This picture perfectly representes Christmas this year for me. This was the year that half of the packages under our tree were literally packages that arrived on our front porch in the days before Christmas. We left them in their USPS wrapping until Christmas morning when we opened them; there was limited wrapping paper and fanfare but there were box cutters, so I guess we had that going for us.
This fall, Eric and I made the decision to stay in Houston for Christmas, rather than travel to see our families. While there were a lot of reasons I was happy we made this decision, we were both still a bit unsure about what to expect when the holiday actually arrived. Would one of us spontaneously burst into tears every time we thought of our families opening presents without us? Would we drown our sorrows in lots of rum topped off with egg nog to make it seem festive and therefore less pathetic? We really couldn’t be sure, and so we tried to plan accordingly. We gave ourselves plenty of time to relax, a few fun things to look forward to, and some potential traditions for the new family we are creating. And permission to be as drunk or as sad as necessary.
Here are the highlights of Christmas 2012, our first Christmas on our own (+ one relative in town for part of the holiday).
Lots of Christmas-ing
It’s been pretty damn merry and bright around here, what with all the candles, Christmas music, Christmas decorations, and tree that seems to cover me (and only me) in glitter whenever I get within a foot of it. One of the things I realized about our new tree is that all of our ornaments are super matchy-matchy; because I basically started from scratch when I moved here two years ago — and then we had to buy a bunch of new ornaments this year because we upgraded the tree — we don’t have the weird, one-off, special, or homemade ornaments that older families seem to acquire over the years. Maybe I will get out some dried macaroni and puff paint and craft something slightly awful just for a little variety.
Cooking and eating
Eating the shit out of some delicious food isn’t a new tradition, but we did try some new things this year. First, there was that popcorn. And then…well, I was almost too embarrassed to share this new tradition we started but whatever: the stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy we had for Christmas Eve dinner were Stove Top and takeout, respectively. Yes, we could have made it all but Eric and I sort of confessed to each other before our first Thanksgiving together that we prefer both of these slightly trashtastic versions to anything homemade. (Sorry to everyone whose food we’ve ever eaten on Thanksgiving.) We said that if/when we did our own holiday meals, we’d stick with the processed, made-from-flakes, totally shameless versions of stuffing and potatoes, and so we did it. And loved every second of it.
I like to think we balanced this out by making croque-monsieurs and fancy fruit salad for Christmas brunch. I mean, they are Martha Stewart recipes! You have to say one with a French accent! We’re still pretentious assholes, I swear! (Seriously, every time I had to ask for the Gruyere cheese while we were making it, I felt like such a douche.)
On Saturday night, Eric, Kara, and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse to see a quote-along version of “Elf.” They gave us props too, including a bell to ring every time there was magic on-screen, bubbles to blow when Jovie was singing in the shower, and balloons to throw around the theater during the snowball fight. Plus the best quotes were highlighted on screen, karaoke-style, and everyone in the theater sang along during the musical parts. And we had dinner and drinks in the theater. It was a great night!
Kara is super active, so I also worked my ass off keeping up with her. On Christmas Eve, we went to DEFINEbody for back-to-back classes. We also took a class at THRiVE and walked all over my neighborhood throughout her visit. If I were one of Santa’s elves, I think my elf name would be Splinter. My poor shins.
On Christmas, we took Kara to one of my favorite places in Houston: visit the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences. If you are in the Houston area, I cannot recommend a trip there enough! And I loved the museum before, but the new Hall of Paleontology that opened this past summer is incredible.
I’m really glad we decided to go to the museum on Christmas. I wasn’t feeling particularly sad about not being with our families at Christmas, but I still felt like we were somehow doing Christmas…wrong, I guess? It seems like all you hear about is how Christmas is a time for family; we constantly hear stories about people doing everything they can to be with their families at Christmas and every other Christmas song is about how sad it is to not be with the people you care about on Christmas. But being at the museum with plenty of other people who were not with their extended families was a good reminder that Christmas is just another day (another day that not everyone cares about), and also, that, well, shit happens. You can’t always be with everyone you care about on Christmas but life goes on. (…until it doesn’t. Seriously, nothing makes you get over yourself like learning about trilobites, dinosaurs, mammoths, and events that happened 65 million [!!!!!] years ago to species that no longer even exist.)
We took Kara to the airport after leaving the museum on Christmas and went home, put on comfy clothes, and spent the remainder of our night eating leftovers and hanging out. I even watched “A Christmas Story” for the first time. (Yes, I’m 27 years old and hadn’t seen it yet. Yes, I know it’s on every year for 24 hours straight. No, I don’t hate America.)
From Eric, to me: a Lululemon gift card. From me, to Eric: a 2,000-piece puzzle (Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”). From Eric, to himself: a Frank Llyoyd Wright LEGO set.
We braved the Galleria in Houston today so I could spend my gift card, which was burning a hole in my (mini waistband) pocket. At Lululemon I discovered that not only did they still have the top I wanted, but IT WAS ALSO ON SALE! IT WAS A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE!!!
Eric had mentioned wanting to get a puzzle or LEGO set for us to work on together over the holiday; since he never seems to want anything, I was thrilled to have something to work with when it came to his Christmas gift. I went with the puzzle, and he decided to buy himself some LEGOs today when we went to the LEGO store. Our dining room now has multiple construction sites.
I wasn’t sad this Christmas at all…or, I should say that I wasn’t any more sad than I am any other day when I am away from my family. (And, honestly, going home probably would have been harder for me because I always get so upset when it’s time to leave.) Everything about this year felt like an experiment and we had permission to dislike all of it, but ultimately, I ended up really loving and appreciating everything about it.