I think tonight we'll move to the Seattle Years for the Christmas memory.
My friend Pam got me thinking about this when she commented on my tree decorations and my reference to the forest of trees. In fact, it's this memory that started this whole series, because it got me thinking about the many good Christmas memories I have. Certainly I, like most people, have some unhappy ones, too, but I'm electing to focus on the ones that make me smile. I lead a pretty blessed life, actually, and I think I lose sight of that sometimes.
For those of you who don't actually know me, a brief history...I moved to Seattle basically on a whim. I needed a change, my friend Ben was going and it just seemed like the right thing to do.
It was difficult to get settled and, as with all new places, it took me some time to get my bearings. I'd moved there with my friend Sonja, but she moved back to Minneapolis for love. I found a true soulmate in my friend Bethany, and El Ben has always been like the air that I breathe. But two friends aren't a social life, no matter how dear they are. And if you're going to live somewhere you have to have a social life.
Then, about two years into my stay, I found my Play Group. It started when Knox moved in when we had a vacancy in my Montlake house. Knox is a writer, he's esoteric and vivacious and a bit off-beat. We hit it off immediately. Knox is a people collector...a few weeks later, he invited his friends Larry and Pam over for dinner, whom he'd met through a personal ad a bit back. I joined them at the table for some conversation and had immediate crushes on them all. (That makes us sound like swingers, which is not accurate. Larry and Knox dated for a bit; Pam and I were the straight girl sidekicks...sort of like Arthur. And crushes are often best when they're not romantic.) As the weeks progressed, I gained Christopher, Vaughn and host of other friends, and within a few months I had a full blown social circle.
These friends were like my family. We knew everything about each other. We bickered and had all sorts of drama, but we thoroughly enjoyed each other's company most of the time. When the holidays rolled around, it turned out that none of us were going anywhere. So we decided to have a little Montlake Christmas to celebrate together.
It started with the trees. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Chubby and Tubby had some seriously cheap trees, so we bought three. We spent one of our weekly Sunday dinners stringing cranberries and popcorn and decorating the trees with all sorts of little curios, like dreidels and gingerbread men and snowflakes and Happy Meal toys and goofy chatchkes from the charity shop. (Yes, I am aware that a dreidel is not traditionally a Christmas decoration. Well they ARE in my chosen family. We're liberals. We embrace diversity. And some of us are Jewish.) We hung mistletoe and strung lights and made the house a haven of holiday cheer. It was awesome.
On Christmas eve, we threw a huge sit-down dinner. It was a true cocktail party...the girls broke out the pearls and the heels, something not common in any crowd in Seattle, let alone mine. (I believe some of the boys wore heels, as well. And Larry always wore pearls.) We drank wine and talked smart and sang along to Christmas music. Knox made a goose and I think there was even a turkey, and we had a plethora of veggie options and interesting side dishes provided by the adventurous cooks in the group. It was a loud, boozy night...the sort of chatty, golden holiday celebration chronicled in Turning Leaf wine commercials, except with a better soundtrack and less inane conversation. (See isn't the lens of memory a kind one?)
It was my first Christmas away from my family and, while I missed them a lot, I was not lonely. I was surrounded by people who made me feel happy and safe and loved. Which is exactly what I think Christmas should be.
The next day, I got up and called my family to wish them a Merry Christmas. I got to talk to my folks, my brother and sister-in-law, and tried to talk to my nephew Sam, who was too young to actually understand what was happening with the phone, so it wasn't very productive. I had a few homesick tears, but my friends came to the rescue before I could get too melancholy. We went to the International District for dim sum. I had my first century egg that day...also my last. I spent the day at the movies with Larry, and then had dinner at Ho Ho Seafood.
It is one of my favourite Christmases ever.