The holidays are tough.
They're tough for us all in one way or another. That idyllic picture of the loving family gathered around a cozy fire without a care in the world, other than for each other, isn't true and never has been. Not that I've ever observed. And I'm an observer. I see shit. I know stuff. It's just not true.
Most of us celebrate with some sort of amalgam of tradition and insanity that somehow or another generally works. Good on ya, however you do it.
I sort of expected to be stuck with some variation of holiday blues this year. It's supposed to be a thing for the relatively recently divorced, they tell me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. Certainly things are not perfect, i.e. no cozy fire or idyllic family, but still. Not so bad.
Christmas started with a spur of the moment field trip to the city to look at Christmas lights and hang out with a friend. I took my dogs with me, for the first time. She lives in an a small bungalow. With the addition of my two monsters, there were six dogs and three cats spending the night in that space. The real miracle of Christmas this year was the fact that there were no fights, canine nor feline. Nor did Jay and I come to blows, if we're going to be precise.
On Christmas Eve I went to church where, for the first time, I was the acolyte all by my grown up self without benefit of the Jedi Master. It didn't go perfectly, but there weren't any flubs that couldn't be easily covered by the priest. And most importantly, I didn't spill anything.
The best part of the service was that my father, as well as my ex-husband's brother and his family were able to be there. The bell tolled while the priest and I waited at the rear (or is that the front?) of the church to begin the two person procession. I explained who this group was that had effectively doubled the size of the congregation. I could see she hadn't quite wrapped her head around my ex's family showing up to spend Christmas Eve with me. "They got custody of me in the divorce," I explained.
After the service I went home with the ex-in-laws for food and presents. We had fun, we ate well, and we all agreed that the life-sized singing Santa my sister-in-law got on sale at the last minute was the creepiest thing we'd seen since her Halloween haunted house extravaganza.
Christmas day was spent at home with my family. I don't cook, so we ate tamales and nachos. Traditional Christmas fare, for sure. The only grandchild kicked my butt in a game of dominoes. She is a quirky young woman whose company and fashion sense I enjoy. She seems to enjoy my quikiness, too. I hope that lasts, because she may get stuck picking my nursing home and I'd like to stay on her good side.
My step-daughter came by for a while Christmas night, then we met for breakfast the next morning before she returned to the Big-Ass Cities. We don't have a whole lot to talk about these days, what with the two of us being terribly polite to each other and all. But we'll keep at it. Maybe she'll help my niece with the nursing home selection.
Christmas was good. Last year wasn't too bad, either, except for my almost, accidental, suicide.
By the time Christmas Eve arrived last year I was completely done with the holidays. My family wasn't getting together until New Year's. That's how we'd done it for years, but the waiting is like those days between a death and a funeral. You're at loose ends until it's all over and done with. This time, I was done on the 24th.
I wanted my tree gone and I wanted the space back that it was occupying in my den. I was in a re-arranging mood and wanted to put furniture there. So, I took that sucker the hell down.
The tree spends eleven months of the year in a wooden coffin, in my garage. Because, well, because it fits and what else would you put in the coffin, really? I don't think I will ever embrace the high church idea of leaving the decorations up until Epiphany. I can't stomach the sight of them by the morning of the 26th on a normal year. And this was not a normal year.
On the night of December 24th, after a few months of separation and exactly seven days before my divorce would be final, I opened the kitchen door leading to the garage and went out to open the coffin. While I was at it, I decided I should really start my motorcycle and let it run a bit. I'd not winterized it, but was starting it every few weeks and keeping the gas moving through the fuel lines and such. Being a good bike, it roared into life at the first touch of the starter.
The coffin was ready to receive it's yearly cargo, and I went back inside to start packing ornaments and such. Then I remembered something I needed in one of the back rooms of the house. I can't remember what it was that I wanted so suddenly, but I spent several long minutes looking for it.
I'd left the kitchen door open. I did not, however, remember to open the garage door.
When I returned to that end of the house, I choked. The exhaust fumes were already thick in my kitchen and den and were collecting in the living room before moving down the hall towards the bedrooms. It was bad.
I ran out to the garage and shut off the bike.
Even though by this time it was almost midnight and baby it is/was cold outside, I threw open every door and window in the house. The ceiling fans did pretty much nothing to move the fumes out and would you believe that this was one of the few times that the wind wasn't really blowing in West Texas? I grabbed a blanket and sat out on the patio for a bit until the air cleared. As I shivered under the cotton cover and the questioning eyes of two nasally affronted dogs, I had to laugh at myself. And at everyone I've ever known.
Had I, through some sort of epic fit of ineptitude, managed to succumb to the fumes no one - NO ONE - would believe that I hadn't committed suicide, at home, alone, on Christmas Eve, amidst the detritus of an unappreciated holiday tree and a life that had recently twisted off onto a new path that I hadn't even remotely anticipated. Given the circumstances, even those who know me best would believe I'd offed myself. You would have been shocked and surprised, but you would have believed it. My co-workers admitted that they would've stood in quiet clusters in various offices, wiping away surreptitious tears and commenting on how they had no idea things were that bad; that I'd hidden my true feelings well. I might've even believed if of myself at that point!
So this is your warning: if I ever turn up dead seemingly by my own hand, don't buy it for a second. Nothing is that bad. In fact, things are pretty good. If I'm dead it's because somebody did me in and I will expect you put your collective smarts to the task of determining whodunit.
This year I have mothballed the bike for the winter. It sits silently in the garage, hooked to a battery tender, with fuel stabilizer floating in the tank. I've no need to start it.
And I didn't put the tree up at all.