As I have mentioned elsewhere, we decided not to go to the trouble of putting up a full Christmas tree this year. It's not the first time I have made this choice, but it's the first time in 15 years, and it probably will not happen again.
CA has boxes of ornaments, each one with it's history and bag of memories that must be told every year. It's very much an epochal ritual. I suppose it is a kind of validation - a connection to or honoring of who we are and who we have been. This year we decided not to go through the routine and opted for a minimalist presentation as far as the tree thing is concerned. It feels right.
There is a reason for this, of course. It's the season of CA's retirement. She works as a hospice nurse and works 12 hour shifts at night. Her last two nights to work are Christmas Eve and Christmas night. This was a conscious choice that fulfilled, a week earlier, her time in service obligation, and since it is just us two, it seemed the thing to do. It's not a sad thing, it's our chosen reality, and we are quite excited about it. Of course, it would be nice to be with family. Yes, it would be wonderful to be home together with a big bird in the oven on Christmas Day. Yes, it would be fun if it were some kind of Currier & Ives thing with dozens of people, horse drawn sleighs, reindeer and skating on the pond. But it never was that.
We'll celebrate our Christmas on the night after Christmas. I mean, it's already an arbitrary date. We'll go out for Chinese. They don't do Christmas and are always there. Furthermore, we love Chinese. We'll have cocktails and great food and drive home through the woods to our fireside and feel blessed.
Second only to Thanksgiving as a family day, Christmas holds for many of us a great host of memories and traditions long gone into the dusty bins of our past. I've grown used to that tape player in my head that goes off on those same songs, scenes and scenarios that make up my remembrance of decades of Christmases past. It's a kind of comforting sameness.
It's different when kids are around. Kids thrive on myth and festival and Christmas is bursting with myth and festival. There is always that unpredictable, spontaneous quality of life with children. If things go as we think, we'll be surrounded by kids next year. Perhaps, at times, we'll secretly yearn for the quiet warmth of our remote fire.
It's who we are - at least those of us who happened to muddle through life in a Christian tradition. So we'll have our table top tree. There will be presents and a warm fire. We'll do a "FaceTime", or at least speak with distant family and hang on every word. We will feel truly blessed and pleasantly stuffed with spicy Singapore rice noodles.