Spending Christmas Alone
Spending Christmas alone sucks by default... but sometimes, shit happens...
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It soon will be dinnertime on Christmas eve in my part of the world. The kids are preparing a cake with their mom and I got kicked out of the kitchen, and I thought it was the perfect time to republish a very special Christmas story that I wrote on my blog a couple of years ago. Here it is:
Depending on your culture, Christmas may be more or less important. In mine, Christmas is the main family holiday of the year.
So, know that if you have to spend Christmas alone, I fully understand your feeling. While I’m lucky to have a family near me these days, and that I am spending Christmas with them, back when I lived in the US, between 1998 and 2005, I spent a few Christmases alone there (three or four, I can’t remember exactly). And it really sucked to be far from my family at a time when we usually gather together from wherever we are in normal times.
Well, then, maybe I can try to give you a few tips and advice if that’s your lot this year.
I think that every time I was alone for Christmas, the first and main thing I did to prepare myself for that ordeal was to tell myself and convince myself, starting several weeks in advance, that this was just going to be a regular day, no different from the other days of that week (as I was a student at the time, it was Winter break, so I would treat it just like another Winter break day: getting up late, watching movies, playing video games, chatting with friends online – can you believe it? social media didn’t exist yet!) I would get presents (from family, friends, and myself), but I would just open them whenever I got them, not on the day, and I wouldn’t really do anything special on Christmas eve. Maybe a “French-ish” dinner and a movie, and not much else.
It worked well for the most part. The only thing that would make me feel down would actually be other people when they tried to cheer me up! I know they meant well, but every time it would go the same way. I felt pretty OK about being alone for Christmas. Then, a friend or acquaintance would ask me about my plans, whether I would fly home, these sorts of things. And I would tell them that no, I wouldn’t, I’d be alone. And then, in their most sympathetic voice, they’d tell me how sorry they were and how bad they were feeling for me.
That used to crush my mood instantly.
So maybe this piece of advice is more for people who won’t be alone and who talk with people who will be alone. Please, don’t overdo it with the being sympathetic thing.
And then, there was the infamous Christmas Eve of 2003.
I lived in Gainesville, Florida at the time, and once again, I was going to spend Christmas alone. I had managed to prepare myself psychologically (I had done it a couple of times before, and I knew what to expect by then), and everything was more or less planned to be as OK as possible on that Christmas eve.
One of my good friends at the time was not super close to her family, so while she usually spent a day with her old Mom who lived a few hours away, she was going to stay in town for the rest of the break, we’d hang out and all that…
Well, things started to go astray when she was hospitalized just a few days before Christmas, with a pretty serious health issue. She had to spend Christmas in the hospital, not in a good shape. Actually, whatever happened to me after, I just needed to remember where she was and how she was feeling. That was enough to prevent me from feeling too sorry for myself.
She had a few pets (a dog and a cat at the time). My roommate (who was spending the night and more with her family) also had two cats that stayed in our house. So, the plan had become to do a lot of pet sitting on that day and that night.
The day of December 24th was pretty uneventful.
When night came, I went to my friend’s apartment to feed her pets, walk her dog, clean her cat’s litter, and all that. I probably spent a couple of hours there, and then returned to my house, starting to be a bit hungry and looking forward to preparing and eating the nice dinner that I had planned (I think it included confit de canard, as it’s one of the few French dishes from my home area that could easily travel to the US).
Well, Ethel has other plans…
Ethel was one of my roommate’s two cats. She was probably the only cat I ever loved (I don’t hate all of the other ones, don’t put words in my mouth). I doubt she’s still alive, she would be almost 21. How long do cats live? I don’t really know. Anyway, while I was at my friend’s house taking care of her pets, Ethel got sick and pooped all over the kitchen and the living room! It was some of the stinkiest cat poop I remember smelling. And of course, it was on the diarrhea side of things.
So what did I do after a couple of hours of pet-sitting? Yes, wash the floors of the house, and probably the blanket on the couch too, as well as quarantine the poor animal for a little while, until after it seemed obvious that her intestines were now empty.
Pro tip: if you have a fireplace, ash is ideal to dry up cat diarrhea – somehow I had read about it somewhere, and it worked.
While this was Florida, this was northern Florida in late December, so nights were a bit chilly. I had to open all the windows in an attempt to get rid of the stench in that part of the house - with some success - but of course, it became quite cold in the house. It took a good two hours or so before the air had been replaced enough in the room to allow me to close the windows and put the heater back on.
By then, I had no choice but “cancel” my Christmas eve dinner. I was too hungry to cook at that stage, not to mention the poop smell was not totally gone from the kitchen, and the poop visions were not totally gone from my mind. I just threw some pre-prepared bland dish in the microwave and swallowed it in five minutes. Talk about a Christmas dinner.
It was way past 10 pm when, finally, I could start my evening and try to have some fun somehow.
I decided to watch a movie. There were always a few DVDs that I hadn’t watched sitting around – the record/DVD shop next to campus always had amazing deals or used DVDs. I picked one more or less randomly and put it in the player.
It was Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream…
I’m sure I would have loved it if I had seen it under different circumstances.
I have never watched it again (I probably should, though), and this is my other important advice: if you’re home alone for Christmas, do not, under any circumstance, watch Requiem for a Dream, nor any other movie that you’re not familiar with for that matter. Only watch movies you know well and that don’t have any surprises for you.
If you’ve seen Requiem for a Dream, you’ll understand why it was probably the worst possible choice for a movie on Christmas eve spent alone after a cat poop incident.
Sometimes, I watch two movies on Christmas eve. Not that night. I just went to bed. I probably fell asleep almost instantly.
That’s it. That’s the story of my Christmas Eve 2003.
So, if you’re alone for Christmas this year, and if you start feeling down because boredom and loneliness are taking over, just think about my story.
Hopefully, your Christmas is not as shitty as that one (pun intended).
Image by: LuAnn Hunt
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