pretend that on every occasion that goes by I don’t wonder as I take these pictures whether or not there will be another Christmas selfie, or birthday family portrait. And you just have to flip that around, and decide to simply be thankful for this one, because it’s really all that any of us have. Right now, today.
And that’s why we put the tree up. That’s why we brave the stores to buy tokens for our loved ones. That’s why I push the fifth-wheel feeling to the back of my head for dinner. That’s why I try to breathe deeply and relax that ever-present tension between my shoulder blades and enjoy the moments I have. That’s why I pour myself a fizzy patchouli bubble bath when my kids go to their Dad’s for Christmas Day, and decide to enjoy my quiet time rather than miss them.
Tonight, I get to attempt that crazy pomegranate thing that’s been circulating all over the internet, and look up some exciting pomegranate salad dressing for the salad that I am bringing to dinner. And that will make me feel like I have contributed to the Christmas dinner that I am attending, while my children are at theirs.
If you’re having a rough time during these holidays, I am sorry. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, financially strapped, anxious, sad, worried, hopeless, or afraid, I am sorry. If you are missing someone you have lost (Happy Birthday, Grandma!) I am also so, so sorry for that. These are indeed very difficult times for so many, and that’s why when I saw the woman being pointlessly irate with a clerk the other day, and when I saw a man say to his wife in front of their children ‘F- this. I’m dropping you off and going shopping by myself’, I just wanted to stop both of them and give them a hug. That’s likely what they needed. So. To all of you out there, happy or sad, I wish you, from the bottom of my heart, good cheer for this Christmas. Find some joy. Find some love. Hug someone. Merry, merry Christmas.