The sky was fucking gorgeous this morning – ice blue with a smattering of fluffy white clouds, stained golden yellow where the light of the rising sun illuminated them from below. Sub-zero, though. The coldest Minnesota winter in decades, they say, and I had forgotten V’s coat, with the sudden 20 degree drop, so we weren’t out long.
This year is forcing me out of my Christmas rituals. For a decade now, I have made the longish trek to one of the handful of restaurants in the Twin Cities open during the day, luckily one of my favorites, and indulged in a long breakfast with lots of coffee and a good book. But the Jewish owner has betrayed the chosen people and the ritualistic weirdos (I’m somewhere in there), and is no longer honoring his sacred responsibility. Even if it were open, it would border on dangerous to walk there in this weather, especially since I recently moved several miles further away than I had been for the duration of this ritual.
Why, anyway? I have no religion, no contiguous family songs or habits or food passed down from generation to generation. I am almost a cartoon of the American Individualist, if not by choice. And Xmas has never meant much to me, for those reasons and others. I decided to stop coming home for the holidays my Sophomore year of college, in which I spent my first Xmas on the cold beach in Southern California. I liked it. It was crisp and quiet and empty, and what life there was was friendly and respectful. I tried to make that into a ritual, but it didn’t always work out. When I was married, we decided that we were not going to either family’s houses during the latter-year holidays, and we announced as much to both, so there wouldn’t be any expectations. We spent Xmas in a very Jewishy manner, except for the presents and, typically, a tree, with a slow morning, dinner out, and a movie. It was a ritual of sorts, a nice one, and one I wanted to wipe clean once we divorced.
Once alone, I spent a few years traveling to see friends during the holidays, then settled into what seemed an important pattern: spending the opening scene of the day alone, and part in the company of unknown others. I can explain the meaning, though I’m sure it’s fairly obvious. I wanted to reinforce to myself that I didn’t need a partner to make the day special, to be content, or to feel at home in the world. I don’t doubt this often, but nonetheless it seemed important to act it out on this day, every year.
I still could, of course. There are a few (I think my hundreds of facebook friends have come up with 3) restaurants in the Twitties© open on Xmas day. But they’re far, and I can make some good French Toast with a loaf of brioche I bought yesterday, and we’ve got some delicious fake bacon that I hoarded when it was on sale a few weeks ago. I ‘m mid-way through an excellent novel and have plenty of time to be alone – the bf wakes up 4-6 hours after I do – and the world is there for me if I want it.
And the sun is shining! You can’t bask in it for fear of frostbite, but you can see it and maybe feel it melt some of the icy winter depression, even through the storm windows. It is breathtakingly beautiful.