It is always just the two of us. But, apart from some Christmases spent overseas in Thailand and Hawaii, this was the first we ever spent in New Zealand just the two of us. I was both looking forward to it, and feeling apprehensive. Christmas, in New Zealand, is a time when everyone travels or gathers together with family and friends, celebrating the arrival of summer. Even those who don't celebrate it get to enjoy the time with loved ones, the summer weather, the time off work, the opportunity to do something different. With doors and windows wide open, you can hear the groups outside on decks and in gardens, laughing and enjoying themselves together. It's a cruel reminder that you are alone. If it was held in the winter, I would have relished the time to just snuggle up at home. But in summer, it felt a little different knowing it would be just the two of us this year, and I was unsure how I would feel.
Still, I got to sleep in, we enjoyed a lazy croissant breakfast, and then I began cooking our Christmas meal, listening to a Christmas playlist on Spotify that a friend's daughter put together last year. There was no rush - we could eat whenever we wanted. The Husband even did some gardening! I pulled out my white tablecloth I bought on a work trip in the Philippines, the good china and cutlery from diplomatic days in Thailand, the inherited crystal and silver platter and jug and glasses, and serving plates that were a gift from a sister-in-law. I even put flowers in a vase. I made an effort!
When it came down to what we might eat, I realised that in the last 20 years, I have already established a tradition of what food we (jointly) like, and so it was simple, but yummy. We decided, after the croissant breakfast, that we didn't need any nibbles or appetiser. So we just had a glazed ham for main course, though I tried a new asparagus and avocado salad to go with the new potatoes, and pavlova and summer berries for dessert. We opened a bottle of Bollinger we had discovered in our wine rack, sat outside in the warm breeze under a tree enjoying a sip or two, and then ate our meal. It was, I discovered, really nice not to be running around serving others, worrying if they liked it, if there was enough, if everyone had everything, was anyone bored, etc. We just relaxed and chatted and enjoyed it. Perhaps too much, because - without the need to serve dessert before the kids got grumpy and the elderly fell asleep, or before it was time to go to the tree and unwrap presents - we decided to leave the pavlova for later. In fact, we left it for hours, and ate it at dinnertime, with the last of the Bolly! Still, there were lots of leftovers.
I had had plans of wearing something floaty, and doing my hair. I ended up in the T-shirt I cooked in, with my hair merely combed and tied back! No make-up. No jewellery. Just us, come as we were! And it surprised me, how relaxed and comfortable it all felt. I'll admit to a lazy afternoon, a nap on the couch, and an evening reading, and watching a light TV show. With a piece of Christmas baclava and a cup of tea. No stress. And, we discovered that when you clean up after just the two of us, we only need one load in the dishwasher! An added bonus.
Turns out, just the two of us was pretty wonderful. It's like life. I should have known!