We were fortunate to be able to have Christmas dinner with my close girlfriend and her family. We have been doing this a couple years now (since my Mom died) and we also celebrate together at the 4th of July. My brother who lives locally takes his vacation at Christmas so he is not in town. My sister and I have been at odds since my Mom's death. So, this dinner represents family and togetherness for us. My girlfriend is a teacher and has befriended a 74 semi-retired secretary at her school, R. This woman is estranged from family, lives alone and doesn't drive. She attends the Christmas dinner too.
I had to force myself the past two days to be cheerful and not morbidly depressed. Although that is how I felt inside. I didn't think I could ruin what little celebration the boys would have by my mood. Nor could I ruin my friend's kindness and her dinner. So I did my best to put on my game face and keep it on. I didn't put up any type of tree at the apartment because my massive collection of Christmas decorations are buried between two large storage sheds. When you already own so much it is hard to justify buying more, even when you can't dig them out of storage. So it was very nice to have such a pretty tree to gaze at and enjoy at my friend's home.
But it was painful to see the modest assortment of unwrapped gifts under the tree because we didn't have any this year. I saw a pile of those small cookbooks you can pick up at the grocery checkout line and asked my friend who was thoughtful enough to get her those. She admitted she had gotten them for her own stocking because she gets so tired of not having anything to open from it. I got a big kick out of this because in year's past I did the same thing for my stocking - the universal plight of the single or only parent!
It was snowing and very pretty outside but I kept remembering the Christmas Days of my past life (before husband's death - BHD) and the reality that if he were still living, we'd be at our own special and happy celebration. As nice as my friend's dinner was, I would have preferred my own with our individual and unique traditions.
I enjoyed talking to R. She and I have gotten to know each other a bit over the years. I gave my girlfriend a lovely soft and fuzzy scarf I knitted in shades of blue, her favorite color. Last year I made everyone at the dinner ski bands. BHD, I used to give such nice presents to the teachers, friends and family. And I baked masses of cookies and quick breads. It is humbling to be in a position where homemade gifts become the norm because of no other options. Although, I might consider re-gifting if I had anything to give.
My friend's annual gift to our family is a bag of soda, candy, popcorn and gift card for a video rental. She and her friend exchanged DVDs of their favorite old t.v. shows and my friend also got some Bath & Body Works lotions, a candle and ski band. My friend asked if the ski band came from a craft show since she likes to attend those. R. did not reply.
Our Christmas feast was traditional and with all the trimmings: turkey, potato (mashed and sweet), dressing, pear/cranberry/spinach salad, broccoli salad, cranberry, green bean casserole, corn, relish, rolls, cookies and homemade pumpkin pie. Since my friend is going out of town to visit her family, she gave us ALL the leftovers, which I am sure she had planned to do in advance. She was even kind enough to serve a bottle of Cabernet for me, my favorite.
We listened to Christmas music which I have heard very little of this season. My oldest left after pie to go back to his girlfriend's down the street. At 8:30, my friend took R. home but I stayed back just sitting in front of the tree and watching the snow fall from the picture window. It was hard being at my friend's home, which is a modest ranch. I felt sad with the realization that I no longer own my own home and that our life in now in a cramped and messy apartment because there isn't much storage space.
While my friend was out, I looked at the gifts she received and wanted to examine the ski band since I am a crafter. I looked at it closely and thought the pattern looked familiar. Upon closer inspection I realized that the band was one of the ones I'd made for my girlfriend and her family and R. last Christmas! Turns out the friend re-gifted my homemade gift back to my girlfriend this year! This realization was amusing but also a little sad. I suppose it made me think that people don't consider handmade gifts very valuable.
When my girlfriend returned she got a good chuckle over the re-gifting. Then we spent some quality time talking and listening to music. I looked at pictures of some guys she is communicating with at eHarmony and read their emails. Then we both admitted that throughout the evening both of us had had the thought that we do not want to end up like R. We don't want to be in the position of going to someone's home other than our families because there is no where else to go. To suspect that someone feels sorry for us.
R. got divorced in the 1960s, well before it became acceptable in society. Her husband had an affair and his mistress got pregnant. The baby was born on the same day as R.'s little girl. So R. raised two kids and worked as a secretary on her own. She was bitter about her husband's affair and divorce (rightly so). She never dated or remarried. I remember having similar thoughts about R. and her situation last year too. 50 years is a long time to go without sex or male companionship. I don't want that for my life. I have tremendous admiration for anyone raising kids on their own and working. It is very, very trying and tiring. But looking back on my own life, I am glad I still had the courage and strength to get myself back out there into the dating world after my husband died and even after the second one filed for divorce.
Despite the disaster of my second marriage, I have no regrets that I took another chance on love and went for it. I would rather be facing the consequences of that doomed relationship than to be living a safer and predictable life as R. chose. But I know and appreciate that everyone is different. What is right for me may not be for someone else. But I know that it is important for me to build and share a life with a significant other. And that I am extremely unfulfilled and empty living without a partner.
Here we were last night, three woman with different painful stories related to divorce and death of husbands. None of us had any clues when we first got married as to the final outcomes of those unions. It made me reflect on Sam who was not with us this Christmas like he was last year. The weather was just too risky for the drive and he only had Christmas day off and needed to be back at work today. Within this next week I have to make the decision as to whether to stick it out here for the sake of the boys finishing high school at their old school or go ahead with the move out-of-state and a quicker future with Sam. That will be the emphasis of my upcoming posts but for today I wanted one last entry about Christmas and to keep my depression and holiday blues at bay for a little longer.
And I had to share the story about the Christmas re-gifting! That ties right on in with my knitted oven mitt mitten! But if I can throw in my two cents here - I know after this I'll really think twice about ever re-gifting, even if that means all I can give is a handmade gift.