I know all 4 of my loyal readers have spent the last month or so weeping, bathed in the blue glow of a computer screen, refreshing KatyKatiKate over and over again, wondering what they'd done wrong, what they had done to drive me away.
The truth is, it wasn't you.
It was me.
And a stomach virus that rampaged like California wildfire through Chicken's day care class.
And visiting family.
And a toy drive for Children's Hospital.
And a supply drive for a family shelter.
And trying to make sure that each of these special holidays was magical in its own right for my family. Ostensibly for my sons, who truly don't give a single shit about Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year's. But really, for me. For me and Ryan.
And, oh yeah, just regular life - keeping the water just exactly at my head and keeping the house on the right side of the line between messy and filthy.
So here's just a few words about each holiday.
Really. Just a few words.
At the age of ten I stopped eating meat for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to:
1. The hideous and graphic YA book, "A Day No Pigs Would Die."
2. I found out what steak juice was.
3. The pieces of chicken gristle that squeaked between my teeth.
My parents thought it was a phase, but 20 years later I'm still meat-free.
So I'm not that into Thanksgiving, a holiday so meat-centric it might as well have been concocted by Jennie O in the same way that De Beers cooked up the diamond engagement ring "tradition" to boost flagging sales.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind eating an entire buttery, velvety, 50-shades-of-brown meal out of what are basically KFC sides. But is it worth it - the mount Olypmus of crusty, sticky, greasy pans that you have to wash by hand? The hours sweating in the kitchen cultivating a bumper crop of resentment for all the relatives eating dip and watching football? All for a meal that's over in 20 minutes that I don't even get to fully participate in?
I have this tendency to cling to a single holiday tradition and put all of my eggs in that one basket - nail that tradition and your holiday was a win. Blow it, and... that's why God made crying in the shower. At Halloween, it's trick-or-treating. At Christmas, it's Santa. And at Thanksgiving, for most, that basket is full of glistening bird meat.
Thank God, I get to be exempt from the high stakes game of bland bird-roasting on Thursdays in November. I don't have to figure out how to bake and/or roast 7 different dishes at different temperatures in one oven, to all be done at the same time. I don't have to douche a turkey every hour on the hour.
This year I discovered that by "not being into Thanksgiving," I got to relax a little bit. Between Halloween (which must be EPIC) and Christmas (which HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO BE TOTALLY AWESOME,) I got to say, "no, you know what? I don't give a fuck today."
It was like my Labor Day, my Columbus Day, and my Administrative Assistants' Appreciation Day, all in one. I got to day-drink, go to the park and do stomp-rockets, and then come home and eat a meal that took a regular-meal-amount of time to prepare. Regular amount of dirty dishes. Just a nice meal with family. It might have been a regular Sunday.
And for that, I was so, so thankful.
It's hard for me to write about Christmas without falling into the most saccharine of greeting-card truisms. But it really is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is a time of magic, love, and goodwill, a time when the basic goodness of your fellow man shines brightly and warms the cool December night.
My memories of childhood Christmas are fantastic. At its peak, our annual gingerbread-house-decorating party saw 40 or 50 friends and family, from 1 to 92, gathered around tables, passing the red hots and smearing icing on gingerbread roofs and walls. We sang Silent Night at the candlelight sermon on Christmas Eve, and cooked breakfast for dinner - fluffy pancakes, cheesy eggs, crisp bacon, and cold, tart fruit salad. The beautiful 8-foot tree stood quietly proud in my parents' living room, the glowing pile of packages and bags at its base decorated with so much more than just self-sticking loopy drugstore bows - cinnamon sticks and sprigs of holly, grosgrain ribbon and little jingle bells. Christmas was always special. Always.
This is the first year I've done my own Christmas, out of the beautifully feathered festive nest of my childhood home.
It was not as much fun as I remember.
Those softly shining packages under the tree? Childhood Katie's heart positively leapt at the sight. Adult Katie just sees how much money she has to spend on fucking paper. Christmas wrapping is some mad-expensive shiny trash you guys.
Christmas Eve traditions? Childhood Katie got dressed up for church and dinner, and walked a little swishier in her grown-up Christmas dress. Adult Katie wore yoga pants all day because she had to rig some fucking traditions and ain't nobody got time for a dress when you're trying to establish traditions.
Instead of being entranced by the magic, I was suddenly responsible for producing the magic. Instead of imagining Santa's workshop over Christmas books and hot cocoa, I was drafted into the elf sweatshop, stealing gulps of warm beer as I frantically Amazon.commed, addressed Christmas cards, and googled "best Christmas traditions no work required."
I landed on: taking a scenic drive to view Christmas lights, opening one present on the night before Christmas that contained new Christmas pajamas for the family, having a Christmas Eve picnic at the tree, and watching Die Hard and drinking after the kids were in bed and it was Santa time. Now I have a margarita. Ho ho ho.
The hardest part about this Christmas is the pall of doubt that my newfound perspective casts over all those childhood holidays. Like a little plantation girl who looks back on her idyllic youth and suddenly realizes, "holy shit, Martha was my fucking slave," I reflect on my Christmases past and cannot help but wonder if my parents were also hollowed-out shells of their once vibrant selves by the time Christmas morning rolled around. I was, as all children should have the luxury to be, self-centered and single-minded about this holiday; because it was magical to me, it WAS MAGICAL.
Now I am the man behind the curtain. I feel the burden of running a show that I don't quite know yet, and I fear that my Christmas kind of sucked.
Good news, though - my kids won't remember this one. Or probably the next one either. I have 11 and a half months to plot my comeback, buy bargain Christmas paper, and decide which of this year's traditions we will keep, and which we will chuck out like so many loopy drugstore bows.
I love resolutions. Mostly because they combine some of my favorite activities: planning, making lists, and constructing an elaborate fantasy of my life for the coming year.
But last year's resolutions were a little, I don't know... depressing.
1. Wash my hands more.
2. Take more showers.
3. Read a book a month.
Wow, Katie. Dream big. Seriously.
Yes, you now know my secret shame. I had to resolve to be clean and literate.
And I failed. I am still unwashed and unread. But I think that's kind of, like, my thing, you know? I'm just gonna own it. Gotta be me.
So this year, rather than create some ascetic list of commitments to which I would feel either shackled or totally noncommittal for the next 12 months, I decided to make a bucket list.
2015 will be the year of unique experiences.
I made a list of one-timers - books I wanted to read, places I wanted to go, experiences I wanted to have in the coming year. Some of those experiences require preparation - a triathlon, for example. Some require some discipline up-front - saving up for a spa day. Some simply require that I adjust my fucking attitude from the grim gulag of "I can't do that - I have two kids," to "pack an extra diap, bitches. We are going to see a mountain today." But by focusing on the experience rather than on the process, I get to think about all the fun I'm going to have instead of all the work I have to do.
What's on your 2015 bucket list? Tell me, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?
I'm going to read some presidential biographies. I don't know enough about John Adams.