This will be my inspiration this month:
This photo is from December 2008 – a year after my divorce and a few months after my miscarriage. That’s our apartment in Seattle, which I don’t remember ever being that clean (note the disorganization in the lower left-hand corner); and that’s a tree we convinced my dad to buy for us, then decorated with lights we borrowed from a friend; and those are 99-cent stockings that I puffy-painted our names onto.
We were broke then, as we are broke now.
And oh, how wonderful.
Memory is a funny thing, and I feel like I come back to this again and again, in my mind if not in print here. Was it in high school that my friends and I used to say that nostalgia’s entire purpose is to keep us from killing ourselves? Maybe it was college; that sounds like something Monica and I would have championed.
The idea is that nostalgia, while it doesn’t erase the bad things that are part of any given situation/timeframe, plumps up all the good things, so that it’s possible to remember almost anything, even the worst of times, with a warm and fuzzy afterglow. If our memories held onto all our real-time emotions, we would be constantly stressed-out and miserable. So thanks to nostalgia, we don’t kill ourselves. Thanks to nostalgia, tonight I am looking at that two-year-old cell-phone picture and thinking, “I want another Christmas like that Christmas!”
In reality, that Christmas, I was grieving and depressed, and, since I was in Seattle, really cold all the time. But looking back, I remember making an Advent calendar for Doug out of a pair of wine boxes, with single beers, cans of Pringles, and dry salame instead of chocolates; I remember shopping for the cheapest decorations we could find, so we could be festive without breaking the bank – and as part of this, Doug gift-wrapped our front door; I remember how much beautiful snow there was, and how, because of all that snow, our store was so slow that one morning I got paid to build a snowman in the parking lot, and then Doug and I took an hour lunch and went to Denny’s for pancakes.
I can barely remember the presents; I think that was the year I got him the frames for the glasses he needed (and still needs, but doesn’t really wear), and he got me a few pairs of silver earrings. That stuff doesn’t matter so much now.
What matters is that I remember being happy – even though I know that, at the time, a large part of me wasn’t. When Doug showed me that photo the other night, I asked him if we could have that Christmas again: our little tree, our little stockings, and oh, could he magic me a fireplace in our apartment in San Diego?
Impossible fireplaces aside, here’s a better Christmas list than the last one I gave him:
- A clean apartment
- A tree that’s taller than we are, but only by like an inch
- Christmas music playing constantly, for the next 23 days
- Lights on our porch
- At least one night spent out looking at other people’s lights
- Crockpot dinners so the house smells good
- To watch all the ABC Family 25 Days of Christmas movies
- To bake cookies
- Candlelight (in lieu of a fireplace)
In another two years, we’ll have more than we have now, but will – as is human nature – still most likely be unsatisfied, constantly looking forward to the next best thing. Which is why I want to make this the best year ever, so my future self can look back and say, “Wow. 2010. That was an intense year. I had that blog where I always whined about how sad or stressed out I was. We were broke. And oh, how wonderful.”