But I wasn't hosting any parties or celebrations that year, and more importantly, I didn't have kids. Trees are for people who have kids. Little kids, grown kids, kids at home, kids coming to visit, grandkids. Not only does tree trimming take an army or a ton of patience, it's a bit like cooking a whole turkey -- even if you get the small one, what's the point if there's only one or two people to enjoy it?
I still decorated. I hung garlands in the windows and ran some strategic strings of lights, stuck a couple nutcrackers on a shelf where the cat almost couldn't knock them down.
This year, not so much.
I asked my also-not-living-with-kids girlfriend if she had decorated:
Me: I have done zero decorating
Friend: Me too.
Me: And have only slightly more than zero impulse to do it.
Friend: When it comes to my apartment, I'm kind of pretending Christmas isn't happening. If I got a tree I think my cats would destroy it. Plus, what, I'm going to decorate a tree myself and then just look at it? what's the point?
Me: That's what I tried to tell my relations last year: trees are for people with offspring. I did get festive last year. Put up decorations. No tree, but knickknacks.
Friend: I have a cute wooden advent calendar up.
Me: Oh!!! I have a festive jar of candy canes! #TakeThatMarthaStewart
Friend: LOL! Not just a jar of candy canes, a FESTIVE jar of candy canes!
In the mood; it's not just a Glenn Miller tune.
Perhaps because Americans don't treat it as a holiday but as an entire freaking season. It's Christmas season, like it's summer or fall -- both of which take me an exceptionally long time to wrap my mind around. There are also preconceived notions surrounding end-of-year holidays, like gifts and wardrobe changes (reindeer sweaters, anyone?) and a month-long over abundance of sugared baked goods. Not to mention societal pressure to decorate one's domicile.
And let's not forget the requisite joyousness.
Nobody expects you to be joyful or meditatively at peace with the world in February or June or whenever, but come December 1, you're either Festive or Ebeneezer Scrooge. There's no gray area.
This is not a "War on Christmas."
The anticipation was better than anything else.
In fact, I feel the same way about romance and roller coasters: the build up of anticipation makes actual experience, and a lack of anticipation flattens it like soda-pop left out overnight.
Not just the anticipation of presents, although let's not discount that fully, but the anticipation of two weeks off from school. Of sleeping in and sledding. Of spending time at home doing various activities and time spent outside shopping or romping or whatever the heck it is we had to do in December.
There is a calmness, a slowness embedded in these memories. A time-out-of-time experience when everyone stopped what they were doing. They didn't go to work or school. They didn't go to their regular weekly meetings or clubs. All the structure of daily life faded away. Even nominal schedules went poof, like those TV shows my family watched every week without fail. And in their place, there on the screen appeared Muppets and claymation creatures and Vera-Ellen dancing with Danny Kaye. I didn't know it then, but a big part of why I can recall Christmas as a warm, glowy ball of memory, instead of as sharp moments of specific action, was because all of us unplugged.
Of course, unplugged was not, at the time, a term applied to people. It was applied to lamps and irons and Eric Clapton albums.
When the Bing Crosby techno-remix just doesn't cut it.
I did just find this three hour long Christmas medley on YouTube. Can't speak for all of it because it's three freaking hours long, but here we go:
Domino's, Pierogies and Keilbasa
Domino's Farms (the world headquarters of Domino's Pizza) hasn't had their miles and miles of lights and festiveness in years, maybe decades now. But it was always something I looked forward to as a kid. And now it's gone.
For my mother, Christmas is tied to certain foods that she got growing up. White fruitcake has been the one we've most frequently recreated, but there were also pierogies and keilbasa and meat pies. We lost family members and lost the pierogi makers. We discovered other pierogi makers in the family, then they too passed away. I have the recipe, and I'll take a stab at pierogies this year. (Shh! It's going to be a surprise!) No one has been able to recreate my grandmother's meat pies, however.