I decided I couldn't bear to do, without Andrew, the things I used to do with him.
Traditions had grown up. For a number of years we were invited to be part of friends' celebrations, people who claimed us as adopted family. We feasted with different ones on Xmas Eve or Xmas Day (sometimes both) and always on Boxing Day. Lovely times we had — but this year I think everyone would be too conscious of Andrew's absence along with my presence. Not that I am thinking of their feelings, I admit, but my own. I came to the conclusion I would like to be quiet and still, get away from home and even away from the Internet; maybe read some books, spend some time in nature, meditate.
I was tossing up, dithering. Perhaps this was the time to take up my dear niece's offer to go and visit her at her farm in Victoria. But would she have plans for xmas? Most people do. She might feel obliged to say yes despite inconvenience; or she might be happy to have me but want to play xmas. She's a bit traditional like that; or perhaps it's truer to say that family stuff is important to her. Anyway, one year when Andrew and I stayed with her over xmas, we had the tree and pressies and so on. It was fun then and we entered into it wholeheartedly, but it's not what I'm after just now.
So maybe I could put the hard word on the Firstborn and stay with him in Melbourne a few days? He would understand my wish for solitude and no fuss. Chances are he'd be celebrating with his new girlfriend at her place, leaving me free to chill out, or go out, as the fancy took me. But there are so many old friends in Melbourne, not to mention two-thirds of my step-family. I don't want more than a few days away because of the cats. No time to see everyone — or even anyone, if I want to be quiet and solitary. Melbourne's probably not a good idea right now. (Once before I tried to sneak back unannounced for work-related reasons, and immediately bumped into an old friend. My embarrassment and her hurt rather spoiled the reunion.)
I toyed with the idea of announcing I'd be away and then staying quietly at home, doing my own thing. But it would be apparent to the neighbours that I was here. They are kind and would want to make sure I was OK, perhaps try to include me in their own celebrations. I would feel obliged to accept graciously rather than hurt their feelings. No, that wouldn't work either.
Then, just the other day, out of the blue, a new friend invited me to have xmas lunch with her and her husband at their rural property out of town. I thanked her but explained that I was looking to get away somewhere quiet and peaceful for a few days. She said, 'You're welcome to spend a few days with us.'
What an ideal solution! Her husband is a quiet person, not very talkative — perfect. She understands what I'm seeking, and said, 'You could sit on the back veranda and look at the trees.' Perfect again. For a minute I had this wild notion that, being relatively close, I could duck home each day to feed the cats. But it's not so very close, and anyway that would rather defeat the purpose.
'I could go and feed your cats,' said my friend. How's that for a good offer? But common sense had re-asserted itself by then, and I told her I'd get a neighbour to do it. My next door neighbour, who is going to do the honours in January, when I'm off to Tassie to stay with an old friend there, will most probably be away herself at xmas, but I have other good neighbours I can ask.
I find myself looking forward to it very much. This new friend is someone I have been wanting to get to know better. And the idea of that back veranda is very enticing indeed!