warm fuzzies.

I know that you are all incredibly sick of Christmas entries right now. I'm a little sick of writing them. If I'd had any sense at all, I would have posted them during the last week of December. Or if I'd been really smart, I would have written them now and then saved them for December of this year, when we're all feeling more Christmasy. But hey, what follows is the last part of the story. I should be able to write about New Years by February.

Back to the story of the Christmas with two trees, already in progress.

Sometime in early December, Josh and I began discussing the possibility that his dad might want to bring his new girlfriend, Carol, to Christmas. We had already met her and liked her, but we felt a little weird about having her over for a family holiday. We were still getting used to the idea of the divorce. But we couldn't say no, because, well, that would be mean. I told Josh that if it came up, he could tell his dad that she was more than welcome, but that he personally had some concerns about his dad's decision-making as of late.

A few days later, his dad asked the very question we'd been discussing, and Josh said sure. There was nothing more to it. I can't tell if that's a guy thing or a Josh and his dad thing. If this had been my family, you can believe there would have been a Conversation. My family lets me know when they are concerned about my decision-making.

In any case, we were expecting three guests for Christmas, four if you count Josh's brother's dog. You might as well, since we bought him a gift. It was a stuffed Mario, just the right size for a rottweiler to rip to pieces. I found it serendipitously at a thrift store for $1.50. I did not tell the nice lady cashier that I was buying just so it could be destroyed.

A far more difficult problem was what to give Carol. I suddenly became very sympathetic to the mothers of the men in my dating history (both of them). Maybe this should have been obvious, but it's hard to buy something for someone you don't know. I take gift-giving pretty seriously, and I like to give unique and personal presents. However, I knew a total of two things about Carol: she was a deer hunter, and she used to raise goats. That's it. I went to every antique store in town to find something suitable and came up empty-handed. Every time I thought I had a winner, I began to wonder if I was just picking out things for myself. Yes, I like this cute silver flying pig bank, but is she the kind of person that would enjoy it? And then it'll just take up room in her house and she'll feel guilty for wanting to get rid of it.

Maybe given enough time, I could have found something really awesome, but in the end, we made a half-hearted attempt. Josh came up with the idea of a journal, and I decided to include some homemade goods - our own lemon liqueur and hot sauce (not together). I felt pathetic. I think I'm some hot-shot gift-giver, and I was pretty much shopping out of my own fridge. Even if she didn't like them, we hoped that the gifts at least seemed personal. It was the best we could do. If it is the thought that counts, then we thought about it a lot. We would have thought even more, and maybe one of them would have been the thought that contained the definitive answer, but all of a sudden they were on our doorstep, ready for Christmas Eve dinner.

Dinner went great. We had crab legs, and everyone liked it. We all ate too much and then had chocolate pie and homemade truffles while watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. The truffles were made by Carol, who also brought venison stew and homemade wassail. They were all awesome, but I have to say that I can really put away the wassail, which is probably something you never knew about me. I never even knew it about myself. I was still working on the wassail when the older generation went to bed. Us twenty-somethings stayed up and watched Christmas episodes of South Park.

The next morning, I made two Quiche Lorraines for five people. Why two? I don't know. I remember complaining when Susan used to make too much food and then send it home with us, as if Josh and I could eat our way through a whole cake. But it's better to have too much than too little, and I was able to freeze the extra quiche. I sent the remainder of the first one home with Trevor, because I am a hypocrite (and he asked for it - ha!). We also had biscuits with apple butter that Carol had brought.

And then, presents! That part of it seemed sort of anti-climatic this year, perhaps because I was focusing on stuffing everyone with egg pie. At some point in all the unwrapping, I looked over at Carol. It was obvious that she was really, really touched. Guess what? She keeps journals, and, if you couldn't tell by now, she is a huge fan of homemade goods. She told me that she took up the mantle of making apple butter for her family, since her grandmother had died and no one else seemed interested in doing it. She is frequently discouraged by how few people make things themselves anymore. So, slam dunk on the gifts, basically.

They left around noon to go see her family. They hugged us several times, and Carol got a little choked up. I wonder if she had been dreading it, fearful of how we would receive her. That's probably why she brought so many contributions. She just wanted us to like her. Sometimes I get really mystified by other people's behavior, and I can't figure out where they are coming from at all. A lot of the time, people just want to be liked.

I'd known from the beginning that we were a bit required had to let Carol come. I knew that not welcoming her would be a jerk move, but I didn't even think of the flip side - what a really good thing it would be to open up our home to her. They were both just so happy to be there. All this divorce stuff is really complicated, but it's not our divorce. All we have to do is be nice people. Done.

Our guests gone, Josh and I turned the futon into a bed, where we snuggled, ate chocolate pie, and watched Christmas videos. Even aside from that foolproof recipe for contentedness, I was full of the warm fuzzies. We had done a good thing. I was basking in the warm glow of the happiness that I had helped create in others. You know, I like making other people happy so much that I'm considering doing it more often.

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