Your Best Christmas

roslyn via Flickr/Creative roslynyoungrosalia
I was thinking about Christmas in a strange land, again, and wondering if I’ll ever get used to it. It’s not so much that it’s a strange land anymore. We’ve more or less acclimated, the rain and the traffic and the recycling. This will be our third Christmas in this apartment. It’s still not what it used to be. We moved from a four-bedroom home in Nevada into a two-bedroom apartment in Washington that we rented online. We were in a hurry so I could start a new job, so we placed many of our belongings into storage in Nevada, figuring we’d be able to move into something bigger and return to Nevada for the rest of our things in a few months. That was stupid. That was almost three years ago. We still do not have the Christmas things I have collected over more than 30 years.
In my recent cleaning frenzy and discovery of The Troll Diary, I got to pondering The Troll time of my life. It was chaotic, depressing, hopeful, confused, tear-filled. It was a period of my life I had to go through in order to get where I am now. That first Christmas after I left him, The Troll had stubbornly refused to return to me any possession I hadn’t immediately taken in my brief window of opportunity, and I’d used that window to take the essentials. He wasn’t going to give me a damned thing else without a court order. (Have I mentioned that he’s an asshole?)
I was broke. I had two children who needed a Christmas tree. Who is a tree for, if not for the kids?
I badly depleted my skimpy holiday fund for an artificial tree I found on sale for $30. The description on the box made it seem small indeed, but when I put it together in our tiny apartment, it was plenty big enough. I found a website with printable patterns for paper snowflakes, and the kids and I spent hours cutting those things out. I spent my last three bucks on pipe cleaners (if you’re going to be health conscious and politically correct they are now called “chenille art stems,” but to me they’re pipe cleaners, used to clean residue from tobacco pipes, and the memory of the wonderful smell of my grandpa’s pipe tobacco is something PC cannot take away from me). The red and white ones we twisted together and bent to make fuzzy candy canes. Green ones were bent into circles and embellished with glued-on Red Hots candies to make little wreaths. When we were done, the carpet was littered with so many tiny bits of paper it looked like it had snowed inside, but we had ourselves a by-god Christmas tree, decorated with three dollars worth of pipe cleaners and paper snowflakes. More snowflakes were stuck to the window with clear tape. You would understand what an accomplishment that was for me if you knew how clutzy I am when it comes to crafts.

Leonora Enking/Flickr/Creative Commons

We had Christmas. That Christmas remains in my memory as one of the best Christmases ever. In a sea of everything going wrong if it possibly could, that Christmas was an oasis of making the joy happen anyway.
A couple of months later my divorce was final and I had my possessions back, at least the ones The Troll hadn’t destroyed or thrown out. My vinyl collection, some of it autographed, was gone, but he hadn’t made it as far as my Christmas things. The following Christmas it was such a relief to put my tree together with old favorites.
I think about this now, as I look at the small tree we’ve purchased for our small Washington apartment. It’s a pretty enough tree. I have a fireplace over which to hang stockings, and I’d better enjoy it because I probably won’t have a fireplace after we move in a few months. But I want my advent calendar. I want our special handmade stockings, and the special ornaments collected over the years, given as first anniversary and new baby gifts, bought on trips to San Francisco’s Great Dickens Christmas Fair and that beautiful Christmas shop in Virginia City, proudly created in my children’s grade school classrooms. I want my stuff.
I’m learning that this may be the best time of year to avoid social media, for two reasons. It may seem obvious that seeing other people’s picture-perfect holidays should make me feel happy for them, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t. It just makes me want my own picture-perfect holiday back. I’m also sick and tired of this supposed “War on Christmas,” one of the most infantile things dreamed up yet for people to fight about. If someone takes the time to wish me happiness at this time of year, I’m happy for the wish, no matter how it’s phrased or what -ism it’s based on. Someone who’s not capable of sharing something as simple and universal as a holiday season is probably not capable of sharing much else.

It’s time to unplug and to quit morosing around. Dream Girl and I are doing our gift shopping today. No, it won’t fix everything, but I’ve just added pipe cleaners, or “chenille art stems,” or whatever you want to call them, to the list. Later we’ll have some hot cider (I don’t like eggnog, so sue me) and watch the Grinch. I am trusting that somewhere, in my blahs and doldrums, is hidden another surprisingly wonderful Christmas. I’m also trusting that I’ll have the ability to see it when it’s smacking me in the face, because I still have so very much to be thankful for.

However you celebrate this solstice-based winter holiday, I wish you your best one.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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