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    Posted August 30, 2014 by
    LVWordsmith
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
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    First Person: Your essays

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    Holiday Orphans

     
    For several years now, at every holiday, I muse about holiday orphans - those who like me, spend the holiday alone. I don’t have a spouse/significant other; no kids, no close family in town, no close friends that live within 10-15 miles, no neighbors that I hang out with.

    In my younger days and when I had a car, I made the effort to go to the family gathering at my cousins’ house. Theirs was THE family meeting place for good, home-cooked food and reconnecting with relatives I hadn’t seen in months or years. It was usually fun while the day lasted. But when I got home, it didn’t seem like a holiday at all. Just another day in the life. That became depressing. So each year, I attended fewer and fewer gatherings. For the past 5 or so years, I haven’t attended any.

    At some point I reconciled and became content with spending the holidays on my own. Instead of traveling to someone else’s house to eat, I made my own feasts. If I felt like socializing with family or friends, I’d call them on the phone. But mostly, I took the opportunity of a holiday to catch up on chores and/or projects. (The difference is: Chores are things you HAVE to do. Projects are things you WANT to do! I‘m lucky to have an endless supply of both.) When I tired of either, there were always the “fun” things to do like catching up on email, surfing the internet, playing PC games, re-watching favorite movies, or like this 4th of July, the ever-popular: re-watching marathon episodes of my favorite TV show - Twilight Zone. (Sadly, T-Zone marathons come but once or twice a year.) Another more productive activity I got into was volunteering for seasonal events like the annual Christmas parades. There were two in my home town and only a few weeks apart. That turned out to be so much fun that I made it my annual tradition.

    Depending on the time of year and weather, sometimes I’ve ventured out. Few places are crowded. Everyone’s at home - theirs or a family member’s or a friend’s place. Summer’s a bit different. Lots more people are out and about, especially at local events/attractions. It’s funny to be among them. It’s like I’m invisible. Alone in a crowd. It was a bit depressing at first. But then I became fascinated and quite comfortable with it. I can choose to interact or not. I can be a participant or an observer. Realizing that it was MY choice, changing my perspective, made all the difference.

    Though I spend quite a bit of time alone, - holiday or not - I rarely feel lonely. I know that the choice is mine. If I WANT to be with people, I have family and friends who would be more than happy to greet me at their doorstep.

    Funny….. When I lived at home with my family (grandmother, mother, three younger siblings), I don’t recall the holiday times as being the happiest of my life. My immediate family was/is very small so we didn’t have a houseful of people. My mother and grandmother were not good cooks so the food was just OK. They made a lot of dishes I didn’t like. But they appealed to the majority so there they were on the table. When the few visiting family members left, we all returned to our respective room and it was just another day. After my grandmother died, we barely got together at all. My mother remarried for the 4th time; her one brother remarried - a woman who had 3 kids; my sister married and became a stranger; I got my own apartment and became a stranger to all of them for a few years.

    In the years that have followed, I realized that I’m not the only holiday orphan. In fact, a quick Google search revealed that there are now all kinds of groups and efforts to bring orphans together for food and camaraderie, and the company of others during any given holiday. That’s nice to know – for those who feel isolated, who get depressed at the very thought of spending a holiday alone. Happily, I’m one of the very small segment of the population who realizes that being a holiday orphan is a choice, not a mandate. I can enjoy a holiday doing (almost) whatever I want – or not.

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