A solitary Christmas…

me at Christmas 1971I was a tiny toddler, which makes sense considering I weighed less than 5lbs at birth. My second Christmas, while the adults all chattered, I would perch on a present and stare in awe at the tree.

“Mustn’t touch,” I’d murmur to myself, one finger mere millimetres away from an ornament. “Mustn’t touch.” And there I’d sit, awed by the shining lights and shimmering decorations.

Not much later my Mom would ask me what I wanted for Christmas and my answer was always the same; a tree with lots of sparkling lights and decorations. My Mom would assure me we would get that, it came with the whole Christmas package, but I was insistent it was all I wanted. So she’d guess and I was happy. The tree was still my first Christmas love though.

The years went on. My sisters and I discovered the Sears Wishbook and spent hours pouring through it, circling items we (along with the rest of North America) never got. I started paying attention to ads and things in stores as we were passing through. Plus I had genuine needs. But I still spent a good chunk of time just sitting beside the tree and admiring it. There was still that tree shaped space in my heart.

Finally I became an adult and then a mother. My tree wasn’t just for myself but for a couple of little ones. I began buying ornaments and decorations every year to remind me of the time we spent together. And the years went from the ornaments being placed.all.together.on.a.single.branch to “I’ve brought all the totes up from storage Mom. I’m going to play Fallout 3 now.”

And February 2020 I moved into an apartment on my own.

I’ve downsized a bit. I no longer have my grouping of three small trees (with real bark trunks) and my tree has shrunk from 5.5ft to 4.5ft. But I still have four Rubbermaid totes and several bags down in storage. I need two trips, and that’s with my big canvas wagon. It’s definitely pretty when everything’s up though.

I was out with two of my friends one evening and we were under my living room window.

“You can see my wreath,” I said excitedly. “And my tree!”

Both friends admitted they didn’t put up any decorations because, “It’s too much work just for me”.

STOP right there! It is not too much work. If you want the decorations and the glitz then you deserve them. Society acts like being single is some sort of holding pattern that you wait in until you’re back into a relationship. It’s not. You are equally valid no matter how many or few partners you have or how many people you expect to stop by over the holidays. You matter. Just that. You!

Also, make it your holiday. After all it’s your place. Got a thing for pink? Get a pink tree! Don’t want the hassle of putting up and decorating a 6ft giant? Buy a three footer and stick it on the side table. Want everything Doctor Who? Great! Just, umm, face the weeping angel topper toward a mirror. You can never be too safe, right?

But please don’t think you’re not worth it. Christmas is for anyone who wants to celebrate and that includes you. You know you’ve got some inner tinsel in you (just keep it away from the kitties). Now, here’s some vegan chocolate chip cookies and a Christmas music playlist on YouTube. If you’ve got decorations you’ve still got time left. If you don’t then you can browse for next year’s decorations to your heart’s content.

overview of apartment

Another year older and hopefully wiser…

Last year was the big year, the big five-oh, and I had it all planned. A mother-daughter-sister visit to Ste. Anne’s Spa with my Mom and sister. I poured over their website, checking out every room and cottage available to our number of guests, searching for the perfect accommodations for us. My favourites were saved in a file on my computer, all ready to be shared when it was close enough for us to book. And then covid hit… and stayed. My birthday was lots of fun but I don’t think anyone could say that eating takeout pizza in my kitchen (with family) in any way compares to eating a freshly prepared gourmet meal on a beautiful patio, also with family.

my beach selfieThis year was different. My parents left in early July to visit my other sister, halfway across the country and I gave up on the mega planning. My napkins and candle were from last year and plans were made on a whim. And it was fantastic! I started out with an exercise class (that wasn’t the fantastic part) and then a video call with my parents so they could see me open their present to me. Then I visited friends who lived near my old building, the friends I sing karaoke with. We went to a nearby Dollarama and I found three fall items that I spent all last fall looking for and didn’t succeed. They’re going to look so good in September. They’re so not getting put out now. By that point it was time to head home and I got back just in time to have another friend over for dinner followed by an evening trip to the beach. Plus a video call with Colin. Plus my sister and her boys came over for dinner two evenings later. It’s been busy but a good busy and it was so nice to see everyone.

I thought I would have things more figured out by my 50’s than I do but here I am still chanting “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” when I need to loosen a screw and singing the alphabet song whenever I have to remember where a letter goes. I spent half a cab ride wondering why the driver kept going left when his little robotic directing device was telling him to go right… only to realized I’d mixed up my directions (again). Left and right are very nebulous to me. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, although I have changed my mind about being a garbage man.

One thing I have figured out is I need to take better care of my mental health. Years ago I told the man who called me from Canadian Pension Plan – Disability that it felt like something had broken inside my brain and I didn’t think it was ever going back together. I still feel that way. I’ve made strides in so many ways and I’m sure I’ll make more but I need a nap every day because I’m drained by early afternoon. Lately I’ve been too tired to even eat lunch. And my memory is… wait… what were we talking about? Oh yeah, I saw the cutest brown bunny on my walk last week.

So I’m in several online groups, which would be in-person if it wasn’t for covid, and I talk to Colin several times a day. I hang out with at least one friend a day too. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy starts in just over a week and I’ve got my kitties for lots of snuggles and attention. So many positive things.

Evelyn the cypressOne thing I have been doing is decorating my apartment so that it feels more comfortable and homey to me. It’s a lot easier to relax and feel calm in a place you feel safe and at ease, right? I’ve worked a lot on my bedroom and the living room and now I’ve been working on my kitchen, with the help of a Homesense gift card from my parents. I didn’t like the top of the cabinets, it was way too bare. I had one little tin of yellow and orange flowers at the end closest to the stove, I bought them from Dollarama last year. But they simply emphasized how empty the rest of the space was. I took an hour long bus ride to the nearest Homesense and found the perfect pot for my mini cypress Evelyn. I didn’t, however, find the rectangular planters I’d been hoping for. They did have fake marble pots similar to the ones on my table, so I grabbed two of those. Now I needed something long to place in the middle space. I got to the end of the aisle and noticed white and burlap and then the word “kitchen”. It was a big, rectangular framed wall art and just the right size and shape. Basically it was eminently suitable. I took a quick look at the rest of their art but there was nothing else remotely similar. So I bought it and stood precariously on the counter to hang it up. I’m telling you, 51 years old and climbing onto a counter don’t go together well. But I got down, cleaned up, and took a good look and, wouldn’t you know it, I absolutely love that picture. It just ties together the whole room. I might change up the greenery someday but for right now it’s just perfect.

And now I’m going to pull on my super soft nightie from my Mom, give Oreo some scritches under his neck and behind his ears, grab my phone and my favourite peanut butter cups, give Evelyn the cypress a good sniff (because she smells so good), and play my favourite phone game. Because that’s what life is, it’s all about the little things. The big things might be flashy but the little things are the meat of our lives and they’re what counts.

I hope you have a quiet, comfortable, and peaceful evening wherever you are (and if you have a pet, give them a skritch for me).

kitchen with Pooh mitts