Well, during the week of Christmas, it finally happened: I was homesick. I made it a solid month without accepting that I missed the little life we left behind. I missed my mother and father-in-law, I missed my church, I missed familiarity, I missed my brother, I even missed my little stinker pre-schoolers and was saddened by the fact that I wasn’t the one putting the final touches on their Christmas concert. It hit me that I was practically alone in a new town, and I wasn’t sharing any holiday traditions with the those who I normally do. Oh, and it’s, like, still not even cold in Louisiana.
I tried diligently to convince Ethan that the four days he had off for Christmas was enough time to make a 24 hour drive (round trip), with the dog, and have some quality time with the people we loved. He didn’t go for it. I think we both knew we needed to just feel all the emotions that come along with living a life on the road.
On Christmas Eve, we went to the local Boardwalk Shops to people watch and see how pilfered through the stores were. We got Auntie Anne’s pretzels and caramel dipped apples at a candy store called The Chocolate Crocodile. We sat on a bench in the center of the outlet mall and enjoyed the 70 degree weather that much of our Indiana folks are craving around this time of year.
Later that evening, Ethan’s side of the family FaceTimed us so we could see everyone opening the sibling exchange presents. FaceTime actually is a lovely tool. I’ve only ever used it for convenience in the past, not a true means of necessary communication. It was wonderful getting to visit and laugh with everyone. One of my brothers-in-law got himself a puppy just a few days prior, so we let Ralphie FaceTime his new puppy cousin. It was pretty adorable.
It was hard getting off the phone with them to be only with ourselves and not join everyone in a game of euchre of some other activity. We watched A Christmas Story and went for a walk to look at the Christmas lights around the neighborhood one last time before Christmas.
We stayed up so late that the clock struck midnight while we were still awake; and it was Christmas. So, we opened the huge box of presents that Ethan’s mom sent us.
Christmas morning was much slower than it usually is. This might be the first one of my life that I’ve slept past 7am. Every year since we’ve been married, we’ve woken up at my in-laws for Christmas, where my father-in-law either banged on our door or shook us awake on the couch by 6:30am. I suppose it was nice to sleep in, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss that.
I made an overly massive breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and hash browns for the three of us. I didn’t have any stencils, but I did my best to freehand some Christmas themed pancakes.
My in-laws FaceTimed us again while they ate breakfast. Everyone showed off their favorite gift. It was sweet to see them again, in their Christmas jammies, but my heart was hurting and I sort of just wanted to wallow in my homesickness until the day was over.
As we did on Thanksgiving, we took Ralphie and walked around the downtown of Shreveport to look at all the empty streets and dark buildings. We walked several miles and talked about the Christmas memories we had together and ones we hoped to have in the future. It was a perfectly fine and restful day, it only becomes sad to think about the things we normally do on Christmas when we’re surrounded by family.
I’ve wanted to have a Christmas with just Ethan and I since we first got married, but when I finally got my wish, I have to admit, it felt empty. It could have been where we were and what we were doing this year. It might have felt better if we were in a northern, snow-covered state, spending the day in a cabin with a fire or skiing down a mountain, but maybe it was simply that we weren’t with our family. Maybe Christmas is specifically meant to be a day spent amongst those people.
I got some of my joy back when Christmas was over. I dressed up two nights in a row and picked Ethan up from work date-ready. Those always cheer me up. We’re pretty lucky to get to spend as much time together as we do. I don’t think other couples get to have what we do for a long as we’ve already had it in life. I am thankful for that.
In the end, my takeaway from our first Christmas alone is that perhaps the headaches that come with spending holidays in a house full of family are just a part of the package. That’s what the holidays are for. All the other days of the year, you get to do things your own way. But on Christmas, your father-in-law gets to wake you up before the crack of dawn, your mother-in-law gets to demand that you do the dishes while she naps, and your brothers-in-law get to be aggressively competitive in ridiculous board games that they force you to play. Yep. Perhaps, that’s what Christmas is all about.
Liv – Authentically