Sunday, December 26, 2010

Xmas Alone -The Thing We Most Dread

Yesterday I faced for the first time in 67 years the thing that people secretly dread the most - the prospect of a Christmas alone, without one's family.

These things can happen through circumstances beyond anyone's control one finds oneself alone at a time when 'family' is being celebrated by the entire world and one is just 'left out'. One tries to ' join in' but to do this one has to have a family on hand or at least be able to get to the family one has got. Sometimes one can't. Sometimes one is 'the outsider' and not wanted at the feast.

My small family a daughter and a childhood friend almost a sister live a plane ride away. They cannot come to me and health problems mean I cannot get to them consequently I have to face Christmas alone.

What does one do?

After 25 years of cooking and entertaining on Christmas Day I decided that this year I would leave it to someone else. I have invited many others in the same position as I have found myself now to join our family celebrations but even if I received no acceptable invitations I was not going to again cook myself on Xmas day. I received no acceptable invitations even  from those who have greatfully accepted my hospitality when they have found themselves in this position in the past.

It is difficult and to be kind I have to think my friends who could invite me didn't think I was alone after all I had managed for 9 years since my husband died with no problems.

One invitation was offered if I needed it but that was to a family of my dearest friend who I hardly know a long way away and I felt it would be an intrusion.

I have neighbours who I have known for 37 years with large families who never bothered to ask 'What are you doing for Christmas?' and 'If you are alone why not join us'. One more at their feast would not have hurt. Instead I had to listen to the party which was fun. If you live alone neighbours become almost invisible. One has a short contact say once every six months. It is almost as if they are afraid they might be asked to help and in fact they would help in an emergency gladly but they would rather not if it could be avoided. At my husband's death I got flowers but not one neighbor actually called to see if I was OK. They knew I was completely alone and may have been asked to organize a funeral. My husband and I had foreseen this possibility hence no funeral!

So how to survive? I just carry on as anyone else does who has a family. I am a superb actress. I look happy. I send cards give presents and ask 'What are you doing for Christmas? and look happy for them. Rarely does anyone ask me the same question. If they do I just lie. It seems to difficult to do otherwise. Once I made a mistake and did tell the truth that I dreaded the prospect of Christmas alone and I did feel devastated that I, who loved and enjoyed family and Christmas felt like an 'outsider'.  This did not meet with any sympathy or suggestions. 

It is amazing how those who have a great Christmas planned can be so unthinkingly cruel to those of us who haven't. I made the mistake of making a plate of mince pies for the builders who are renovating my bathroom. They all politely declined the offer before flying of to their families for the great day

So how did my Christmas on my own go? Surprisingly well. In fact I enjoyed it enormously. Not the best Xmas ever but the 'no cooking' part was exceptional. I am not going back to that ever.

I make a 'live' Xmas Card each year so I spent the morning sending that out. A dear friend came for coffee at around ten am to ensure I had some social contact before going on for his own Xmas dinner. He did know that I was alone and did offer to see if his friend could extend the invitation to two but I knew this was not acceptable. I declined the offer.

I Skyped my grand daughter and this made me feel part of my family. Skype is a blessing for lonely grandparents. It is the best thing going in this situation. Without this visual contact I should indeed have felt 'devastated'.

A visit from a new friend across the road who is suffering and fighting an aggressive cancer who alone of my neighbours took the time to see that I was OK for which I was extremely grateful. Again I feel sure that she would have invited me to her family feast but this year is not the moment.

A short walk and then the afternoon with Proust. A cold collation of turkey and bubble and squeak and then a mindless evening with TV. Sex and the City. Proust is better.

Did I enjoy it? Yes. Will I do it again? Yes. I have no fairy godmother to wave a wand and say 'You shall go to the ball'. I have no wish to impose myself on anybody who does not genuinely and freely want me at their family feast. Sadly I have been forced to make my own and it was a great party. As good as any five star hotel You should have been there!

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