For the first time in my life, I didn’t go “home” for Christmas. Since my parents came for Thanksgiving, I decided I would stay in London with Stephen for Christmas and New Years for once. I had visions of a laid-back London Christmas. With the Tube and buses not running, I imagined a blissful tourist-free city. We’d go for a run through the empty park in the morning, then pop into an empty Chinatown restaurant for lunch, then catch a movie in an empty theatre. I was already planning the artsy tourist-free London photos I’d capture.
It turns out I was dreaming. It turns out there is no such thing as a tourist-free London. In fact, there may have been more tourists in the city than on your average Sunday. Though it was eerie to not see any double decker buses on the roads, there were plenty of cars and pedestrians. We weaved our way through the crowds in Hyde Park and pushed our way through Trafalgar Square. At the movie theatre in Leicester Square the automated machines were broken, so we had to wait in a long queue to buy tickets. Then my dreams of a quick Chinatown lunch were crushed when we saw the massive queues at every restaurant that was open. Who were all these people out on Christmas Day?! Though I guess they could ask the same about us. So Christmas lunch ended up being movie theatre nachos and popcorn, though we did go out for a proper fancy Christmas Eve lunch yesterday, complete with my first Christmas [figgy] pudding. And in an effort to keep some of the Christmas family tradition alive, I made Swedish meatballs for dinner tonight (and by “made” I mean reheated the frozen ones I bought from Iceland, but they were imported from Sweden and I made the sauce from scratch so that counts for something, right?).
So that was our Christmas this year. It felt a bit like that John Grisham book — like I skipped Christmas. I was a bit emotional earlier this week when it finally hit me that I was “missing” Christmas this year — not just the day itself, but all the traditional events that lead up to it — the Over the Rhine concert, cookie baking, shopping. But I realized I needed to stay back this year. Mostly to take care of housekeeping stuff (I found a good handyman and he’s been round 3 times this past week — the joys of owning an older home!), but also because it made me realize how much I treasure some of the Christmastime traditions. When you do the same thing every year, it can become predictable and expected. It’s only when you take a step back and a year off that you realize what you miss and enjoy. It’s not easy living far away from my family and friends, but it’s the time apart that makes the time together that much more sweet.