Duck and Cover! It’s Christmastime Again

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Christmas is 10 days away. Yikes. Are you ready? I’ve mailed my gifts, sent my Christmas cards, and decorated the house. Now all I need to do is bake cookies and buy eggnog . . . oh wait. I don’t expect any company, so I don’t have to do that. I just have to figure out where I’ll be and with whom when I’m not singing and playing music at church.

Last Christmas, my friend Pat and I ordered a full meal from a local restaurant and spent the day together at my house. The food was so-so, but we had fun opening all the little packets and trying to figure out what everything was. Gravy? Ranch dressing? Um, some kind of vegetable? Bread pudding? No, that’s chocolate mousse. Maybe.

The day went south when my dog Annie suddenly started vomiting and couldn’t stand up. She was very ill, and I wound up driving 50 miles of mountain roads through wind and rain to the veterinary hospital in Corvallis, then sitting in my car for hours because pet owners were not allowed inside due to COVID. Not fun.

Annie spent two weeks in the hospital with Vestibular Disease, and it’s a miracle she recovered. I have asked her to please stay well this Christmas. She says she’ll try, but she’s almost 98 in people years, so no guarantees.

But back to my Christmas plans. Pat has moved to California to be near her kids. So many of my friends have done the same thing, so they won’t be alone in their old age. It makes sense. But I have no kids to move close to. If they can, my friends who are parents will spend the holidays with their children and grandchildren. Those of us without offspring can’t do that, but we do have many other choices: Celebrate with friends. Go to a restaurant. Stay home and binge-watch your favorite show. Go for a hike. Climb a mountain. Stay in bed. Do a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

Many of you are younger than me. You may spend Christmas with your parents and your siblings. And their kids. I remember those days. When I was married to my first husband, we had to visit my parents, his parents, his sister’s in-laws, and my aunt and uncle, all in the two days of Christmas Eve and Christmas. Wherever we went, we got scolded for being late. And yes, we had to watch other people’s kids open their presents while their parents asked us when we were going to start our own family. It was crazy. But I did get a lot of presents.

It’s 2021. COVID is still here. People are gathering again but cautiously, hoping their vaccine shots will protect them. My suggestions for Christmas are the same as they are for every year. If it’s going to be horrible, don’t do the usual things, or at least be honest about why they make you feel bad. No sulking in silence. Especially be honest with your partner, who may be the reason you’re the only one without children. Try to enjoy the good parts, the hugs, food, decorations, music, and love. Many of us have been apart too long during this pandemic, so rejoice if you can be together.

Here’s a thought. I know a childless woman who takes her little dog everywhere. If it will make you feel better—and if your dog is reasonably well-behaved—take the dog. The dog will be a diversion. When things get tense, take your puppy for a walk.

Christmas is an important day for Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus, but if that’s not your jam, do whatever you want. It will all be over on Dec. 26. You can be grateful that you won’t have to listen to a child’s annoying new game that dings or sings or quacks incessantly.

At some point between Christmas Eve and Dec. 26, I will probably cry because Christmas is not what it used to be when my husband and parents were alive, and it’s not what it could be if I had children and grandchildren. It’s okay to grieve our losses. If you need to weep, let the tears fall. Then move on. Find the Christmas fudge and enjoy every bite.

Your presence here is a gift to me. Please share how you’re doing this Christmas, if you do Christmas. Tell us about the good parts and the parts that make you crazy. You have a sympathetic audience here.  

Big holiday hug,

Sue

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The Nomo Crones aka childless elderwomen are having another Zoom chat on Dec. 21. The topic is “Spiritual Malnutrition.” I’m not on the panel this time to make room for some new members, but I’ll be listening and commenting in the chat. I guarantee a good time. For information and what time it’s happening where you live, click bit.ly/gw-solstice.

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8 thoughts on “Duck and Cover! It’s Christmastime Again

  1. Sue, I believe it has sunk in for me tonight. What you (and others in your situation) go through at your stage of life. A woman wandered into my shop this evening and even though it was past closing I welcomed her in. I didn’t know that I’d be spending the next hour wiping away silent tears as she told me of her prince of a husband who passed away three years ago. It was a beautiful story. I knew before I asked what the answer would be when I said, “Do you have any children.”

