I love Halloween and I love Thanksgiving. Those are great holidays, celebrating, in my view, mostly the simple joy of the experience. They don’t come nearly so burdened with unrealistic expectations of the perfect family moment, the ideal gift. Just good company, yummy nibblies and mutant gourds.
Most years, I enjoy Christmas too. Just last year I wrote that observing Christmas in an empty nest, deprived of The Daughter’s snarky, hilarious company (which these days she often shares with her in-laws) doesn’t make me as whiny as I’d thought it would. But this Christmas season has been different. I’ve been whining. A lot. (Just ask Glen.)
And it’s all because of Josh Groban.
I’ve written before that I’m always saddened when something triggers a memory of happy times Katie and I used to have together before she moved out on her own. The movie Legally Blonde, for instance, often makes me cry, because it reminds me of the fun mother/daughter excursions—the shopping, lunches, haircuts and pedicures—it inspired. (Just to be clear, we didn’t get matching haircuts.)
But I haven’t seen Legally Blonde recently, so I can’t blame that for my whininess this Christmas. What I blame instead is the concert Glen and I saw on TV a couple of nights ago. It featured a grand finale from Josh Groban, which triggered a memory. And of course I cried.
About twelve years ago when Katie was a senior in high school, a classmate and her mother offered us two tickets to a Josh Groban concert in San Antonio. Their plans had changed, and they knew that Glen, Katie and I were big Josh Groban fans. Would we be interested? Sparing only a moment’s thought for poor Glen’s feelings, or for the drive to San Antonio and back, I told Katie, “Sure, I’ll take you!”
And they were great tickets. Floor level, aisle seats, close to the stage, a large but comfortable venue. As we sat chatting with another mother/daughter pair next to us (who were just as excited as we were), I lamented aloud that I wished I’d brought a sign to hold up when Josh took the stage: I’D MAKE A GREAT MOTHER-IN-LAW! Then the opening act came on: Chris Botti. Well. The icing was on the cake. That night was cemented in our memories forever.
A couple of years later, The Daughter moved out of the nest. And ever since, though I always enjoy listening to Chris Botti’s jazz trumpet, hearing Josh Groban’s magnificent voice makes me forlorn. It brings on a sad nostalgia for the fun we had at that concert twelve years ago.
As I learned the other night, hearing him sing during the holiday season is much, much worse. After the TV concert was over, Glen cued up more of Josh on the stereo as I sank deeper and deeper into melancholy. I cast a gloomy look around the house and saw that we had no Christmas tree, no lights, no ribbons or ornaments, nothing that sparkled or glittered or flashed. In fact, I realized—getting whinier by the moment—we’d had no Christmas decorations for five years. We stopped decking the halls when we put our old house on the market. All to avoid distracting potential buyers, or making the house seem cramped. I used to have so much fun with it, especially on the dining table. At Halloween:
But now? “I haven’t even done a tablescape!” I exclaimed to Glen in despair. “Because everything I used to decorate with is still in boxes in the garage!” (That’s right. We moved into our “forever home” 9 ½ months ago, and the garage is still full of boxes to unpack. Mea maxima culpa. I can’t blame Josh Groban for that one.)
Glen, meanwhile, was fiddling with his phone, paying no attention to my wretchedness. Not much, anyway, because he was busy finding us a Christmas tree on Amazon. It didn’t take him more than thirty minutes, and it’ll be delivered by the time you read this.
After I finished being weepy over how sweet and thoughtful he is, I realized I was a touch disgruntled. It was disconcerting to have my whining doused so efficiently by Glen’s practical, man-of-action response. But December is young. I’ll bet I can find something else to whine about if I put my mind to it. For one thing, I haven’t found the box with the tree skirt or the ornaments yet. Or any of my tablescape materials. That’s good for an evening’s worth of whining, at least.
A footnote about that long-ago concert in San Antonio: We all know, of course, that Katie did not end up marrying Josh Groban. Possibly because I neglected to hold up a posterboard advertising my mad mother-in-law skills. That’s all for the best, though, because she married Wesley instead. Who happens to be the best son-in-law ever. And—the icing on the cake—he sings very well, too.