With Anthony settled into his job, and me into mine, we finally got a chance to focus on having some fun. For the first time in a long time, the stress of money was manageable and I felt that we were truly in sync with each other. The fact that we were in one of the most remote places in America gradually slipped away from my mind and small pleasures, like a beautiful sunset in the enormous southern sky, filled my soul with gratitude. It finally felt like real life. We pooled our money and efforts together to start piecing together our worlds. In between buying hand towels for the bathrooms and furniture for the living room, we would make time for all the things we never did as a couple before. Even baseball never left the picture, as we would play toss in the street together or I’d lay in the grass and read while he took batting practice at the field with friends. Before we knew it, the holidays were upon us.
The holiday season in Yuma was the first one away from family, so I did my best to keep it upbeat. For Halloween, I coerced Anthony into his first pumpkin carving session in maybe twenty years. This was before my participation in Fantasy Football, so I had no issues at all with hosting our festive event during a Sunday afternoon, mid-Patriots game. When I came busting through the front door with our perfect pumpkins and carving kit, his eyes lit up wit what I can only imagine to be sheer delight. Maybe it was horror – it could have been horror – but I really doubt it because he snatched his pumpkin right up and jumped on the artistry bandwagon. Watching him man-handle that thing was not too promising though, and within half an hour he had snapped his carving tool right in half with his bear paws. With the blade still jammed into the side, he took a steak knife from our silverware drawer and went beast mode on on the defenseless pumpkin. The end result was a real masterpiece – a beautiful, symmetrical…square. No bueno.
Thanksgiving, I have to say, was a much different story. We decided to host the holiday at our house, and invited our neighbor “friends” from down the street. We had eaten at their house before, and after a bagged salad with Purdue chicken strips on it, I politely declined their offer to bring any dishes over. Plus, from living in the most boring town on earth I took up a new interest in cooking and I wanted to put myself through my own Hell’s Kitchen. I have to say, and I don’t mean to brag, but hastag: NAILED IT! Well, maybe there were just a couple of blips. Like forgetting to cook the green beans before putting them into the casserole, and only having two chairs at our table because we could only afford to buy one at a time. Other than that – total success! At this rate I knew Christmas was going to be off the chain. Now, if you’re old and unsure of what that means, I’m going to go ahead an help you out because you deserve to stay fresh in this lifetime. According to Urban Dictionary, “off the chain” is defined as: Da bomb, really good, delightful. “KFC’s new buffet is OFF THE CHAIN!” So now you get it.
And Christmas was the best yet. Anthony busted his butt to pick up extra shifts and make as much cash as possible, while I sold cell phones like a mo-fo and reaped the benefits of healthy commission checks. Much like the endeavor of pumpkin carving, I insisted that we plan a trip to pick out the perfect Christmas tree and decorate it as a couple. In Yuma, the experience is not quite like the one in Maine though, where you put on your L.L. Bean boots and hike around a tree farm with a hand saw. It was more like you drove to the nearest Home Depot and strapped your choice to the hood of your boyfriend’s ’96 Buick and rode like a ‘G’ down interstate 8. It wasn’t glamorous but it was our tree, in our home, for our first Christmas and I loved it. We would spend week nights on the couch bundled up together (as much as bundling is necessary in the Mexican suburbs), and Christmas shop for each other on our respective computers. We’d send picture messages and emails back and forth with subject lines of “Like this?” “How about this color?” Then, when gifts would arrive at our door, we’d sneak away and wrap them up like the other one had no idea what was coming. The gifts would last under the tree for about a day before one of us would suggest opening “just one.” We were so excited to be in a position to finally give to one another, that we couldn’t wait until Christmas morning. In fact, our patience was so pathetic that we woke up on Christmas to dried pine needles under our tree and a dog poop. It was magical, really.
I loved and hated the holidays in Yuma all at the same time. I hated them because Skype and FaceTime were miserable replacements for having family and friends around us to celebrate. I loved the holidays too because we created our first memories truly celebrating them together. We found a way to make it work while still paying a mortgage worthy of the McCallister’s house in Chicago (Home Alone people, come on). The only thing we really had to sacrifice was buying gifts for anyone else on earth, and for that we are truly, truly sorry. But not that sorry because I got some pretty sick Nike’s and Anthony got piles of baseball gear for the upcoming season.
Oh yeah. The upcoming season. Meh.