    “No. You’re looking at what’s left.” And I sobbed. Like an idiot – even thought I get to go home to my husband tonight. My heart finally felt all the things that have been rolling in the back of my head. What happens after he’s gone. I told this lady what I was feeling and she understood me. And I’m so sorry Sue. For you and the others who mourn their loved one. You are so strong to carry on with the family you have and the friendships you’ve built. And for providing this place for the rest of us.

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    • Oh, Anon S., you caught me at a teary time. I’m trying not to feel sorry for myself, but I’ve been in town all afternoon with everybody talking about their holiday plans, and it got to me. All I can say is create a network so you’re not alone if/when your husband passes on. BTW, I asked Alexa why men die before women. She blamed it on testosterone. When it starts to diminish, they lose their power.

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      • Thanks for that advice. I spent this past weekend at a family party where we were the only ones without children. An hour of watching other peoples children open gifts and squeal with glee. Watching my peers share (or happily feign) their childs enthusiasm. It was tolerable. The worst was watching my awful in-law enjoy her 7 children. The oldest is old enough to be her friend and they share special jokes and secrets. The youngest is like the family baby doll. This woman has it all. Everyone else in the family seems to have forgotten the awful way she treated me and hubby. Since they live out of town, when they arrive for the holidays they are treated like royalty. It’s complicated and so very sad. I watch her with anger and envy, which is the opposite way that I strive to live. I have decided – after experiencing this weekend – that I need to find a therapist in the new year.

        But it’s not the little ones that make me long for children. It’s the older ones. And the camaraderie of my in-laws who are starting to experience driving tests, new boyfriends and college applications. These kids are almost out the door and everyone in my family seems to know each other’s business and all the teenage drama – except for me and hubby. We’re on the outside looking in. We haven’t a clue about the inside jokes, the side eyes that everyone else shares. We can ask about “this or that” but when they all chime in to answer it becomes clear how very much not a part of this family we have become. I struggle with acceptance of the situation vs. a bitterness that seems to grow each holiday. All things I hope to unravel in 2022 – with the help of a skilled therapist.

        So yes, I’m planning my network. I will need a place for those special holidays. Or a solid game plan.

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  2. My husband and I usually spend Christmas in FL with my sister, her children, and her children’s children. Thanks to Covid, we’re not flying this year and after driving from PA to VA for Thanksgiving, we’re not ready for a long drive to FL just yet. And besides, her kids are not coming this year, so she is depressed because she and her husband will be “alone”. Welcome to our world.

    We were invited to spend Christmas Eve with a close friend’s daughter and her family of 6. We’ve done it before but it feels awkward because they’re not ‘family’. My husband is Italian so this bothers him and after insisting we go in previous years, I’ve relented this year and said, fine we’ll just stay home. Still it’s awkward because our friends and their daughter don’t understand why we’d choose to be “alone” rather than spending the holiday with all of them. Sigh. Always on the explaining side of things. It gets old. I’m happy being ‘alone’ with my husband . . just the two of us, as we are every day. I know we won’t have each other forever and so I’m grateful for the time we have now.

    I think CNBC women should declare December 26th a celebration day. We made it through . . . again.

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    • Susan, I totally understand. I have spent holidays with other people’s families, and it feel so uncomfortable. If my husband was still here, I’d be happy to do the holidays with just the two of us. It sounds nice. Like you, I traveled for Thanksgiving, and I don’t want to take another long drive, especially in winter weather. I agree that Dec. 26 should be a day of celebration.

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  3. I put up my tree, including the tree skirt I made last year. I love to sit in my recliner next to the lit up tree to read or watch tv. I also bought a large box of Christmas cookies (already eaten! haha) and made a quick Christmas quilt to enjoy all month.

    I generally like the lead up to Christmas, but the actual day has been pretty depressing for me in the past. It feels anticlimactic. So this year I shopped the after Thanksgiving sales online and ordered various yards of fabric. When each box has arrived, I’ve just thrown it under the tree. So, yes, I bought myself presents hahaha. But I’ve already forgotten most of what I purchased so it will still be a surprise for me to open everything. Then I will probably start a new quilt and sew all day long. And maybe I will make a pie. 🙂

    Wishing you and Annie a very merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!!

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