Love in the Time of Cranberry

WP_20151126_001Thanksgiving is upon us, and I can’t wait. And for once, it’s not just about the stuffing.

For many years, I’ve eschewed traveling to the Midwest to visit family, instead opting for a “Friendsgiving.” When I lived on the East Coast, I’d fly to San Francisco or train to Washington DC to tuck into turkey with loved ones. Now living in Seattle, I have gone stag to a pal’s home every year, passing the bread basket to her mom and now her two daughters while her husband refills my wine glass.

And we, like many others, go around the table and say what we are grateful for. On that day, like every other day, I am thankful for my tribe of friends, a curated family of people who have my back even though we don’t share DNA. I am thankful that I always have a place at the table.

But don’t get it twisted: being perpetually single has its advantages, but it can suck Santa’s ass during the holidays. November and December—let’s not even get into New Year’s Eve—can be achingly lonely. Wrapping gifts or trimming the tree by myself, receiving cheery family photo Christmas cards from “The Smiths” or “The Hamlins,” baking desserts to take to someone else’s gathering, opening gifts from distant relatives on Christmas morning alone in front of the tree.

Taken on their own, these things are lovely but when viewed together, it’s a feat that any single person can stave off melancholy during the holidays. I once or twice thought about foregoing Thanksgiving or a Christmas tree, but I realized I needed to manage any possible depression or self-pity that could sprout in an empty apartment like a weed in a vacant lot. I haven’t always been completely successful, but I have been able to keep things in perspective and weather the few bad days.

This year, however, the game has changed. At 47, I’m no longer flying solo. I’m deeply in love and celebrating a year under my belt and under the covers with the man of my dreams.

This year, I—we—are hosting. I’m part of a we! I get to return the favor, inviting my radiant pastiche of a family into our home, a toasty fire in the fireplace and roasted turkey on an heirloom platter, handed down through generations to land on our dining room table. Hosting Thanksgiving feels like a rite of passage, up there with getting your first car or getting married.

And along with that, I have additional things to be grateful for.

Carl and I are integrating into each other’s lives. We’ve met each other’s friends and extended families. We’ve merged the Venn diagrams that were our solo social circles. We are hosting friends who we now both know and love.

While I am child-free, I was still a package deal and I wake up every morning sandwiched between my man and my cat. My heart turns as mushy as canned cranberry jelly when Carl makes up songs about Frida or roughhouses with her. I think she missed a man’s touch as well, seeing the way she purrs and preens for him, her white belly exposed for maximum rubs.

I’m also thankful that I’m my own person. Those decades of being a third wheel forced me to get comfortable in my own skin. I was generally okay with celebrating the holidays solo, but this time of year can trigger issues for the best of us, regardless of our relationship status. The holidays—full of people, parties, and enforced gaiety—can be achingly lonely. I’ve learned how to take care of myself, even though now I’m fortunate enough to have someone else to share the load.

Come Thursday, I’ll be refilling all my friends’ wine glasses. As for me, mine is already full.