Warning: this blog is a bit long but you can always bookmark it and read more later.
It's very quiet in our neighborhood. Most of our neighbors seem to have traveled afar for their Christmas holiday and are not returning until the last possible moment. This is the one time of year when I do not stray and enjoy living in Washington. In 2002, when we first moved to DC from Oregon, we began new family holiday traditions. Katy was attending high school in North Carolina and Margaret (not yet known as Maggie) was living with us, attending a community college that gave her credit at South Eugene High to finish her senior year. We lived just a couple of blocks from our current home, renting an apartment on 6th St. Miraculously, we could see the stoop of the only people we knew in the entire city, cousins of close friends in Eugene. It was chance, you could say. Perhaps fate, that our landlord was a really great guy and I am now teaching his 7-yr-old, who was born while we lived in the apartment. Totally random that the next door neighbor visits often and helped remodel our dining room. I just ran into two other neighbors from that block and we hugged and carried on and will be getting together in the new year. Add to this the neighbors surrounding me on 5th St, two blocks away and where we have lived for 7 years, and you may understand that I am very happy here on Capitol Hill, often called a small town within the urban landscape.
I mentioned new traditions when we moved to Washington. They included going to the latest Lord of the Rings movie on Christmas Day at a nice, old theater with only one screen (then, Harry Potter at an IMax) and taking a family vacation as we returned Katy to North Carolina around New Year's. We visited Chinquoteague, Harper's Ferry, Charlottesville for First Night and the Outer Banks. It was the only time of year that the four of us were together after Margaret went to college in Montana so we always did some kind of family photo. I have been looking through those pictures plus ones from Eugene, where the girls grew up and I have created an album you could look at - picasaweb.google.com/juanitalee49. There you will see that food has been the center of our celebrations, that there was usually a decorated tree, presents in a pile, candles burning and lights twinkling. Typical activites of the non-religious family in this Christmas-hyped society. Typical activities in some form since ancient times and it is Solstice that I honor.
Now in our 10th incarnation of "Christmas in Washington," the traditions change once again. Maggie has moved to Santa Monica and is attending UCLA. She did not come home for the holiday. She and Brian walked the dogs on the beach in the sun. Katy and I flew out for Thanksgiving and recreated the "meal" in her apartment which lacked almost all useful kitchen equipment including measuring cups and spoons, knives and bowls, but we ate very well and the girls did most of the cooking. I had brought the traditional orange bread with me on the plane.
Not having Maggie coming home truly affected my winter solstice spirit and I pretty much opted out of the usual holiday activities: no tree, no presents, no cards. I did mail kitchen supplies to Maggie and the bench that I had envisioned last summer to Bill's sister in Tahoe. After I mailed the package to Maggie, I started crying right there in Union Station but Katy's birthday gave me purpose and I managed to get her a package by the 15th with a newly knitted scarf and mint chocolate brownies. She has a great job in the West Village with a post-production film company and we will be going up to see her dance on Jan. 8th. We are very proud of both of our daughters.
I did hang garlands with lights for my annual piano recitals and baked cookies and nutbreads. Cleaned house, too. Gradually the Solstice spirit snuck in. Naturally, I would never give up cooking and Bill and I have been eating very well all month. Katy arrived on Christmas Eve and we had oyster stew just like my mother used to do. We had mimosas with brunch and I cooked a full turkey dinner the next day, sharing with our best-friend neighbors. There just weren't any presents and that was fine. Katy and I did a little shopping the next day while Bill visited a new pub downtown that has an excellent beer tap. We also viewed these incredible Gothic tapestries depicting Portugal attacking Morocco in the 1400's at the National Gallery. Katy caught a bus back to New York that evening and we returned to our quiet house where I have been relaxing ever since; knitting, reading, playing Haydn piano sonatas and basically ignoring any and all to-do lists.
Just one thing hasn't felt right with my new take on the holiday - not sending cards. Today, December 30th, it's too late to get New Year's greetings in the mail and most cards just don't come off very well in mid-January. I have a few boxes of those cards, bought at 50% off with the best intentions that next year I would send them. They will go back down to the basement and I can only hope that I connect with my friends and family through this blog and the photo albums on Google. Some of you sent me cards and I have them all out and I enjoyed everyone's letters. OK, New Year's resolution.... I will call my wonderful friends and family members on the phone some time this year. It doesn't matter what season. The love is always there.
Happy New Year from Janet