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The Opposite of Lonely

Now that the tree is decorated and the Christmas cards have been ordered we don't have much else to do this holiday season besides go to a few parties and cross a some gifts off our list. This is my 4th Christmas season with Greg and each year it feels even more complete.

The year before I met Greg was my worst Christmas ever. I was living in Los Angeles and recently out of a relationship. Both of my parents were long-gone. It was the first year in my entire life that I didn't put up a Christmas tree. It was the year I just wanted to forget about the holidays.

I remember leaving work on the day before Christmas Eve. All my co-workers were in a festive mood, skipping off to enjoy the long weekend with their families. I walked slowly to my car in the parking garage and climbed in, pulling the door shut behind me. I remember sitting in their in the silent air, feeling so completely unattached.

Later that afternoon I sat in my car again, this time in the parking lot of the grocery store. I was near the marina and I could hear the sailing masts clinking in the wind. It was one of those bright, balmy days particular to Southern California, and I'll never forget how empty I felt. How pointless my existence seemed.

I was no one's most important person.

I spent Christmas Eve in a Oaxacan restaurant with my Jewish friend Paul, and later that night I took a hot bath and then climbed alone into my bed and went to sleep in my little apartment by the Pacific Ocean. On Christmas morning I woke up early and went for a long, solitary run by the beach.

There were small, crisp moments in which I was able to appreciate being alone, but I couldn't shake the pervading feeling of worthlessness. I joined a friend's family later that afternoon and drank too much and when I went to bed that night I was never so grateful to have a Christmas behind me.

And when I went to bed that night, tears slipping down my cheeks, I promised myself that it wouldn't always be this way. I knew that it wouldn't always be this way.

By the next Christmas I was in Chicago and Greg and I were getting our first tree together. We put it up in my old apartment in Lincoln Park and I put on holiday music and we drank prosecco and ate Cotswold cheddar and crackers. We were young and both still living apart, but we knew we'd get married one day soon. I took this picture that night with my phone.

Xmas 07

By the Christmas after that we were married and I was pregnant. Obama had just been elected president and we were living in the home we're in now, on the edge of the Chicago River. That year we both had decidedly more hair.


Last year was our first Christmas with Veronica. She had just learned to crawl and we were six months into being parents. Six months into being a threesome. Six months into being the opposite of lonely.


And this year. This is the year that I'm too busy and too happy to really remember what it felt like to be so lonely all those years ago. I've got work and writing deadlines, presents to wrap and playdates to make. I've got nap schedules to contend with and holiday cards to address. I have the exact opposite of what I had that last Christmas in Los Angeles.

A beautiful, busy family all my own.




  1. This is so sweet. You have a beautiful family.

    Comment by Joanne on December 7, 2010 at 10:49 am

  2. Love this. How fun to see the photographs too. I’m a grad student living in England alone right now and this was my first Thanksgiving away from family and friends. I was surprised at the emotions that came up. I thought it wouldn’t matter, but it did. It’s nice that you are remembering the feeling of being solo – doesn’t it make this year that much sweeter? You have a beautiful family!

    Comment by Erika on December 7, 2010 at 12:06 pm

  3. This is the best post I’ve read all day!

    Comment by Christy on December 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

  4. Hey..I had tears while reading this. It is so nice to read about the various ups and downs of your life. It gives me hope for the future and that according to me is the greatest joy that anyone’s writing can ever give.
    This is my first Christmas away from home, and I have just got in a tree with some friends and we are spending the weekend decorating it. This is also the first year that I will host a Christmas party alone for some very close friends and I cannot be more excited about it but then, the plum cakes that my Mom bakes is making me want to run back home.
    Have loads of fun and take great great care and click even more photos all through the holiday season :)

    Comment by Nima on December 7, 2010 at 11:07 pm

  5. Beautiful family, beautiful post :) You sound so happy and full of love!

    Comment by Bellie on December 8, 2010 at 12:16 am

  6. A really nice post. I am so thrilled to have known you for many of these years. You’re a gem.

    Comment by Hillary on December 8, 2010 at 7:57 am

  7. Thank you! I think so too.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

  8. Thank you! Its amazing how emotionally attached to the holidays we can become, often not realizing it until we are in their absence. Wishing you a cozy season!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

  9. Thanks! It was definitely the best post I WROTE all day. :)

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

  10. Aw, merry Christmas to you too. It sounds like youre making the most of it, despite being away from your family. And um, your moms plum cakes sound delicious!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:10 am

  11. Aw, thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:10 am

  12. Oh, Hillary. Thank you! Im so happy to have you in my life too. Can you believe it was about three years ago now that we met??

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:11 am

  13. Absolutely love this one…

    Comment by Angela on December 8, 2010 at 10:13 am

  14. Thank you!

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

  15. Hi Claire, Sorry that I didn’t come here to read your posts often in these days. But I am so very glad to find that you and you family are happy and healthy! The first post of yours that I read was when you were at the hospital after the surgery – and I have been so grateful to get to know your blog since. Simply because your writing gives me a relief and perspectives on life. Thank you for your writing! I hope you and your family have great holidays!!

    Comment by Sarah Chang on December 10, 2010 at 12:28 pm

  16. Hi Sarah! Ive missed you! Where have you been?? Hope youre having a nice holiday wherever you are.

    Comment by Claire Bidwell Smith on December 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

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