This morning, as the man and I carefully unwrapped ornaments and hung them thoughtfully on our Charlie Brown tree, I reminisced about how our lives have grown in the time we’ve been together.
Our first year, everything was a merge of ‘my’ stuff and ‘his’ stuff. And slowly, year by year, things have become ours, ornaments with history and meaning — commemorating special times we’ve shared. A golden leaf from Jackson Hole, a horse-drawn carriage from Williamsburg, a snow globe in a stocking from Hilton Head. I love that warm fuzzy feeling when the paper peels back to reveal what had been previously tucked safely away. The first ornament we hung this year was a beautiful boxer with a red and white scarf, given to us by our great friends (it looks surprisingly like Lucy!). John asked her where she wanted to hang it and she replied with a quizzical look and a suspicious sniff of the ornament. It was adorable. She’s still not one hundred percent sure she understands why there’s a live tree in the living room. But she seems okay with it.
It’s always sort of interesting to contemplate the holidays as you gear up for them — how celebrations change and how they stay they same, how you personally feel about the time of year. This December feels uncharacteristically mellow — I ordered our Christmas cards the first week of November and they are all sitting neatly stacked in ‘domestic’ and ‘air mail’ piles by the front door. We have essentially completed all of our shopping, our tree is up, and we aren’t having a party this year ….. So that’s that, right? It feels a little bizarre — anti climactic and strangely un-Christmas-y.
I have led a somewhat charmed life to this point — in that there was not a lot of drama during Thanksgiving or Christmas growing up. When my brother and I were young, we spent Christmas Eve with our Italian relatives (Italian-American — my dad’s side) and there was always a table heaping with food (the seven fish my friends) and I barely ate any of it — and we all ran around and had wild conspiracies about Santa Claus and it was glorious. And Christmas day was spent at home, opening presents and then eating a huge British Christmas lunch (my favorite) and then lounging around in sweatpants watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ while messing around with all our new swag.
But as you grow up, and become part of another person’s family and holiday celebrations, you begin to realize that things morph — I think it has a lot to do with children, actually — and even if things had stayed the same, they would inevitably also be very different.
On our very first date, John and I wandered down the main street of Manayunk, grabbing drinks at bars that we would otherwise never have gone into (in an effort to avoid running into anyone we knew …. it’s a long story). We ended up sitting outside at a tiny bar at one end of the strip, telling each other how much we loved Christmas, why and millions of stories of minutiae that we remembered with glowing detail. It was June then, and I remember hoping my beer would never end, and that I could sit and talk with this wonderful man forever.
Luckily, that wish came true. And the first year we lived together, every inch of our apartment was decorated for Christmas — ornaments and garland and twinkly lights festooned every corner of every room.
So this year, with our understated decorations, and no party on the agenda for the first time in four years, it feels quiet, and subtle … and somewhat out of character.
I’m glad this year is going to be low-key, and I’m glad that as of the seventh of December, we’re pretty prepared for the holidays. I just hope this isn’t the beginning of the end of the magic. Because to me, this as always the most magical and beautiful time of year. And to imagine that feeling fading — well, that just about breaks my heart.