It’s now late in the afternoon on the day before Christmas Eve, a mere 24 hours before the festivities begin in earnest, and only 4 presents are wrapped. Most of the groceries are purchased, but I haven’t looked up any recipes I need to prepare this faux Chinese dinner that Rob and I thought would be a good idea. The basement and Katy’s room is in complete disarray because Rob’s sister and her children are coming to visit and we needed to make room to put up the extra full-size bed downstairs and pull out the trundle in Katy’s room, not to mention the fact that both Farron and Jordan – and at least one additional cat and a large dog – will be staying over tomorrow night. Why do we feel compelled to begin huge projects on the eve of holidays or family visits? Is there some sort of compulsion that drives us? We probably are tormenting ourselves for naught. Shannon, my sister-in-law, hasn’t even given us an arrival date yet. Perhaps she will call from the road? She’s a widow too, which explains much to those of us “in the know”.
Yesterday we ventured over to the mega-mall to finish up our shopping. Next year we are vowing to start in September and do it all on line, but this Christmas we did the bulk out and about with the rest of humanity – literally it seemed. We made remarkable time. In and out in 90 minutes and found a spot to park in the lot to boot.
Last night was a Christmas party at friend’s of Rob’s, Dan and Heidi, whose oldest babysits for Katy. It was strange to do the holiday party thing again. Deja vu and not. I didn’t know a soul aside from Dan and his girls. Katy played upstairs with the other kids and I spent a bit of time chatting with a very young medical resident until I happened to mention our odd blended family and circumstances. I forget that I shouldn’t speak so casually about dead spouses because most people who know me even a little don’t know how to react, so forget about people I have only just met. She did find Rob and I to say good-bye when she and her husband left which I will take to mean I didn’t completely scare her off. At some point, as the kitchen filled up and spilled into the living room area Rob and I just cuddled up a bit on the sofa near the wood burning stove, watching the other guests get hammered. It was nice to have another wall-flower to hang with. At parties past, Will was always engaged with some person or other when he wasn’t manning the grill (yeah, even at the winter holiday parties) and he would always nag at me to mingle and not depend on him so much for company. And it wasn’t as if I didn’t know people and I did interact but I also hung back and watched – because that is who I am. It’s still who I am even though I am far less ill at ease in a room full of strangers than I have ever been in my life. As I told the young resident during our conversation, I have been surrounded by strangers, more or less, for the last six months. I did recognize a few of the women in attendance – from the gym and dance too, I think. I wasn’t keen on getting to close. I am leery of making friends with people when they are drinking heavily. You just never know how close they are at the moment to who they really are or not.
Today was our usual Sunday of a long breakfast, followed by tearing up the house and then public skating. Skating is starting to be a family ritual. Even when it feels like a chore or interruption in the day, it is nice to get the heart pumping and feel the chill of the ice seep up from your toes. We had tea, hot chocolate and cookies when we got home. Another ritual. That’s what it’s all about in the end. Family and friends and the rituals that hold us together.