Around this time of year, I tend to spend more time alone. My friends all have families and spouses that they tend to spend the holidays with. And while many of them would probably love to see me, I hate to impose on anyone at this time of year, thinking that they should be with their families anyway.
I don’t feel bad about it, though. I have experienced beautiful Christmases with both my real family, until my mother passed, as well as with the family of my ex-boyfriend, all of which I will always remember and hold close to my heart forever. Now I look at my little furry friend, Bowie and am grateful to have him as company as we troll the streets for entertainment as we people watch, teaching him to never fake it with the wrong types of friends or family. To just be glad for what we have and be grateful for our health and ability to be alone.
Last night, on our way home from our two hour “hike” around the pyramid, I chose to stop at our local outdoor coffee shop to continue reading a book I had just started. For a Friday evening, I was surprised at how empty the place was. I had some tea (just getting over a stomach thing that precludes me from drinking coffee…) and Bowie had some water as we sat and read about a new adventure taking place in Istanbul.
As I was literally transported to this foreign city in Turkey, a couple in their 20’s came in and sat down at the next table. I was just finishing up my chapter before maybe stopping for some sushi to-go next door, but I began to watch this “couple,” anyway. I was maybe there another 15-20 minutes as I paid my bill, and I swear, they never said a single word to each other. He smoked a cigarette and stared off into space as she sat there texting on her phone. No expressions of love or affection shared between the two of them.
Kill me now! Should I ever end up in such a loveless relationship…I mean whether they were boyfriend/girlfriend or husband/wife, brother/sister…cousins or whatever! I could not believe how unhappy or unappreciative each of them seemed to be sitting next to the other one in an outdoor cafe on a beautiful, warm night, 10 days before Christmas.
I moved on…thinking what an anomaly. Bowie and I walked around to the sushi place where they have tables outside where we were able to sit and relax as the restaurant prepared my food to go. The front of the restaurant was made completely out of glass so I was able to see the diners inside. There was only one table with a group that seemed to consist of an older couple (maybe in their 50-60’s), with a woman who was maybe 30…presumably their daughter. The woman and her daughter (or possibly niece) were chatting while the man looked like he just wanted to be someplace else. (Fortunately he had his back to the TV screen, which was showing a soccer game, or else his eyes probably would have been glued to the TV screen.) And there were me and Bowie outside, playing in the plants, being so grateful that we again were not part of a group of people who seemed so unhappy to be together.
I don’t mean that we all need to seem lively and animated throughout an entire meal. But at least chat with each other! “How was your day, dear?” “What are your plans for this weekend?” Small talk never killed anyone. And maybe, what my biggest fear in life was not to necessarily be married (I mean, sure being “married” is not the big deal), but to be married to someone who might suddenly lose interest in me with no way to tell me that. That is my biggest fear…to end up in a completely loveless relationship with someone who I used to love and respect but with whom I couldn’t enjoy a friendly conversation with over coffee or sushi, out on a Friday night.
So my initial question was, “What do you see?” and maybe some would say that they see groups of people spending time with each other without the need to always talk. Maybe you might say how nice it was for that guy to bring his neighbor out for a coffee because she’s been home studying all week as she texts her friends that she’s done with exams…how nice that the uncle was able to bring his niece and her teacher out for dinner since neither of them drive. Who knows the circumstances of each of those dinner dates. And who knows why I assume that the circumstances are about “couples” and “families.” Maybe because at this time of year, while I assume my friends are busy with their families and significant others, I put that same burden on strangers as well.
This month has a lot of “dates” for me to remember which can make me sad and yearn to be with the people from my life who have passed. I look at photos of them around my apartment, and wish I could meet any of them for a coffee or sushi or a walk around the pyramid. To see how they’ve been and ask how their lives are now. I consider myself to have been lucky to have had a grandfather though because my family waited during each generation to have children, by the time I was born he was already 73 so I lost him while I was still quite young. And my mother was even told, when I was a teenager, not to become too friendly with me, since one day she would die and I would be sad to lose her as a friend so young. Strange for someone to warn my mother against getting too close to her own daughter because eventually she would be leaving me, and no matter when that happened, it would probably still happen at a time when I might still need her.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to meet her for a coffee. What I wouldn’t sacrifice for just one more conversation or a chance to make sure that no matter where we were or what we were doing, I had truly appreciated and loved every moment we ever shared. Every foreign film she dragged me to, every museum, every long walk through Central Park or lunch we squeezed into my busy work schedule…how she taught me the magic of reading books as the way for me to see the world…how I should never “expect” anything from anyone because that would probably just lead to disappointment…I hope she knows how I miss her and all the lessons she was always teaching me. And I hope that some woman passing with her dog, people watching, never assumed that I might have been unhappy based on a facial expression I might have had at the time. And I hope that every person who is fortunate enough to still have someone in their life, whatever the circumstances, walks away from every shared moment with a warm feeling of appreciation in their hearts…remembering that nothing lasts forever.