I spent Christmas with my son’s lover’s parents, good people I’d seen a couple of times before and didn’t know well. It was my first Christmas celebration since Janice died. The first two Christmases were just two days. I had heard that when one loses a spouse the holidays are especially hard to take, but they hadn’t been for me. I couldn’t deny her not being here to celebrate; I could deny the celebration, though, so I did.
I hardly knew Jim and Cam, but I had a feeling that their house was bound to be Christmassy, and boy, was it ever. Christmas was everywhere, from the lighted candy canes on the driveway gate and the little Christmas tchotchkes pretty much all over, to the actually creepy zombie Santa on the porch.
I had a good time, mostly. Deanne, Jim’s sister, and her husband, Paul, were there, and old siblings are always interesting to me, not being one myself.
I’m mostly used to being by myself, living lonely if not actually alone. I’m used to going places by myself—to the Co-op or the Post Office or the Pageant—and I thought I’d be fine. I can do odd-man-out like a champ.
I never thought about not having done Christmas without her, though. I knew I’d done it before, only Christmas in my room watching YouTube is a far cry from Christmas in the midst of a goddamn bunch of warm, loving, good-hearted pairs of mated humans. I was the only freelancer, other than a cat and four dogs.
They did that thing that Janice’s family had done, and so the Porters did too, where everybody sits around and opens their presents together. I had brought something for the house—my mother would be proud—but I hadn’t known what to expect and wisely didn’t ask, so I had no individual gifts for anybody, and I felt badly about it. Janice would have hand-made cards to go with the gifts she’d have thought to bring.
So I sat there miserably opening thoughtful token after thoughtful token, full of self-loathing and probably self-pity and trying not to blubber. I didn’t blubber, either, not in front of anybody, and that’ll have to do.
I drank some brandy and ate some of everything in sight until I began to waddle. That’s how I know it’s time to stop. I succumbed to a parlor game that didn’t turn out to be awful, and dodged a game of Chicken Foot, and that worked out fine.
Lots of talk, lots of laughing. Nobody got drunk, nobody got punched, nobody cried but me. Here’s something notable: Without collaboration of any sort, my son and I brought the same thing for a house gift.
I learned a couple of jokes. Jim had two or three thousand, I bet, but I remember only a couple, both of them no doubt offensive to a group or two, and each of which, while not at all funny in itself, inexplicably caused me to laugh. I’m gonna tell you one. If you think of yourself as at all sensitive or civilized, you should probably stop here.
There’s a new shelter in town—Tempura House, for lightly battered women. I warned you.