I love that cup that my daughter gave me for Christmas. It was something she heard me say when I was struggling through difficult parts of the book I just finished writing. Sometimes I would be stuck, or I'd feel far behind where I needed to be to meet my deadline, and needed to keep working come evening. So I'd pour myself a glass of red wine and catch a second wind, my inner critic silenced for the moment by the wine, allowing me a few more hours, a couple thousand more words. But anything written under the influence had to be scrupulously edited while sober, I told my daughter, because while some of it could be surprising in a good way, some sentences would be overwrought and florid and simply had to go. Write drunk, edit sober, that's the rule, I'd joked, and she captured it on a cup she had made just for her mama.
Christmas was low key, with just my husband, my son and me. We opened gifts, we cooked, we dozed, we watched movies, we ate. It was lovely in its way. We missed our girl who was with her boyfriend upstate, having a rollicking time. He has a large family and they do Christmas the way we do Thanksgiving, only more so, with matching festive pajamas for everyone, and Christmas stockings with embroidered names hung over the fireplace, and family breakfast at one aunt's house followed by dinner for the large extended clan at his mom's. Truly, it's the kind of Christmas I always wished I could create for my kids, but almost all of our extended family lives elsewhere, plus I'm simply not made that way. But I'm glad my girl is getting to experience a version of the high octane family Christmases I knew growing up (though we didn't do matching pjs).
She felt a little guilty about not being with us, I could tell, so I kept assuring her that it was a fine and wonderful thing that she was sharing that kind of Christmas with her boyfriend's family, who lovingly folded her in. We were invited, too, but none of us wanted to spend hours on the highway traveling there and back, and my husband and my son both had work the day before and after Christmas and just wanted to chill at home. My son seemed exhausted and more somber than usual. The fire academy is no cakewalk. But neither was paramedic training, and yet even as he felt slammed with work for nine months, my boy loved it. "Who knew I preferred challenging my brain to challenging my body," he said last night. He's lost weight, seven pounds in two weeks, and he was coughing a lot from one of the smokehouse exercises they did on Christmas eve. "Don't make a blog post about it," he said, so I won't.
How do you blog when you're melancholy and worrying about some things, and you don't want to write about any of it? You're sick of your own nostalgia for a time long past, and there is really nothing to be done. You're sad, but don't want to inflict that on your loved ones, and there's not even work to distract you. What a delicious thing, really. The magazine is in the week between shipping one issue and starting to close the next. My manuscript is done and the editor is traveling, so no revisions yet on that, and my next project is still in the contract stages and might or might not happen. One never knows until the contract is fully executed, but I don't have to panic because for now I have the magazine freelance gig and another editing gig in the wings. I have the luxury of choosing any number of paths through this day, not to mention many inspired Christmas gifts expressly designed to amp up my enjoyment of this good lucky life.
My son and his girlfriend gave me an absolutely gorgeous table top easel and brushes, so I could actually finally paint something. I also have a puzzle going on the dining table, and I've been streaming the The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and could keep going with that. I could curl up under a blanket in this freezing cold house and read Just Kids, that Patti Smith memoir that my daughter's boyfriend gave me, along with a Stubs movie membership, the year all paid, so I could also use that and go to the movies. Or perhaps I should schedule the spa day my husband gave me, with a two and a half hour massage of my choice included—my God, I have so many choices.
Or I could call a friend. One is in much the same place as I am. She is Jewish and doesn't celebrate Christmas, but her daughter was with her boyfriend's family, joining in their festivities, and my friend was missing her girl and feeling somewhat adrift. "I am in a state of pining for the old days," she texted me. "Whenever I stop working I can't find myself." "I know just what you mean," I texted back. I'm not sure if misery loves company, that has always seemed an ungenerous notion to me, but misery is certainly lightened by empathy. Her text made me feel less alone.