Friday, January 02, 2009

Home Alone

This dark image where I'm barely seen, sort of presented (and protected?) by a mannequin was, I thought, appropriate for the Holidailies writing prompt: "Home Alone".

I haven't spent many holidays alone. I have spent quite a bit of time otherwise alone. Mostly before I married or, during our marriage, on business trips or pleasure trips where I spent some time with friends and some time alone.

But there was one Christmas before I married. I hadn't moved to Austin yet and I lived in an apartment on Abbott Street in Highland Park, a city surrounded by the city of Dallas. It is a fancy pants place to live only I lived in the slums part of it, near a railroad track. (If you are reading this today and know the area and are saying 'huh?' then I'll say the tracks are a hike and bike trail now.)

Anyway, I didn't have vacation to get away with my folks to go see my sister and her small children in Colorado. I think I must have just moved into the apartment. It was furnished so it had a sofa, a dining table and chairs and a bed and dresser. I added some stuff of my own which included at the time, if I'm not mistaken, a desk made from cubes with drawers and open spaces and a large white top. (The cubes have mostly survived and some are storing things in the storage cage here and we painted a few black for incidental uses in the condo.) I mention the desk for later reference. My mom had gone with me to buy it.

So my parents were going to leave and I had to stay and work. I worked a few blocks from the apartment (on McKinney Avenue) and it was a little neighborhood with a grocery store, drug store, bars, a cafeteria, an ice cream store, a furniture store, an army surplus store and a secondhand book store. The year was before 1975 (moved to Austin before Thanksgiving that year) but after 1972. I think I was unemployed the Christmas of 1972, having only recently returned from a vagabond trip to Europe that lasted from Labor Day until the first week of December when, with cold setting in and my Eurailpass expired and the money running out (I'd spent maybe two thousand dollars in three months!), I decided to return. I eventually got a job at a credit insurance company doing programming and after living in a different apartment in the Cedar Springs neighborhood and then with my parents, I'd gotten the apartment on Abbott. So this could have been Christmas 1973. Only ten months on the job, not much vacation.

My parents left town, like I said. I had two aunts who lived in Oak Cliff (a suburb across the Trinity to the south), but they went to West Texas to visit their sisters.

I'm sure I worked most of the days except the actual holiday so it wasn't like I was that alone. My parents and sister had given me presents and said I should open them Christmas morning and call them. I'm sure I'd never been alone on Christmas morning in my life.

I don't remember all the presents, but I remember liking them. Several were on the theme of the 'home office' inspired by me putting together that desk in the apartment. I got a pencil sharpener that you could attach to a surface with a lever-operated suction cup. Remember pencils? Anyway, I liked my presents. Maybe I got a book or two. I remember making a pot of coffee (I used a percolator then) and I had the newspaper (I might have subscribed to the Dallas Morning News at the time). I opened my presents. Gushed about them over the phone to my folks in Colorado. (I don't remember much about the conversation. They were probably caught up in the kids' Christmas becasuse my nieces were five and three that year.)

It felt delicious. I had some new things. This was back when a present could add something to my life. I didn't have that many things yet. I had coffee, the newspaper to read, no demands. I read every word in that edition of the paper, I think. Maybe I sharpened some pencils and wrote something. (If so it is either lost or buried in a box of paper journals I've yet to uncover.)

I don't think I've ever been alone for an entire Thanksgiving or Christmas Day since. I'm not sure about Thanksgiving 1972, but they don't celebrate in Europe in any case and I did have friends there although I also traveled alone quite a lot.

Would I ever want to spend a day entirely alone again? Not really. FFP and I were commenting yesterday about how nice it is to have someone else around. Even if we do things on our own during the day (errands, workout, walk, our obligations to boards and meetings and his interviews) and even if sometimes we are in the condo but on different tracks (he is cooking eggs for himself and I'm blogging right now) there is the feeling that you have someone around and it is nice.

My dad spends whole days alone these days. (Although we'd never let him be entirely alone on a holiday.) He says he doesn't mind it. However, today he found a ride to church to play games and asked me to pick him up after. He's been home alone since Tuesday, I think, when I stopped by to do a couple of things for him.

There are people who prefer to be alone, for sure. I spent many nights alone before and after I married in hotel rooms (or before marriage in apartments), but usually I had some interaction with people during the day. A few times I was by myself among strangers for a few days. But, really, I've rarely been home alone. And I'm not looking forward to a time when that would be a regular thing. But that one Christmas, that one day, with my loved ones far away but represented by presents and their voices? With the coffee and the newspaper and the quiet? That was sort of delicious.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

We're at opposite end of the spectrum, I think. I spend all day and night with someone else (or several someones), at work, at home. The only solitude I get is in the car from home to work and return, and even then that is taken away when I have to provide transportation for my husband to/from medical appointment.

The upshot is that I crave solitude. Though now that my dog has passed away, solitude is just a little too quiet. I miss her. But I'd like a little less human company.