I wish I could say I made the decision not to do anything for Christmas this year, but the truth is that I no longer have a place to go after becoming orphaned in early adulthood. Then Shirley’s divorce broke the tradition of visiting her family when I first moved to Ottawa, and three years of a global pandemic haven’t helped either.
Heather could have gone home on Christmas Day but decided to stay with me, knowing it would be especially cruel to be alone when everyone else is exchanging gifts and enjoying the company of others. I’m glad it was something she could intuit; telling someone to be apart from their loved ones for my sake is something I would never do.
Even though I’ve come to shirk the obligatory consumerism of such occasions, she gave me a stocking stuffed with goodies from my favourite chocolatier, some luxury teas, and three pairs of classy socks to go with with the new pants I got earlier this year. It helped make up for the fact that I couldn’t accompany her on her trip home the next day. I’ve been anxiously waiting to introduce her mom to more music and meet Max’s new dog, but I’m still too damaged to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time before seductive thoughts of eternal peace creep to the front of my head and I can no longer breathe.
Among the presents she brought back was more Moselland Cat Riesling that will likely become a custom ever since Max spotted a bottle in a store. Her dad, whom we presume is on the spectrum, includes the same things in each of the kids stockings every year — cheap floss, mint Tic-Tacs, a bottle of lock de-icer, vitamin D tablets, and winter clothing that would be too big for Shaq. I’d normally feel hurt if someone kept thoughtlessly giving me things that I have no use for, but in this case it’s a nice reminder that I’m part of that family, even when I’m not there.