Suddenly, while I wasn’t paying attention, the holiday season snuck up on me. The weather changed along with the calendar, and though it happens very year I was not prepared, in denial. I looked around last Wednesday morning, and found myself facing wind, rain, (thankfully it wasn’t snow) and another trip to my favorite garage, where my friendly mechanics are padding their children’s college funds at my expense.
Beyond getting my car fixed, I was psyched to have some time off from my ‘day job’ doing research at a local college. But when my plans for Wednesday evening suddenly fell through, I realized that I was back in a familiar position –- all set up with no place to go.
In the 1980s, when I first came out, and then in the ‘90s, when I was ‘out’ and somewhat proud but no one seemed to care (at least not enough to ask me on a date), I found the period between Thanksgiving and New Year difficult to navigate. I was a sailor lost in the fog, getting glimpses of the folks on shore, who seemed to be sharing stories around a warm fire, or dancing cheek to cheek while I searched for any port in the storm, a place to call home.
Being gay, single, and Jewish didn’t help matters. After all, being surrounded by rituals that seemed tailor-made for the straight, coupled and (at least nominally) Christian reinforced my sense of being an outsider. Many of my gay friends had boyfriends, Christmas celebrations with their families –- or both –- and I found myself with too much time on my hands, drifting.
In recent years, I’ve learned to manage the holidays with greater ease. I tried to remind myself of this last week, when Plan A –- a hot date –- fell through and I was left with Plan B, more time alone. As I waited for the bus to carry me back to the garage where my car awaited me, I reminded myself that I was blessed; I had a comfortable place to live, several close friends, and (most importantly) my imperfect but relatively good health.
I knew that I had a lot to be thankful for on this day before Thanksgiving. But on some level, knowing this only made me feel worse. Instead of counting my blessings, I was stuck in an old cycle of longing for what I didn’t have.
Late in the afternoon I went to the gym and lifted weights, and then called a few friends –- one of whom wasn’t home, while another was traveling with his family, and couldn’t really talk. But reaching out, and knowing that I had at least a few things to do over the next several days, brightened my mood a little.
The next morning, the phone rang several times. I got an invitation to visit an old friend who was in from out of town. Another friend surprised me, and called while driving up to his sister’s in Vermont. As my day came together (I was heading up to my sister-in-law’s family later that afternoon for Thanksgiving dinner), I felt less alone, a bit more connected.
Gradually, the weekend fell into place. I had a ‘writing date’ at a local coffeehouse with another teacher from Grub Street, a local writing center. We sat in a café in Davis Square, with plenty of space to spread out and work; the Square was almost deserted on a quiet Saturday morning. That night, I met a new friend for a sing-a-long in Medford Square, part of the annual “Jingle Bell” festival. This year, the locals made an attempt to set a record for the most Christmas carolers, singing while wearing Santa hats. We didn’t set a record, but there was something sweet about the small town atmosphere, and the children and their parents all decked out in identical stocking caps.
Finally, on Sunday morning I lit the menorah (Chanukah candles) as part of the Sunday morning service at Arlington Street Unitarian Church. (I was covering all my religious and cultural bases). By Sunday afternoon, I’d had enough socializing, and was content to watch TV at home. I still felt a longing for a boyfriend or some TLC, and wondered what, if anything, I’d be doing on New Year’s Eve.
But I got through Thanksgiving weekend –- and managed to tune into my own sense of gratitude. And for now, that is enough.
Judah Leblang is a writer, teacher, and storyteller in Boston. For information on his courses and performances go to www.judahleblang.com
Pay as you go: Our web site is free, and we want to keep it that way. Bay Windows turns 31 this year. Will you pledge your support for the upcoming year by contributing funds? Your contribution will help us keep the website and paper free and improve our coverage. Please, if you are able, we welcome your support. Please note - your contribution is not tax deductible.