Christmas in L.A. is all about friends

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(Above: part of the tree lighting celebration at the Grove in Los Angeles. Photo from their Facebook page)

Sometimes during the writing process, you get a lot of really good ideas. Sometimes you only get bad ideas. Worst of all is when you get none at all. But, then you think of something great and it’s all downhill from there.

How many really good friends have you had throughout your life? How many do you have right at this moment? It’s generally considered healthy to have at least one, but I think we can all pretty much claim at least one.

Good friends are so important. They nurture and love each other, often when it feels like no one else can. They bring you medicine when you feel close to death, even if you’re contagious. They throw you surprise birthday parties when you turn the big 21. A good friend will go the extra mile and I’m proud to say that I’ve had many friends throughout the years.

The author at home in Mississippi with friendly horses (Photo by author)
The author at home in Mississippi with friendly horses
(Photo by author)

What’s even more interesting is that the previous description of a “good friend” also applies to family. Don’t get me wrong. No one can replace a mother or a father. And siblings are eternal best friends. However, especially with respect to younger people in their 20’s and 30’s, close knit circles of friends often take on the roll of family members. And when you’re thousands of miles away from home, that can really make a difference.

For the past two years, I have been in this very same situation. Thanksgiving and Christmas were holidays spent with families eating far too much in front of a fireplace. At least that’s the way I experienced them. But then came that very first holiday season in which I didn’t know very many people at all in L.A. I’m not going to lie to you: it was terrible.

First of all, I was living in West Hollywood, so I had to watch all of these happy gay couples walking around holding hands. It was nauseating. And to top it off, I had to work at Starbucks on both Christmas Eve and morning. You would not believe how many people were waiting eagerly for us to open the doors on Christmas morning. Needless to say, I was not in the holiday spirit.

Then everything changed. I don’t know how or why, but it just did. First of all, I got off work on Christmas day fairly early. Then, one of the most adorable happy couples walking around looked at me and said, “Merry Christmas, pretty boy.”

The author can handle a shotgun — at home in Mississippi. (Photo by author)
The author can handle a shotgun — at home in Mississippi.
(Photo by author)

I’ve been called that my whole life and I normally hate it, but this time it made me smile. And finally, I realized something that still surprises me to this day. I wanted to spend Christmas alone.

I know. I know. Call it masochism or wallowing in self-pity, but it’s true. I wanted to experience a holiday season away from my parents. I knew it was inevitable anyway, and nothing has ever forced me to grow up quite like that.

Part of me knew that one sign of becoming a mature adult was the ability to separate yourself from your family and establish yourself as an individual. But then again, I’d always been pretty independent.

That aside, I felt strong and proud, although perhaps a little lonely. It was good for me. Now, it seems like nothing can scare me, with the exception of downtown L.A. after the sun sets. Trust me, you don’t want to experience that.

The following year went by much easier, and when the holiday season came around again, I was prepared. Once again I was staying in town. Once again I was single. But this time, I had some really good friends.

On Thanksgiving, I was randomly invited to a friend’s house, which I eagerly accepted. We barbecued chicken! It was like I’d never left Mississippi and his friends were all so funny and kind. It was just what I needed, considering Starbucks was forcing me to work that night and into the early morning. My bosses just couldn’t fathom the idea of losing out on an early morning Black Friday rush. I’m still working on letting that one go …

A carriage on the old Mississippi homestead. (Photo by author)
A carriage on the old Mississippi homestead.
(Photo by author)

Then came Christmas again and boy was it magical. I went to the Grove with a friend sometime before the actual day. There was a huge tree all lit up. Santa was even there taking pictures with small children. And best of all, it was all open air, and the weather was great, compared to the rest of the country.

As we sat down to dinner, we hear this noise and all of a sudden it begins to snow. Not real snow, mind you. That hasn’t happened in L.A. since 1962!

As it turns out, the Grove does this every year. They place foam machines strategically around the main courtyard and the foam shoots out floating down on the people like beautiful snow flakes. It was magical and just what I needed.

So, if you’re away from family this holiday season, don’t despair. There is hope and joy everywhere. All you have to do is sit back and let it come to you. You might even find yourself pleasantly surprised by the demonstrations of love going on all around you.