Anticipation can be a lovely thrill. Nothing thrills so much as being smack up against a beloved holiday with only ‘one sleep’ between you and satisfaction.
Something I learned early in adult life is that the people without children are very far down the list in terms of whose needs are taken into consideration. We are carefree and footloose, able to accommodate the needs of others at the flicker of whimsy. Sure, we can request a vegetarian/vegan dish or some other modification for a diet or allergy need. But, our status as second-class family units means we do not have to create the magic moments inherent in contemporary child rearing. That lesson was made very obvious to me at about age 22.
We are informed of plans, we provide rides, we entertain the quirky guests that no one wants to deal with. We show up at the appointed hour, bearing rolls and perhaps a simple appetizer, pre-approved by the planners. We are expected to be thrilled to play games for hours, to sit uncomfortably by while our relatives consume enough wine to remind us of an older generation without letting our PTSD show, and we then go home. We offer to help with the dishes.
Once I realized this was my lot in life because I had no plans to be a parent. Holidays were for magical memories for children.
Holiday eves, however, are not. There is no magical memory to be found while adults are turning the household upside down with cleaning, cooking preparations, and last-minute trips to the grocery store, rushing to religious services and looking for the leaf for the table.
Seizing the moment to create my own magical memories, I declared to Ledcat that we would take hold of the holidays eves, the holiday mornings, and the holiday nights for ourselves. Our family deserves magic, too.
On a holiday eve, we eat sushi. It might be the Burmese place in West View or the new space in East Liberty or even at home on our tv trays. But sushi is the perfect pre-holiday meal. It rarely ends up on the white American holiday menu (sigh.) It can be a light meal if you prefer or a more robust dining experience. Sushi places are not typically crowded on holiday eves because everyone else is cleaning and baking. This holds true for Thanksgiving, Easter, Fourth of July, and so on. Just don’t assume that the restaurant will be open simply because the owners are Asian or Asian American. Be courteous and ask. Call ahead. And tip extra well because they are making your holiday special.
On holiday mornings, we eat blueberry muffins. This was something I introduced to Ledcat as a simple way to do something special, but sweet. It works if we are plopped on the couch watching a parade in our jammies. It works if we are out the door and in the car at 7:30 AM to drive to someone else’s house. If I forget to purchase muffins from my favorite bakery, we can always go to Giant Eagle which has pretty decent muffins. And most of the time, I buy four muffins so we can have a post-holiday magical memory.
Holiday nights are for us. We go home by 6 or 7, no matter where we are. On Christmas, this is when we exchange personal gifts. On Thanksgiving, we watch cheesy tv specials. On Easter, we used to watch “The Ten Commandments” but Ledcat has said seven times is enough and will turn on Netflix. We’ll make an exception on the 4th of July perhaps to do a fireworks thing. But the reality is that we have pets who need fed and pottied. This provides us with a convenient excuse and a dose of reality.
We don’t cook. I’m fine bringing the bread or rolls. I’ll be happy to pick up beverages. Dragging an entree into someone else’s crowded kitchen is rarely a good thing, especially if it needs heated or chilled or otherwise cared for before it can be plunked on the feeing table. Same holds true for boxes, lids to containers, and all that other stuff. I mean, I will definitely contribute to a meal if it is potluck style or to share the financial burden, but green bean casserole or 4 containers of Helluva Good Dip that “just need to be transferred into a bowl” is usually not considered helpful. Note: for holidays that are just the two of us, like New Years Day – we cook at home. In our kitchen, with our utensils. We rarely have dip. This means no Holiday Eve cooking.
We don’t drink. This is true 99.9% of the year, but on holidays – even more so. When you grow up with alcoholics and addicts, the fountain of wine at the holidays is even larger than a typical day and so is the risk of having to watch someone you love sink into the worst version of themselves. There is nothing so sad as watching someone you love get quiet, depressed drunk on a holiday especially when you are a kid. So bring on the water and the egg nog.
We relax. No laundry, no dishes, nothing beyond the essentials. We might swing by the store to pick up some rolls (ha) and essentials like coffee or cream or cat food, but that’s it.
We make a plan for the holiday. A little advanced conversation can work wonders to avoid emotional landmines. Most important, of course, is reviewing code words. X means ‘it is time to leave’ Y means ‘please change the conversation before I smack a relative’ and Z means ‘I’m bringing up my hysterectomy to shut this conversation down.’
Rigt now I’m getting ready for Thanksgiving Eve 2018. We are heading out for sushi, then coming home to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving episode and then make a very-lesbian choice between Rachel Maddow and streaming the RBG documentary. And making a brussel sprout dish for the family meal – oh, how the niblings will <3 that!