I haven't lived with my parents since I was sixteen. I've always been independent and never really thought much about the dynamic of being with family, simply because they were always close by - that is, even when I lived two hours away, I was only two hours away. Why did I ever think it was a hassle to drive 120 minutes down a highway (well, more like eighty, since driving in heels somehow always makes you drive faster), blasting Beth Ditto and watching my dog pretend to fly with her head out the window? Why did I ever think I would have to take a long weekend just to visit my best friend, who was only two or three episodes of SATC and a Pepsi slushy pit stop away?
It's no secret that my move to the big city hasn't gone exactly like I planned it. I thought I would be settled in by now, starting to save up money, having regular dinners with friends and writing every night with Daphne at the foot of my bed, keeping my feet nice and warm. But instead I almost feel like a guest in my apartment, I'm just beginning to receive a regular income (yet still not enough to save), and Daphne's holiday in the country has been extended. I surely thought that by now I would be able to afford a plane ticket home for the holidays, or that I would at least get a plane ticket as a present. And I almost did, but I couldn't afford to miss all the holiday hours at work.
So, last week it finally hit me that this year would be my first Christmas away from my family. I wouldn't be able to share all the homemade wine my Dad made after the grape harvest. I wouldn't be able to roll my eyes when my Baptist aunt scolds me for having Marilyn Manson on my iPod. I wouldn't be able to explain to everyone that cooking collards in bacon grease and back fat makes them non-vegetarian. I wouldn't be able to sing "Oh Holy Night" with my grandmother after dinner while everyone listens. I wouldn't be able to pass out all the presents. I wouldn't be able to steal everyone's metallic bows and put them on my head. I wouldn't be able to play the annual guess-how-many-shotgun-shells-are-in-the-flower-pot game. I simply wouldn't be there.
As the 25th quickly approached, I busied myself with working as many hours as I could, which isn't that hard when you work in retail during the holidays. At some point I started thinking about what I would actually do that weekend. Would I go see the big tree at Rockefeller Plaza and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Just sit in my room afterwards and sleep in on Christmas day? Eat some Ramen and black beans since that's all I have on my designated shelf in the kitchen?
Well, I went to see the tree, and it wasn't that exciting:
Luckily, some last-minute plans fell into place. It turns out three of my co-workers were also having mini panic attacks about being alone on Christmas, even though none of us are religious. Somehow, it's just sad. We decided to cure our holiday blues with an impromptu Christmas Eve get-together in Queens. One person provided her house with empty beds to crash in, another brought cookies, another brought Love Actually, and I brought whipped cream-flavored vodka and cookie dough ice cream (no birthday cake flavor at the market, the bastards). It turned out to be a fantastic night, with loads of laughs and drunken secret-telling, and we stayed up until five in the morning watching L.A. I woke up a few hours later to my host opening presents with her mom and brother via Skype, her roommate's (who wasn't there) family bursting through the front door with homemade waffle mix.
That evening I had dinner with some friends I hadn't seen in a while - and who knew cheap noodle places would be open on Christmas day? I guess that's NYC for you. After stuffing my face (again) with curry and rice, my brother called and put me on speaker phone. The entire family was there, yelling 'HEYYYY!!! WE LOVE AND MISS YOU!!!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!' in their best Southern accents. My grandma was drunk on her famous wine, and kept slurring her words when she tried to tell me about all the food she had been cooking for the last two days. It was perfect. I almost cried. Then my phone died.
I ended the night with a milkshake and a movie, my radiator on full blast at the foot of my bed.
And I didn't feel alone.