My Thanksgiving was different this year. No air travel in my family which meant I did not host Thanksgiving in NYC.
For the first time in almost a decade I was a guest who got to dress up, show up, and have a glass of wine in a back yard. Next I got to enjoy a delicious plate of food, seconds, take a lovely walk around the block and then pies, cake and ice cream without jumping up and down to serve others. The meal was prepared by my ex sister in law 5 miles away and 6 guests in her beautiful kitchen and garden.
Her gravy was glorious, served over turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. Brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce, cranberry and orange relish, green salad and purple cabbage rounded out the meal.
The flavors were both familiar and wonderfully different and I didn’t shop, cook or clean-up for up to 20 family members nor did I host my favorite out of town guests. As much as I missed my family, I totally enjoyed being a grateful guest and not being responsible for any of it.
I had advanced practice doing a big holiday differently. Last year I entered into life changing romantic relationship after the end of my 25 year marriage. It was our first Christmas together. Jewish, his mother had always enjoyed celebrating Christmas. She named her first born Christopher for heaven’s sake. I was open to new experiences. Christmas celebrations in a deteriorating marriage became more of chore with a few bright spots with youngsters, a meal or a party.
The only thing I was sure about for my first Christmas in El Paso was that I wanted a Christmas tree. We agreed to go straight from the airport to shop for a tree. In that car ride I learned that he always buys live trees. That the pine trees that shade his property from the blistering sun are all former Christmas trees.
I had never had a live tree as a kid or as an adult. The live trees were smaller than the dead ones I was use to buying. We decided to buy three potted trees and ended up putting one each in the living room, dining room and bedroom. With a few ornaments from my home and his, fairy lights, ribbons, a green sari, flowers and candles the space was transformed.
We tapped into the feeling of wonder that a benevolent Santa had brought us what we most wanted. Santa aka OK Cupid had brought us each other. Two divorced people in their sixties who across 2700 miles collided in love.
In 67 years I had never spent Christmas alone with a lover.
There was no frantic shopping or cooking for a crowd.
Just the two of us and those 3 live trees.
We tore into a box of bagels & lox that came in the mail along with Italian chocolates and cheese from his family that we ate for breakfast.
I wore a red slip with white lace all day.
We took a bath and made love in the middle of the afternoon.
The menorah was lit for the first night of Hanukkah in front of the Christmas tree on the dinner table. We feasted on delicious leftover turkey from the night before and a surprise homemade pecan banana Bundt cake, layered with macerated raspberries and fresh whipped cream.
He said, “Best Christmas ever”.
I had to agree.
For all the grandparents who are missing grandchildren children and extended family you could focus on each other instead. With all the news, talk and fear of loss and dying alone why not love in a way that counters that fear and foreboding. And if the thought of being intimate with your partner of 20, 30 or 40 years makes you wonder and wince there are books to read and videos to watch about reconnecting. My personal favorite books are the entertaining and encouraging NYT Bestseller called “Pussy: A Reclamation” by Regena Thomashauer, the revolutionary “The Body is Not an Apology” by Sonya Renee Taylor and “Better Than I Ever Expected: straight talk about sex after sixty” by Joan Price.
Forget the gifts, finish the family Zoom and turn off the games to make love with each other like it might be the last time. We are wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding contact with other humans to stay alive and protect our families and community.
This Christmas you can, without all the company, cooking and the chores, love yourself and each other with some of the same strong, sexy and sweet energy that made you a catch in the first place.
The Best Christmas Ever was an unexpected moment in my life that has made me more open and grateful for new experiences. Apart this holiday, we await the vaccine and each other.
I am creating my own Christmas rituals this year celebrating and being grateful for my capacity to love myself and others so dearly.