Traditions

Up until about seven years ago, I didn’t celebrate Christmas. My family didn’t celebrate Christmas. We weren’t Jehovah’s Witness or anything, we just didn’t celebrate it because of it’s pagan origins (long story). I didn’t really notice that I was different until I was about age 11 or 12 and all my friends at school had new clothes when we came back from winter break. I still didn’t really miss celebrating Christmas because my family always went to this big three day bible conference that in itself seemed like a huge festivity. I had so many cousins and Aunts and Uncles who got together during this time, it just seemed like a giant play-time party with eating and bible readings thrown in between. We got to stay in a hotel and stay up late. I remember running down the carpeted hallways playing chase with my cousins in my footed pajamas. It was 3 days of non-stop fun. My brother and I looked forward to it all year long. We’d even count down the days like other kids count down the days until Christmas.

Then when I got older, it turned into a youth socialization event. Since I wasn’t really allowed to date outside of my religion, this conference was really the only chance we had to meet other people your own age and possibly your future husband (woo woo, eyebrows lifting). We used to joke that it was “happy hunting grounds” for a future spouse. It’s not like I was really into getting married right away but I did find myself getting caught up in wondering which boy was looking at me during these youth group meetings. You know, teenager stuff. It was really just a way to meet new people from all over the world (and from a larger perspective, a way to keep from inbreeding too much).

After college, I left that religion and along with embracing everything else worldly, I decided to see how the rest of the world celebrated the holidays. I have to admit Christmas is a blast and even though I’m fond of the three-day bible conference, it paled in comparison. I love celebrating Christmas! Those pagans really know how to have fun. But because I don’t have that much history celebrating Christmas, I always feel a little bit at a disadvantage to everyone else who does celebrate this holiday. I don’t know what the normal customs and traditions are. I don’t know what it’s like to wake up at the crack of dawn and wonder what Santa Claus put in my stocking. I don’t know things like: should we have ham for dinner on Christmas Eve or turkey? And what is Christmas pudding anyway? Little things like that are a mystery to me.

These last few years, I’ve spent the holidays with Toby’s dad’s family up north. The northern California Ponnays do things splendidly with a “crab night” and lots of drinking and toasting and opening of many gifts. It’s all very very fun.

However, this year because of my gigantic pregnant awkwardness, we decided to stay home. We didn’t get a tree and we didn’t really make any Christmas plans. In fact, Toby and I didn’t even get each other gifts. I didn’t mind this because having a baby is all I’ve ever wanted anyway. Plus, Toby plans on buying me a new car this year so I don’t in any way feel like I need any extra presents right now. Not to mention we need to save our pennies for diapers and such.

I thought I wouldn’t mind not making a big deal out of Christmas this year. But I thought wrong.

It didn’t hit me until I was coming home from watching a movie on Christmas Eve night. I passed by our neighbor’s house and through the window I could see they were having a whole lot of Christmas Eve fun. The woman of the house was raising her wine glass in a toast and lots of people around her were eating and laughing and just plain enjoying each other’s company. The festive glow from their living room seemed to ooze out onto the lonely moonlit sidewalk that I was walking on. The contrast between my quietness and their merriment was like black and white. I felt the vacuum.

Usually, I love it that you can walk around my neighborhood and look in other people’s windows like they were fish bowls. But on Christmas Eve, the snooping wasn’t so fun anymore. I started to feel a little bit envious and left out. I started to regret that I didn’t have any festivities planned in my own home. Knowing that I was going to come home to a dark house with Toby playing on the internet was just downright depressing! There is only so much surfing of the net you can do before it starts to get boring.

No matter how much you convince yourself that you don’t really need all the festivities and all the headache of cleaning up afterwards, there just is a sense of loss when you go home to a boring empty house. Of course Toby doesn’t agree with me but then he is a freak of nature who could live on a deserted island with no contact with anybody but his cats and he’d be perfectly happy. I on the other hand need to be around other people.

I couldn’t even plan on a night of zoning out in front of the television either because our cable box got fried when we had a power outage the other day. AND (!) we don’t even have any space to sit in front of the television because Toby’s office (which is also the tv room) is filled up to our ears in boxes right now. Things were looking pretty glum.

That’s when I had this epiphany: Who’s fault is it that I’m sad and bored on Christmas Eve? Toby and I decided months ago that we were going to lay low because we didn’t know what I was going to feel like two weeks before I have a baby. I thought I was going to be tired and lazy. So if I’m feeling a sense of loss, it’s up to me to make it different. I’m the one who has to make these things happen. I’m the mom now. It’s the mom’s job to make a dinner and get people together and make things festive. Now that we are starting a new family, the slate is clean. We can make up any old traditions we want. I shouldn’t shrink from this responsibility, it can be creative and fun! It’s like party planning! And you know how much I like planning a party.

I decided I was going to take on this new job the very next day: Christmas Day. So I invited Toby’s brother and his mom over for a Christmas dinner of ham and green beans and au gratin potatoes (it seemed traditional to me). I made an apple pie too, since I seem to be so good at that these days. We don’t have a dining room table right now (long story), so we all sat around our big coffee table on stools and cushions. It wasn’t the most comfortable but it was fun. Toby’s mom and brother seemed to really enjoy themselves. If I hadn’t have invited them, they probably would have sat home and watched television by themselves. Obviously, they are related to Toby and a love of solitude runs in the family. But not any more.

I’m here to shake things up. Next year is going to be the best Christmas EVER! I can’t wait.

Wee Tree

Toby declared that we did not need a Christmas tree this year. I didn’t really agree, but when we were up to our chins in boxes while moving his office stuff into my old office, I didn’t really think it was a good time to argue. Plus, I’m feeling mighty guilty that I have the most beautiful spacious baby’s room ever and he has a little hole of an office that he can’t even turn around in. Now is not the best time to be negotiating more fussing with the house with Toby. I thought I might be super ambitious and go buy a tree by myself… but then the belly got in the way and that seemed totally out of the question. Me lug a tree up the stairs? Even if it was a Charlie Brown tree, I probably couldn’t do it.

So today I brought in my little hack-job bonsai tree, that I’ve been nursing along pathetically for about five years now, (I’m so embarrassed for my father-in-law to see this. He’s given me three lessons in proper bonsai trimming and I still don’t get it.) and I decorated it with lights and my smallest ornaments. I know it’s sad. I know the lights are bigger than the tree… but it makes me happy.

I feel like it’s Christmas now.