Yes. It is March, and I am putting up my Christmas post. Whoops.
They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year — and I believe them. I consider myself somewhat of a Christmas evangelist (not to be confused with a christian evangelist, which is something else entirely and to my knowledge involves less wearing of red suede elf boots) — I deem gift wrap to be a competitive sport, I have a neatly-labeled bin under my bed labeled Christmas Attire and I start cranking up the carols the day after Thanksgiving. To those that find joy in the aloof rejection of holiday hoopla, I implore you — have a cookie. Here, I baked several batches in search of the perfect Martha Stewart recipe for Santa.
From a new outfit for Tucker to a carefully considered annual wrapping scheme to the attendance of my friend Matt’s annual Latham Christmas bar crawl, Christmas 2014 was all set to be the best year yet.
Yet in reality I somewhat struggled through the holiday season. Six weeks of gray skies and surgical stress left me feeling adrift. My moodiness was compounded by that extra layer of guilt at not being all smiles — after all, at the moment I only spend the holidays at home every other year. Why was I wasting my precious time in tears?
Honestly, I’ve struggled with how to write this post — do I go for honesty and come off as the Grinch that I actually realistically was this year, or do I just blow smoke and gloss over the gloomy bits to present myself in the best light possible? After much contemplation I chose to show you my authentic whiny, brat self, because I can’t have you go thinking I’m a reasonable human being all the time or anything crazy like that.
I am, however, a determined one. So in spite of my cloudy mood, I cracked open that Christmas Attire bin, pulled on my elf boots, and tried to make merry. As usual, one of the highlights of the season for me was throwing a big, over-the-top dinner party for my hometown crew (though I did, true to this post’s theme, find some things to whine about).
I started throwing this party back in high school, long before the advent of Pinterest upped my tablescape game. I love throwing parties. Whipping up invites, preparation crafternoons, and of course, spending time all gussied up with my nearest and dearest.
I’m still figuring out the kitchen bits and the logistics, but on the creative side, nothing makes me happier than going crazy with a few cans of spray paint, a couple yards of raw burlap and a stash of my mom’s borrowed Christmas ornaments and trying to make something beautiful happen. This year was a true labor of love. Exhausted from my surgery, it took every ounce of energy I had to throw this party together.
Every time I throw this shindig, I take a step forward and learn something about how to successfully throw a dinner party for fourteen. This year, I learned to ask for help on the food front. I made one appetizer (a tree-shaped cheese plate), one salad, my traditional (extremely labor intensive beef briscuit) main course and one dessert (the recipe I’d tested out at Thanksgiving). Oh, and duh — one round of cranberry jello shots, also sparked by their Thanksgiving success. The rest was hand-delivered by my guests. Everyone is always asking what they can bring anyway, and so this year I told them — appetizers, side dishes and drinks. And for once I didn’t feel like I was flailing in the kitchen. It was amazing.
I did take one step back, however — after spending days crafting away over all the decor ideas I’d dreamed up, I didn’t stop and take photos until right before guests arrived, and the sun had long since set for the day. Without natural light all my photos came out frustratingly dark and yellow, and I was so annoyed with myself for not capturing something I’d spent so much time and money and effort on. I also didn’t set up a group photo booth as well as I had in previous years, and was irritated at myself for that later too. In general, I just couldn’t be bothered with my camera, which I regretted almost immediately after the fact.
But, well-photographed or not, I’ve never loved my Christmas table more.
Especially surrounded by these people.
Yes, after a laughter and adorable-snack filled happy hour, we made our way to the table to continue telling inappropriate tales from our high school years and do our best to embarrass each other in front of the brave significant others who have joined the group post-graduation. I never get sick of recounting the good ol’ days, and catching up on the new ones.
As the years go on I realize over and over again how rare it is to have had such a solid set of friends in high school, and rarer still to stay close so many years beyond. And I feel ever grateful for this group.
And that gratefulness extends to my bratty mom and sis, who managed to sneak their way onto a very exclusive guest list. (Just kidding. Cause, you know, it is my mom’s house and all. And my sister’s too. When my ‘lil sis put the below photo on Facebook, she captioned it “My main biddies 4Life.” And it is moments like that that melted my heart and made me feel a little less Grinchy this Christmas.)
I do adore this crew.
Pretty soon, it was time for the main event — December 24th was upon us. For us that involved an elegant dinner with two close family friends, a low key evening of backgammon and Christmas specials, and a late night church service before a dramatic reading of The Night Before Christmas marked the end of the evening.
After dinner, finally feeling inspired to renew my role as family photographer, I broke out the tripod to attempt some Christmas portraits. Even Tucker got into the spirit… temporarily.
And then we were off to church. I did a double take when we opened those enormous wooden doors and walked in… to rows and rows of empty pews. Apparently, we’d unintentionally missed our usual service, the one filled with hundreds of voices singing the same carols and hundreds of candles lighting the room to the closing song of Silent Night. Instead, about a dozen bored-looking people stared at wilted poinsettias.
Guys, I can’t sugarcoat it — I cried through Christmas Eve church. And not happy tears at an old tradition, like I usually cry, but tears of the melodramatic, self-pitying kind. I’d spent hours that day in a hospital waiting room only to find out I had a massive infection at my surgical incision site. We’d missed the opening hours of Lights in The Park by seven minutes. It had rained every day we’d tried to ice skate in the Empire State Plaza. And now, here, this Christmas tradition I hold so dear, this was all wrong too.
But in the morning we woke up and found that Santa had left us a fresh set of smiles. We had a low key and relaxing morning — so low key in fact, that these three Tucker-centric iPhone snaps are the only ones I have from Christmas day. But I don’t need photos to tell me that it was a day of thoughtful gifts, sugar overindulgence, and negotiating over what movie we’d take on during our annual December 25th sojourn to The Spectrum.
Yes, Christmas 2014 was a little bit of a roller coaster for me, emotionally. It wasn’t my most joy-filled trip home. But you know what? When late December rolls around again, and I’m settled somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand, I bet there’s only one place I’ll wish to be.
Merry late Christmas guys… in March! Next stop, New Orleans.