Ahhh, the holidays!
Single parents, the ones without the kids at this pressure-to-be-happy time, have swells of feelings—like unexpected waves while neatly building a castle on the beach. Whoosh! And all falls down.
I get the kids Christmas Eve. That is our holiday together. Everyone is very decent about it. It's easy, no fussing, no fighting, no unncecessary drama. It's very well-behaved. Kids with me on the eve. Kids with couple No. 2 on Christmas. Adults are handling themselves well. Kids are grateful.
And then? I close the door, and I'm alone. Whoosh! And all falls down.
This year? My daughters made a fantastic dinner. We exchanged gifts. Food was amazing, conversation clever and witty. We laughed. Great gifts! Then we all headed up the street to the Unitarian Church for a really nice service with carols and lots of hugs from old friends, neighbors and their kids.
We huddled together for the cold journey home, and we were happy to be together. Last hugs, party over, and I went home.
This year, though, I had ammunition. Open the door, and, "Finally! You're here! Where you been? Missed you!" A dog swirled around, happy to have me home again. I had company for a brisk walk into the night air. Love was all around. I was doggy-sitting. And it was a salvation.
Now, a few days before this? All hell had broken loose.
You think of a puppy as a destructive force, running around chewing, biting, peeing, jumping, creating a commotion. That was not my problem.
The dog I was assigned didn't like men—preferred girls, actually, the smaller the better. It didn't like a strange person feeding it. It didn't like my place. It didn't like anything about visiting me. I was, in fact, dog-sitting Scrooge!
It took time, consistency, coaxing, feeding by hand—one kibble at a time—and it took patience. I was aided by outdoor restaurants, Fryman Canyon, great neighbors and their kids, and the overall irresistible love that comes from all around our town.
It also took all my fears, anxiety about the holidays, anticipation about the kids hating everything I bought, terror of what feelings might come, and it kept them all someplace else. I was too busy to have holiday blues.
In the midst of the toughest emotional hours for single parents, the ones who are alone with the feelings about the holidays on the holidays, I was so busy with Scrooge I forgot to get depressed.
By the time this stubborn mule of an animal was finally responsive enough to look up at me, instead of in the opposite direction, I was feeling the spirit of Christmas. I was so full of love, my heart warmed up and my nose turned red from playing reindeer games myself. I almost ran up to the roof with a clatter.
It's about giving. That's the thing that fills the holes inside. But, also, it was about saying thanks. I sometimes forget to say thanks. And, when I decided to rub this little dog's butt for a whole hour, scratching it and singing, the dog did a little dance of joy, followed by spinning and kissing and tap dancing with delight.
I need to remember to give thanks that way, really alive, like it won't kill me if I look silly. The stubborm Scrooge was teaching me to let go. And I did.
I wish you all those kinds of feelings this holiday season. I hope somebody scratches your itch—and I hope you remember to say thanks if they do. (Thanks is as important as the gift; it's the return gift.)
Oh, and thanks to you for a great year of emails and comments, suggestions and story concepts. I thank you, and I offer a little movie short of the animal I had to sit. (You can see him slowly warm up, mostly to the outdoors of our Valley. Animals—like their human counterparts—from the Westside are slow to adjust.)
The love and fun of our little Valley is our secret until they visit. Happy holidays.