It’s a little after 9pm on Boxing Day here in Brisbane, so I’m pretty sure Christmas has at least started everywhere in the world. (I’m still pretty clueless when it comes to world time zones.) I hope you all had a great day with family and friends, got everything you asked Santa for, and didn’t suffer too much from all the food and drink on offer.
But this year Christmas felt very surreal, as if it was happening everywhere else but my home.
Apart from one year when my father had to work, Christmas morning has always been about exchanging gifts. When I was young my sister and I would make our parents cups of tea in bed (very noisily if they were sleeping in). Then we’d bring all the presents from under the tree onto their bed and start handing them out.
These days I’m happy to have a bit of a sleep in myself. But I still get a thrill out of seeing everyone’s reaction as they frantically rip off the wrapping paper to see what’s inside.
But this year was different. A lot different.
Despite not going to bed until after midnight I still woke up a little after seven. But I was alone (I wasn’t seeing my son until ten), and so I spend the morning finding out about everyone else’s Christmas morning on Twitter and Facebook. And I felt sad that I couldn’t talk about what my family was doing, or what everyone was getting from Santa. For me it was just another morning.
(I did get a phone call from both my sister and my father, which I really appreciated.)
Even when I visited my son it didn’t feel normal. They’d already unwrapped all their presents, and because I was saving his for the afternoon when he was coming to stay with me I felt like an intruder.
Fifteen minutes later I was home again.
I was picking up a friend in the afternoon to spend Christmas night with my son and me. So I filled in the time doing what I’d normally do. I did the dishes. I folded clothes.
Just another day.
At around five we finally got to exchange gifts (I got Ben Elton’s latest book), and later we had dinner at McDonald’s. Then we watched a bit of TV before heading off to bed.
And that was Christmas.
Mind you, my birthday three days before felt pretty weird as well. My son woke me up that morning, which was nice. But there was no present, or even a “Happy birthday”. I’m not even sure he knew it was my birthday.
We went to his family day care Christmas party, where I got my traditional sugar hit. (In past years I’ve gone to Tom’s Confectionery Warehouse.) And then I went home to an empty house.
Fortunately I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day alone. I visited a friend, who shouted me dinner and then took me to see “Skyfall” at the movies. (She also got me a present–“Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals“.)
I realise it sounds like I’m most concerned about the presents. But I think what actually hit me the most was how alone I felt. It’s not a good feeling at the best of times, but around this time year I find it especially tough.
As much as I’d like to, I can’t predict how things will be for me this time next year. But if it looks like I’ll be spending my birthday and Christmas alone again then I’d like it to be for a good reason. So I might travel somewhere overseas, and spend my Christmas there. I may even live out my fantasy of having a white Christmas.
But that’s almost a year away, and a lot can change in a year.
Or at least I hope it can.