December 26, 2012

Home Alone with No Presents-- Probably My Best Christmas Ever

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

But first by way of background, it might help to know I'm a man of many quirks and contradictions. For example:
  • I hate shopping in stores. The doors to a shopping mall are the Gates of Hell to me. 
  • I love online shopping. I buy most everything I need with one-click on
  • 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 in 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 Christmas wish lists. Lately, we've even added internet URLs to help buyers find the items.

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, 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! I 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 to 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 holiday for a belated honeymoon. Last Sunday, they drove to Orlando, then embarked on a short cruise to the Bahamas. They'll finish 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 morning opening of Santa's gifts at home. Then they would drive to Dan's parents home, which is in the same Frederick, Maryland area for a mid-day Christmas meal. Then they would haul the kids to my house, a good hour's drive away, for an evening meal.

So Todd suggested we 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 retreat in the Catoctin Mountain Park.

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

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

Ann picked me up at about 3pm. 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/Thurmont area. To get to Todd's house requires navigating a narrow, steep road. The snow began sticking to the grass as we drove north.

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

I considered calling Bill Feldman about at least carrying out the Christmas eve church service part of our tradition. But after a Safeway/CVS run in the cold rain, I 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 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 was opening day for this much-ballyhooed film, tickets had to be ordered quickly.

I opted out. I had just seen, for the fourth time, the stage show version of Les Mis in yet another revival at the National Theatre in DC. 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, even critical, reviews. It's an overblown and overlong melodrama jazzed up with big spectacles. But the public has loved the show and probably will 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 8:30pm Sunday,  when the Redskins play the Cowboys here at FedEx field.

1 comment:

Bill said...

I ultimately went and enjoyed it, managed to spend part of the day with each girl, and had dinner with friends, so everything worked out. I'm glad you enjoyed your solitude and your family time, but I missed sharing Christmas Eve with you.