Holiday Aftermath

January 8, 2002

Our Christmas holiday this year was exhilarating. All three of our children returned home and stayed for a full 4 days. I had the days off, my husband is not working, and the children did not bring any girlfriends or boyfriends. For a brief, still slice of time, life was as it had been. We sat around the dinner table. We all saw “Lord of the Rings” together. We took the children out to eat. And on Christmas, in a stunning climax, we hopped. We hopped from a family brunch, to a tea, to a house-tour, to dinner, and to desert. And we sat in the car together just talking, imperceptibly falling back into the familiar family rhythm. I had forgotten how much fun it was to ride in the car and talk to my children.

Then, the next day, I went to work. When I got home, I found that my husband had completed removed all evidence of Christmas. The decorations were down, the tree was gone, and the kids had vanished. Poof! All there was to look forward to was a long, cold, dark January.

So I sat right down and wrote a long article trashing the month of January. I called it a useless, empty month that should not exist. I built my case, reason by reason. There are no holidays in January. No parties. The weather is worse than miserable. Everyone is on a diet, or exercising and wants to talk about it. Too much information. And the kids have gone off to their apartments and friends and lives, and left us in this bleak and boring month. There is no fun left in the whole wide world.

I was in a funk just thinking about it. I wrote that in the article too. About five or six times. Then I was in such a funk that I didn’t even want to read about being in a funk, so I trashed the article.

But since then, I have been living in January, and something has changed. I am thinking that perhaps this empty, useless, bleak and boring month has a certain charm after all.

I am told that, while we have been sleepwalking through life, thinking that we reside in Foxboro, Massachusetts, the reality has changed underneath us. The scientists who study such things tell us that we all really live in one giant sprawling metropolitan area, called BosWash. There are no real boundaries; one urban area just morphs invisibly into the next. The same thing has happened with holidays. In November/December, Thanksgiving becomes Hanukkah becomes Ramadan becomes Christmas becomes New Years. Office parties morph into diversity events into church services into shopping sprees into family parties into friends get-togethers into one roller-coaster holiday that never ends.

This year, from Thanksgiving to New Years I only read one book. Such restraint just ain’t natural. Partly, it was luck. I belong to an internet book club. Which is just like a regular book club without the chore of having to go to meetings. The book that had been picked for the month of December was “literature.” Basically nothing happened in the book, except that everyone talked and explored their feelings. It actually was a very good book. Except that I kept losing the page, and forgetting what I had read. Because nothing happened. It was like one of those movies that I used to be able to drag my husband too, back when he wasn’t yet my husband. So it was a really good book to be reading during the month of endless holidays, because I did not spend all of them thinking wistfully about the book that lay underneath my bed.

While this miracle of restraint was happening, I suspected that my resolve would break. Possibly all at once. And it did. I binged. My heart raced, my hands shook, and I broke out into a cold sweat. There was only one thing to do. I speed over to the local library, and left with cartload of thrillers, romances, fantasies and sci-fi’s.

And, then, in a short pause between two page-turners, I thought about the month of January. I thought about the fact that there are no holidays. No parties. That the weather is worse than miserable. That everyone is off dieting and exercising. That the kids were gone.

So I sat down, in this bleak and boring month, snuggled under a warm blanket, in my easy chair, under a good reading light, with no one around, and toasted the month of January, raising my glass of water high, and following it with a celery chaser. Then got down to the serious business of reading and reading and reading. For all the long, empty, useless, month.

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