I grew up with Thanksgivings that were huge formal events with dozens of people at our estate. Mother especially liked to invite my father's co-workers from DC who had no family in town or were single and alone. We cooked a few turkeys. All us daughters worked the kitchen hard all day while the men watched football. I learned all my cooking and hostessing skills, as well as my cleaning skills.
Christmases involved cutting down a tree in the woods near our home and putting candles on it for a Norwegian Christmas. We had smorgasbord on Christmas Eve and when guests left, we opened our gifts that night. On Christmas morning, the only thing under the tree was unopened gifts from Santa.
Holidays were quite magical.
When I was married for 26 years, I cooked the entire elaborate meal and had friends over, especially ones without family in town or who were single. I made four kinds of pies and a spread that made everyone pass out on the sofa afterwards.
Christmas had many traditions adopted from childhood and one new one I added - the stocking. My son could barely wait for Christmas, so from Thanksgiving to Christmas, he was allowed to open one wrapped gift in his stocking each Sunday. I made a Yule pile on Christmas morning; a bunch of yummy breakfast items stacked up.
Now, being single is an odd thing. The holidays give me that feeling like the last awkward girl at a school dance just hoping that someone asks her to dance. I now contribute to my son and his fiancee's Thanksgiving. On Christmas, I usually work that day.
Finding my own traditions as a single woman is a hard thing. I do drive through the foothills and see the over the top McMansions' Christmas tree light displays and animatronics. I try not to glom onto my son's holidays. I make a few dozen little packages of cookies and fudge for all those people in my life and my neighbors. I write lengthy yearly letters for the Christmas cards because, well, a lot more happens in my year than used to be.
I also try not to force expectations for myself. I have no company party. I work from home. My friends are all across town. I try to make some mall shopping dates with my buddies so I can walk around the decorations and ambiance and hear the music. The weather isn't super cooperative in Phoenix to give the mood, but this year I did give the finger to the process of Christmas trees and got myself a tumbleweed and covered it with cheap Arizona tourist trap trinkets and rubber dinosaurs.
Eventually, I know, there will be a delicious man in my life and that lucky boy will be the focus of lots of delicious foods prepped, perhaps odd new traditions like getting in the car on Christmas morning and going north to throw snowballs and make a Christmas snowman. Perhaps an entire day in bed with blankets and nonstop Christmas movies, hot cocoa and scones.
Considering all the many disruptions I've had in my life throughout my lifetime; the loss of most of my family, moves, child leaving home, divorce, I am okay with adjusting to the new reality. I don't want things to be the same. I have memories of those times, but I want new memories of these times too. The past memories were based on a child's point of view of hope and excitement and possibilities, time off school, and no cares. The motherhood phase was focused on my son absorbing a magical atmosphere. My married name was Clauss and by accident one Christmas, I accidentally signed Santa's thank you note for the cookies, "Santa Clauss" and my son saw it and said, "Santa spelled his name like ours." I cringed and worried I gave myself away. Then, he giggled. "Santa was showing that we have the same name. That was sweet." Those memories were given their proper respect as they were occurring and are properly filed away.
What I want now is something new that represents a time in which I am not a child hoping others fulfill my wishes; I am not a mother hoping to fulfill someone else's wishes, but I am a woman looking to give myself a yearly perspective on what is important to me, whether it's novel experiences, travel, some luxury I have not allowed myself, or time alone with friends.
Perhaps, if I'm lucky, my man of the future will have a family so I can be surrounded by loved ones. I do so want a big huggy family that is animated and expressive. I have a wellspring of love and creative ways of expressing it. I think it would feel right doing any traditions, as long as I can throw myself into the joyous process.
Well, I think I found my Christmas wish-to make new memories.