Thankfully after the messy weather yesterday, I woke to a beautiful and sunny, if windy, morning. After reading a couple of holiday-themed short stories, I made my way out to the living room. My large present was from my friends Linda & James Young in Atlanta. They gave me another book on the Beatles, this one an intriguing coffee-table book called The Beatles In America. My stocking stuffer was from my next-door neighbors Willa and Richard McHugh. It was a lovely, heavy porcelain ornament that said "Jingle Bells" over a reindeer and had a glazed, rustic look to it. It's too heavy for the tree, but I'll find somewhere to hang it.
Mom called a few minutes after I finished opening gifts. She was just getting ready for work. I wish she hadn't worked. I wish she and Dad could have come up here, like they did last year. Mom always loved Christmas.
I barely had the time for changing and grabbing my presents for the family before I headed out. It was just Dad and Jodie when I got to their house. Jodie's sons T.J and Jesse and their friends and girlfriends didn't arrive until later. Mark dropped by, but he said Vanessa was busy helping a friend with dinner. A neighbor and his adorable son dropped by, too. We had that French toast casserole Jodie is so fond of making, sausages, fruit, orange juice, tea, and pumpkin, coconut, and my Pumpkin Pudding Pie leftover from the party last night. (Jodie also made herself scrambled eggs.)
I did get some nice gifts. Dad gave me 100 dollars. I'll keep half for next week and put the rest in the bank. He and Jodie also gave me 9 inch and 12 inch Paula Deen pans. I badly needed new open frying pans. My larger ones date from Wildwood and are really done for. Rose and Craig gave me something else I badly needed - cookie sheets! Mine have been used constantly since I was in college. They're in even worse shape than the pans. (I also got a cake pan from Dad and Jodie, but it's the same one I bought in October. I'll donate it somewhere.)
I watched Christmas Story with Dad while everyone else chatted. It's Christmas 1940, and all Ralphie Parker wants is a Red Ryder BB Gun. Trouble is, his mom doesn't think it's a good idea, and his dad is too distracted by faulty heaters and the neighbors' dogs to notice. Ralphie just hopes he can live through childhood pitfalls like dodging bullies, standing in line for Santa, and having his mouth washed long enough to make it to Christmas Day!
Dad and Jodie did invite me to Jodie's family's house for Christmas dinner, but the last time I went, I got bored and went home early. I thought I'd be better off at home or finding something else to do. I like Jodie's family, but they're all older or younger than I am, and I don't really feel comfortable among them. Jessa never appeared all morning.
Went home around noon. I was hoping to find a mall or a store open. No luck. Nothing was open. There seemed to be nothing to do. I put on The House Without a Christmas Tree while I tried to figure out what to do next. Like Ralphie, Addie (Lisa Lucas) is a kid in the midwest in the 40s who desperately wants a special gift for Christmas. Addie's desire is far less violent than a gun - she wants a Christmas tree. Her small family has never had one. Her grandmother (Mildred Natwick) and best friend Carla Mae (Alexia Kenin) try to help, but her father (Jason Robards) refuses. Christmas trees and his daughter remind him too much of the wife who died years before. It's Addie who finally shows her father the real meaning of charity and of giving.
(Incidentally, the second Addie story, The Thanksgiving Treasure, was finally put on DVD this year as a double bill with House Without a Christmas Tree. At press time, the subsequent Easter and Valentine's Day stories have yet to be released.)
Switched to one last animated special as I got organized. The Year Without a Santa Claus is my favorite Rankin Bass Christmas tale. Santa doesn't feel his best and wants to take a vacation during the Christmas season. Mrs. Claus panics and sends some elves to find some Christmas spirit and convince him otherwise. What no one planned on was ending up in the warm Deep South...or ending up getting involved with the feuding Heat and Snow Misers, who refuse to compromise for anyone, including each other!
The sun was just starting to set as I headed out in search of dinner. It was a beautiful night for a ride. There were clouds briefly while I was at Dad's, but by the time I was riding around, they were long gone. Good thing, too. I had a long ride ahead of me. Nothing was open. Applebee's was closed. The Legacy Diner was closed. The TreeHouse Cafe was closed. Aunt Berta's was closed. I was hoping some restaurant somewhere would be open so people like me who don't have anywhere else to go would have a nice dinner. I went out to dinner on Christmas night with the Cape May side of the family for four years running, from 2000 to 2004.
I ended up at Bamboo, the little Chinese place in the Westmont Plaza. They were the only store open in the whole mall. Chinese turkey (aka Peking duck) was too big for just me. I opted for shrimp and vegetables, boiled dumplings with vegetables, an egg roll, egg drop soup, and a bottle of water. I was the only person there. I saw two old women come in for orders, but they didn't stay. I ended up taking everything but the soup home. I'll have plenty of leftovers for the weekend!
Since it remained a nice (and less windy) night, I rode around a little and looked at lights in Haddon Township. I especially loved the inflatable that looked like a Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker, with Charlie Brown and Snoopy on either side. I also treated myself to a Cake Batter Milkshake at WaWa (which is always open no matter what).
When I got home, I went right in the bath. Ahhh. That felt nice, and it gave me a chance to think. While I appreciate the gifts and money from everyone, what I really wanted was for my whole family to be in one place at Christmas, like they were last year. I can understand Rose being sick and wanting to rest, but couldn't Mom have taken even one day off? Just one? And Jessa and Joe go to the movies every other day. I'm dying to see Into the Woods too, but couldn't they have spent even a little time with Dad and Jodie this morning?
I'm very, very disappointed. I probably should have gone with Dad and Jodie to that dinner. I really wish I could figure out a way to bring my family together again, or at least to see them more often. Or find a group I could hang out with and fit in with, so I wouldn't feel like a fifth wheel wherever I go. Or find a place where I could go on a holiday and be with people who are single or just on their own, like me.
At any rate, I hope all of you who celebrate it had a wonderful Christmas, with or without the people you love.