Last year I was a bit manic about Christmas. Robert and I were unemployed in the most fortunate of ways for four months at the end of last year. All this free time combined with the weird unnamed but still present pressure to make our first holiday season together a good one meant that I was making ugly centerpieces out of hot glue and silk leaves and salt dough as early as mid-November. We felt ill-equipped to take the best traditions from our respective families, so we went ahead and did them all: we plucked cheap chocolate from behind cardboard flaps on the advent calendar (my family) and we picked candy out of a plastic Santa head (his family) every night for a month; we read holiday stories out loud to each other (my family) and watched Christmas Vacation (his family) at least twice; we looked at lights from the car (my family) and picked up tamales from a local Mexican restaurant on Christmas Eve (his family); we ate sugar cereal (my family) and cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (his family).
I also felt this pressing need to use the holidays to signify that our family was new and separate from our families of origin, so we made up new traditions, often without much thought. We bought a nutcracker and I made the executive decision that we would collect nutcrackers. We painted our own wooden ornaments. We started singing the 12 Days of Christmas on December 1st and didn’t know what to do with ourselves when we finished on December 12th, with the holiday still two weeks away. We scoured the internet for gifts and banned each other from our individual computers so that we couldn’t extrapolate from the other person’s amazon.com history.
All of this culminated in a massive fight on December 23rd. I don’t remember what it was about. [I never believe it when other people say that, but I really don’t.] I do remember yelling a lot and making the ominous threat to “remember this forever” and then running to the shower because that’s the only way to escape from someone you live with when you don’t want to put on a coat and boots and brave the sub-freezing temperatures outside. I also remember that Robert took an angry nap, and that this also made me mad, because Robert always wakes up from angry naps confused and oblivious to the fact that he had any role in causing the dissonance between us.
This year we axed a lot of the Christmas preparations. I only got two days off of work, the 23rd and the 26th, and I worked long-ish hours in December. We also moved between Thanksgiving and December 1st, and spent a lot of this month unpacking. We still bought a tree and did the Santa head/advent on the nights that we remembered and added a nutcracker to our paltry “collection,” but overall it was decidedly more mellow. Accordingly, my now-annual December 23rd meltdown only lasted ten minutes and since we were stuck in a car driving downtown when it happened, it didn’t end with me taking an angry shower and Robert taking an angry nap. I worried that we wouldn’t have the time or energy to enjoy the holiday season, but this last month has been one of peace in an otherwise stressful year, and these last few days have been more than that, more like brilliant spots of joy. I came into this year full of fear that my job would drain the pleasure from my life, and my marriage. Instead, it’s brought the things I love into sharper relief. And I’ll take two days of quiet, meaningful celebration over a month of singing the 12 Days of Christmas twice through next holiday season as well.
[Photo credit: Robert.]