During the years that my children were small, our holidays often were spent not with family, but with friends. Our whole circle, it seemed, lived far from their relatives. It got so that all of those special occasions were a “given,” just like in an extended family. Of course, we’re going to Jackie’s house for Thanksgiving, Robin’s for Christmas, back to Jackie’s for New Year’s. No need to discuss the traditional meals; Lynda will bring the sweet potatoes; Joan will bring a salad; I’ll bring pies. On Memorial Day we’ll all picnic at Munroe Falls. On 4th of July, we’ll gather at Faith’s with our blankets and walk to the park for fireworks. Easter will be at Lynda’s house because she has the big backyard which is perfect for hiding eggs. And Christmas Eve, Colleen will always hold her big party with the huge spread on the dining room table, and the overwrought children will run themselves ragged through the house.
Friendsgiving. Friendsmas. Friends of July. We were lucky to have that intentionally built, stable network.
But after my kids were grown, I left the community in which I raised them and moved back to my native Redondo Beach, so now I no longer have that network of friends. Instead I’m closer to family.
Moving back was the right decision for me. I’m lucky to live right next to the beach in this beautiful climate with my loving and supportive husband, with whom I reconnected after 30 years. I’m glad to be able to see my parents, sister, and nephews more often than I was able to during the past many decades. On the important holidays, my husband and I shuttle back and forth between Phoenix and Maui, and we’ve settled into our own new routine with our extended families for those gatherings.
But I do miss that rich community of friends in which I was ensconced back when my children were young. And I wonder about the many women who live alone, who’ve also moved away from their long-standing communities for the sake of parents or finances. How are they combating the inevitable loneliness that rises up from time to time, especially at the holidays when they used to feel so securely a part of their own group?
It’s good, it’s important, it’s necessary to honor family ties and obligations, but sometimes doing so can leave us high and dry socially. And the situation can be compounded if we’re no longer working in an office or we’re spending a great deal of time taking care of family obligations. What’s left when we head on home? Where do we get our own social sustenance?
I’ve come to realize that if I ever end up alone in the future, I will seek out a roommate to live with. Coming home to an empty house can be nice, but not forever. I think it would start to pull me down, never being asked how was your day while you’re pulling off your shoes, never sharing a pick-up dinner in front of the television, never sharing coffee and the newspaper companionably on a Saturday morning, never smelling something cooking in your own home without you yourself standing at the stove.
Even if you have family nearby, you can feel lonely if you live alone. Maybe that’s not good for you. Think about it.