Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The year without Christmas

My Christmas this year was something it’s never been before: Technically absent. That’s not literally true, of course: Somehow or other, it came just the same. There’s a story, though.

The story’s core is this: This year, for the first time ever, I spent Christmas alone (with Leo…). I wasn’t sure how it would go—obviously, since I’ve never experienced that before—but it was just fine.

It all came about because early Saturday evening I developed cold-like symptoms, and obviously my first thought was, “uh, oh…” First thing on Christmas morning I took a rapid antigen test (known colloquially as a “RAT test”), which was negative, however: It’s possible to be symptomatic and still test negative, especially within the first few days after exposure. I was going to be spending Christmas Day with family who were heading overseas a few days later, and I couldn’t risk exposing them to—well, whatever it was. Even if it was just a cold, they wouldn’t get over it before leaving. And, if it was the plague—best not to even about that.

So, I told the family that I felt Leo and I should stay home to keep everyone safe. It was the sensible thing to do in the Plague Times, but all that aside, I knew that if the cold-like symptoms persisted all day, I didn’t think I’d have enjoyed myself. That paled in comparison to the risk that it might be the plague.

Leo obviously had absolutely no idea that Christmas Day was anything other than just another day, and I get together with family often, so, really, it actually wasn’t all that different. Except of course, it was: It was a first for me.

There didn’t appear to be all that many people home when I looked out the front window, judging by cars missing from the driveways on the street. I saw a couple who appeared to be late middle-age moving around their car parked at the Airbnb across the street. They were busy loading their car with presents before they left for the day. I wasn’t affected in any way by seeing that, apart, maybe, from the fact it made me think of Nigel and me packing up the car to go visit family—but only a little bit, because as far as I can remember, we only travelled on Christmas Day a couple times. Instead, I mostly thought about how I’d perceived the couple as being older than me, but I then realised they could well be younger. Thoughts about the relativity of age/appearance is an “any day” sort of thing, which, I think, goes to show how I was unaffected by what I saw.

I’d planned to make myself a special Christmas Breakfast (photo at right), but ended up having it a wee bit later than planned, because there was no longer any rush. I toasted a slice of my homemade (bread machine) bread, scrambled a couple free range eggs (with a little dill and garlic powder), added some fresh-cracked pepper, and garnished it with some just-picked fresh parsley from my garden. The actual reason I decided to make scrambled eggs was because I have quite a lot of parsley, and I wanted to use some of it.

I also made Leo a special Christmas Day breakfast, too: I gave him some tinned dog food (a NZ-made “premium” brand I got on special). He gobbled it up quick as—did he even taste it?!

This goes to show that I basically felt okay that day: I just had some discomfort in my sinuses (they felt “hot”, for lack of a better word). I didn’t have a fever (I checked), and so, I thought I maybe I just had a sinus thing of some sort. The weather’s been wet more often than not, and everything—especially weeds—are growing like crazy. I noticed my lawns need a mow, which is part of what made me think it may just be a sinus thing (I sensibly decided I wouldn’t mow the lawns that day—it was Christmas, anyway).

The rest of the day was quiet. I finally decorated my Christmas tree (it only had lights at that point). I hadn’t found the time during the week, so planned on doing it Christmas Eve—until I felt yucky and gave up the idea.

That morning, my brother-in-law kindly dropped off some Christmas dinner for me (including plenty of chocolate), along with two Christmas crackers, one for me and one for Leo. First thing I thought was, “Now I just have to work out how to get him to hold one end.”

I decided to have my dinner later in the day (because of my late breakfast), and, as I said on Facebook, “You know that if I can manage it there’ll be a photo of Leo in his paper hat/crown thingee,” and then added, “And, in the effort, I’ll no doubt lose all the good daddy points I got for giving him his extra special treat for his breakfast.” The photo is at the top of this post, and I was actually very surprised how cooperative Leo was, even when the hat kept sliding down over one eye, something I couldn’t see until after I took the photo. I took several to get the one I shared.

That evening, I had some of the special wine I’d bought to have that day (strictly for medicinal purposes, of course), and I watched some Christmas DVDs I’d brought back with me form the USA the last time I was there: A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and I finished with a movie we bought here in New Zealand, It’s A Wonderful Life. Then it was time for bed, a little earlier than usual for me.

Yesterday, Boxing Day, was quiet: I felt okay in the morning and most of the day, but decided to rest. I got a call from friends in Auckland, and also from my sister, and then a thunderstorm rolled through. I was glad about the storm: It meant I didn’t have to go water my plants!

By evening I felt yucky again. I went to bed even earlier, and around 4am I got up to go to the loo (I’d been drinking a lot of water all day), and I felt far worse than I’d felt during this whole—well, whatever it is. However, when I woke up for the day a few hours later, I basically felt okay again: A bit tired, and with sinuses that still feel “hot”, the occasional sneeze, but otherwise not terrible.

My lawns still need to be mowed, and if I feel up to it, I may do that this evening when it’s cooler. Or, another day this week (it’s supposed to be hot and sunny the next few days). It’ll depend on how I feel. Even though I joked about not mowing the lawns on Christmas Day, I was actually quite surprised when a neighbour down the end of the street actually did that. To each their own, and all that.

So, Christmas, though very, very odd, wasn’t difficult or anything. I think the main reason is that Christmas hasn’t been a very big deal for me for decades. As I said many times, Nigel and I often bought each other nothing at all, or not much, because getting together with family was what we valued. That fact is both a reason to shrug my shoulders about the sudden change in plans, and a reason to be upset. The reason my shoulders won is probably that, as said earlier, I get together with family often. Besides, I saw my brother-in-law (outside and physically distanced…), and I also spoke on the phone with my mother-in-law, and later with a sister-in-law, and later still with another sister-in-law).

It’s also clear to me that staying home was the right call to make, even if whatever I have isn’t a disease (it could be simple allergies). It was important to do the right thing, and doing so can give us a sense of calm. It did for me, anyway.

And Leo didn’t seem to mind his paper hat/crown thingee. It was a Christmas miracle.

The title for this post was inspired by The Year Without Santa Claus, a 1974 Rankin-Bass Christmas special (which I also have on DVD, though I didn’t watch it this year). The first paragraph of this post uses a quote from How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the 1966 animated Christmas special.

My Christmas dinner.

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