For the first time in years, possibly ever, I’m having Christmas Day alone. Stop — don’t feel sorry for me! No sympathy is required.
Until 6.30pm on Christmas Day, it’ll just be me at home alone, apart from a phone call or two. (Short interruption right now while I receive a text and a photo of daughter and grandson playing on a wild beach — see? I’m not abandoned.)
Maybe I’ll go for a walk or a swim or sing carols in church or go climb a tree. Then in the evening I’ll go to my friend’s bed and breakfast for a buffet meal. This may sound bleak, like a city mission meal for the homeless, but the B&B is a lovely place and dinner will be congenial and delicious.
Habits — love them, fear them
Christmas is a gorgeous time in our family. In recent years I’ve usually been with family in a beautiful spot near Nelson. But who knows — that particular pattern may never re-occur, and that’ll be fine.
I like habits, and I like habits to be disrupted. Otherwise when you’ve made the same choice three times, it’s tempting to see this as not a just a habit but a sacred tradition, a divine right! Then Christmas can become a burden and no fun any more.
The family reunion
By (breakable) tradition our larger family gets together once every seven or five years, so in early January we’ll have three days together at Bridge Valley Camp — about 70 or 80 from four generations having picnics and bike rides and generally hanging about together. There’ll be a concert and a Pechu Kuchu night and judging by previous events, we will love it.
So that’s one reason why I’m Christmassing at home. Why gather for Christmas when a mega-gathering will happen a week later?
Empty Wellington: not post-apocalyptic but a writer’s retreat
In January, Wellington is a different city. The streets are almost empty, yet I have almost never seen a zombie here in January. On the contrary, strangers say hello (hey, another human being!) and start chatting, as if in a village.
Summer pretends to have arrived. It’s wind-free and sunny (as a rule) and so peaceful that January is the best time for writers in Wellington. I dig in and become a writer in residence in my own apartment or on a park bench or in any cafe that keeps its doors open over the holiday period.
Doris Lessing: The Summer Before the Dark
The moment I realised I’d be alone this Christmas, Doris Lessing’s novel popped into my mind. Through a series of coincidences, the protagonist Kate Brown also finds herself alone for the summer holidays for the first time in decades.
Nobel laureate Doris Lessing’s classic novel of the pivotal summer in one woman’s life is a brilliant excursion into the terrifying gulf between youth and old age.
The Summer Before the Dark impressed me deeply when I first read it as a mere gal in my 40s. So I read it again to prepare myself for the educational value and the sheer weirdness of spending Christmas week alone.
The novel was no less impressive and provocative on second reading. Thinking about Kate Brown’s alarming summer is an ideal exercise for me as I near the end of my self-inflicted Boot Camp for Old Age. “Be who you are” is proving to be one of my most difficult challenges, more so when I remember that one’s perceived identity can be wiped out in a matter of days..
So shall I have a Happy Christmas? Of course I shall. I know that good relationships keep us happy, healthy and alive. But there’s much to be said for a home-alone adventure, especially if you’re a writer.
Your holiday — how will it be?