December 14, 2012

Home Alone with No Presents -- Possibly My Best Christmas Ever!

My families -- the Schappi's and the Nepali's -- understand me well enough not to be offended by this -- I  hope!  But for those how don't know me that well, the title of this post no doubt is puzzling. I'll explain.

But first, it might help, by way of background, to know that I'm a man of many quirks and contradictions.  For example:
  • I hate store shopping.  The doors to a shopping mall are the Gates of Hell to me.
  • I love online shopping. I buy most everything I need with a one-click on Amazon.com.
  • I love Thanksgiving because it's family and friends uncorrupted by gift-giving.
  • I don't care much for Christmas because it's been taken over with excessive spending and gift-giving.
  • I love being with family and friends.
  • I need lots of alone time.
My Traditional Christmas
My pal Bill Feldman and I have a lovely tradition-- I join his family and friends for the Passover Seder and he joins me for the Christmas Eve service at St. John's Church, Lafayette Square.  We have supper at his house before the service. So I come out ahead on this tradition -- two Feldman-prepared meals, which are always excellent. 

On Christmas Day, the Schappi family -- me, daughter Ann, son Todd, granddaughters Jessie and Emily, grandson Colin, Jessie's husband Dan, and Jessie's two daughter, Kelsie (now age 6) and Kensie (age 1) -- come to my house for dinner.  I'm NOT a cook. Daughter Ann is and she prepares the meal. I do the grocery shopping and the cleanup. 

In recent years, Todd, Ann, and I have tried to simplify the\ Christmas gift-giving by exchanging e-mails in which we each provide a Christmas wish list of gifts we might like.  Lately we've even added internet URLs on where the gifts could be found and purchased, 
Christmas Gifts 2012
My kids have always found it difficult to come up with gifts for me since they know that, given my addiction to Amazon.com, there's usually nothing on my wish list. Usually I try to rein myself in before Christmas and not one-click a few things so that I can suggest them as possible gifts.

This year I sent Todd and Ann an email in which I first summarized the steps in giving  me a gift:
Rather than one-click something and have Amazon send it to my house, I instead give  them the URL.  They order it and have it sent to their house. They wrap it and bring it to my house, where I spend a minute or two tearing off the wrapping and then, surprise!, find the item I would normally have ordered myself. 
I told the kids this was kind of silly, particularly since they both have busy lives. So I suggested they refrain from giving me any gifts this year.  They did me one better and suggested that all three of us not bother with gift-giving. Hooray!

This was my best Christmas present ever!

Christmas Eve and Day 2012 
I was looking forward t\o having my Nepali housemates, who have become my second family, join in my Christmas Eve and Day traditions but Nimesh and Bhawana opted to take advantage of the Christmas-to-New Year's holidays for a belated honeymoon.  They left last Sunday to drive to Orlando where they are now on a short cruise to the Bahamas.  They will finish off the week at Disneyland. So I have the house to myself this week.

Christmas Eve 2012
Our Christmas traditions of scheduling a Christmas night supper at our house made for a long, tiring day for  Jessie and her family. They would start the day with the typical  early a.m. opening of Santa's gifts at home.  Then they would drive to Dan's parents home which is in the same Frederick, Md. area for a mid-day Christmas meal there.  Then they would haul the kids to my house, a good hour's drive away, for an evening meal.

So Todd suggested that instead the Schappi's celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve at his house. Last year Todd bought a house he understandably loves, given his fondness for trekking in mountains,  The house is up in the hills near Camp David, the Presidential country retreat in the Catoctin Mountain Park.

Christmas Eve dinner there sounded like a great idea.  Emily and Colin would drive in from Baltimore where they both live now.  Jessie and family would come from their relatively nearby home. Ann would drive from her house in Alexandria, Va., pick me up in D.C., and head to Todd's house.

So over the hills to Grandson's house I'd go. Well, Mother Nature had a different idea.

Ann came by and picked me up at about 3 p.m. She had been checking the weather and road reports and was concerned about the predictions of an inch or more of snow in the Frederick/Thurmond area. To get to Todd's house requires navigating a narrow and steep road.The snow began sticking to the grass increasingly as we drove north.

I finally called Todd as we were nearing Frederick, Md. He said it really didn't look too good on his road. So we turned around and headed back  to D.C. We got to my house about 5. I suggested we might wait at the house for an hour or so and then go to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant but Ann understandably declined. She already had nearly 3 hours  of driving through rain and sleet and was anxious to get back to her house.

I considered calling Bill  Feldman about at least carrying out the Christmas eve church service part of our tradition but then I did a Safeway/CVS  run in the cold rain and decided I'd like nothing more than a quiet evening at home. I bought an apple tart dessert from Marvelous Market as my Christmas gift to myself.

Christmas Day 2012
Since the shift of the Schappi celebration to Christmas Eve freed up my Christmas Day I  had made plans to join Bill and his daughters and friends for a Jewish Christmas -- a movie and Chinese dinner.  We'd left the details open.

When I got home Christmas Eve, I had an e-mail from Bill saying the movie decision was to see "Les Mis." Since Christmas Day was opening day for this much ballyhooed film, tickets had to be ordered quickly.

I opted out. I had just seen, for probably the fourth or fifth time, the stage show version of "Les Mis," which is having yet another revival at the National Theatre in D.C. I'd come away thinking, as I had before, that when the show originally opened in London 25 years ago, the theater critics were right in giving it lukewarm and even critical reviews. It's an overblown and overlong melodrama jazzed up with big spectacles. But the public has loved  the show and  probably w ill love the movie as well.

Continuing the plans-awry saga of this Christmas season, last I heard this afternoon, due to a variety of mishaps, others weren't able to get tickets to the sold-out movie and Bill was debating going by himself to a three-hour movie he really wasn't all that interested in.

There's a moral here someplace.  Something about "the best laid plans  of mice and men . . ."?

I hope this is the end of the mishaps. I want my usual good luck to return by 8:30 p.m. Sunday  when the Redskins play the Cowboys  here at FedEx field.

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