December 15, 2000
OK...so its not going to be as smooth sailing through this holiday as I was thinking optimistically last week. There are still those moments that catch you unaware. I was doing just fine until the mail came. I have a ton of work backed up and had really tried to slog through it. Ive even kept the kitchen clean. And the plumber came to check the upstairs bathroom to find out if our homeowners insurance will cover water damage and help pay for re-tiling around the tub. Just a normal run of the mill day.
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ASIDE: I had an appointment with the jeweler to return my engagement ring yesterday. The night before the appointment, the police decided to arrest them for embezzlement and confiscated all the jewelry in their apartment and in their safe deposit box. Lord knows when I'm going to get that ring back!
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And then the mail arrived. It wasnt that there was anything in the mail that was upsetting (that was yesterday, when an advertisement came for Paul and I had to write deceased on the envelope). It was that there were only two Christmas cards. Oh, I know that by the time Christmas rolls around well have a bunch of them, but the two which came today were from folks we dont know all that well, and I was struck with the dilemma that people must feel. I didnt send out the dreaded Christmas letter last year, but word trickled out. So Im sure this year people are wondering whether or not to send cards to the grieving family. The fact that there were not more cards somehow reminded me that life is different now and that old pissy moment decided to worm its way into the otherwise so-far smooth sailing of the 2000 holiday season.
I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and get out of the house, so I took all the mail-away gifts to the post office (first time Ive been on time in recent memory). My timing was perfect. It was a grey, drizzly day and I showed up about an hour before the noontime rush, so I only had to stand in line behind two people, which at this time of the year (one the biggest mailing day of the season) was nothing short of miraculous.
But thoughts were flying at this point and tears were falling, so I stopped off at the cemetery to have a chat with the kids. If there is a plus side about having dead kids is that you finally have them where they cant talk back any more. I stood there in the drizzle and chatted, tears running down my face. Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. But then...who said life is fair. Eventually, they didnt give me much answer and I was getting too wet, so I got back in the car. It hadnt really helped, but somehow it was something I had to do.
Then I went the the grocery store. The pissy moment was fully entrenched by the time I got there, so somehow I was back in zombie mode, where you walk through the supermarket in a daze, grabbing stuff off the shelf, but never really seeing anything and super-sensitive to the sound of happy holiday jingles playing over the musak.
When you get depressed, theres a sure-fire solution: chocolate. So I bought chocolate and thought...diet be damned. It was just what the doctor ordered. I felt a little better and managed to actually get an hour or so of uninterrupted work done. But then it was time for The Dreaded Christmas Party.
We havent attended Walts office Christmas party in several years, now. (The grieving family and all, remember.) In truth, I am not a social butterfly, all of my adventures into social situations to the contrary. Im fine in some circles, but put me in a room full of strangers and I die a thousand deaths. For some reason, Ive found Walts office parties to be particularly gut-wrenching through the years. I know almost nobody. They frequently talk about stuff that happens at the office and I cant understand a thing theyre saying. Im almost always underdressed, cause I have the fashion sense of a bag lady. And in the last four years, I hate putting myself in situations where people will ask how many children do you have? or, worse, decide to be nice to me because Im the grieving mother.
I told people that when I learned about this party, I tried to see if I couldnt get some night root canal work scheduled because I knew it would be more pleasant, but for some reason the endodentist had no appointments past 7 p.m. (and I didnt need work done anyway). Walt was very happy to be going to the party--he is a social animal. I curled up in a ball in the front seat and pretended to be looking forward to it, but the lump in the pit of my stomach kept getting bigger.
I didnt know the hostess, who greeted us wearing a frilly pinafore-type apron and a big smile. She made me very welcome in a show the little kid where the bathroom is sort of way. But I tried not to be too critical. The house was decorated beautifully, causing me to feel another pang of guilt, since I am a dropout of the Christopher Lowell school of overblown decorating. If I get the living room dusted by Christmas (yes, Ive started), it will be a major accomplishment, let alone doing a lot of fou-fou decorating around the place.
It was a smaller group this year and, as I expected, there were a lot of strange faces. Everyone stood around the kitchen counter drinking wine. I sipped a glass of water, which didnt help either, because wine would have lowered my inhibitions, but I just didnt feel like drinking. I frantically tried to find a conversation to bond with, and managed to look like I was involved in one (which I didnt understand any of), keeping a friendly smile pasted on my face and feeling like I really wanted to be just about anywhere else but in that spot.
Fortunately, it was a sit-down dinner and things got a bit better when we sat down to eat. It was easier to concentrate on my dinner (giving me something to do) and the pressure to interact was off.
After dinner we played the present game. You know--where everybody takes a number and you open a package from a stack of packages, or you take the gift of someone who has gone before you and has something you want. I have to admit I did enjoy that. Everyone had brought white elephant type gifts (and I got rid of a couple of clunkers that had been taking up space around here as well). Walt came home with a can of green paint and I brought home a Santa Claus that looks like its wearing at tutu and dancing ballet. And though Walt and I both were fighting sleep at the end of the party, we managed not to snore.
So I guess all things considered it wasn't that bad an evening after all.