Re-reading the Vampire in the City series

Last week I finished writing Fresh Blood, the sixth and final book in the VitC series. The next day, I left for a vacation to Cape Cod. We were with family, including our two children, who are almost five and just turned one. We stayed at a house on the beach, and spent most of our time outdoors doing stuff with the kids.
samir
My older son, buried in sand and screaming!

nadim
Me with my younger son, not buried in sand but screaming nevertheless!

At nights, after the kids were asleep, I busied myself with re-reading the entire Vampire in the City series. I wanted to take notes on the timeline, figure out what loose ends might need to be tied up, and just have it really fresh in my head for the edit of Fresh Blood. Somehow, I managed to finish the fifth book the day after we came back, and am now set to start on the second draft. While I don’t have an official release date yet, I’m thinking sometime around October 1st.

While I was re-reading my writing, some of it from about ten years ago, I was mostly struck with how much my protagonist has changed over the course of the series. In the first book she was sometimes awkward to the point of embarrassing me as I was reading it. By the last book she is much more sure of herself and proactive, instead of just reacting to the situations I put her in. Overall, I am pleased with this progression, and I hope my readers will enjoy the culmination of a series that has been very fun to write!

I rarely use this blog to write something depressing or overly personal and I’m only doing now in the hopes that I’ll feel some sort of catharsis when I’m done writing.

What do birthdays mean to an adult? Maybe nothing. After I turned 18, I think mine all kind of sucked. Were my expectations too high? I don’t know. As I’m much older now, I’ve thought about what I wanted from a birthday, and it’s this: at least a few people around me who I know want to be around me, some type of baked good that was made or purchased by someone other than me, and a wrapped gift (that doesn’t need to have cost any money [it could have been handmade or whatever (the wrapping is important though because it indicates thoughtfulness)]). This year, I didn’t have any of that. I was disappointed, of course, but my kids are too young to do anything, or remember on their own, so it was easy to dismiss. Whatever, I’m an adult, so I didn’t have the birthday I wanted. Maybe no one does. Just because my expectations may be lower than some doesn’t mean I’m going to get what I want.

Anyhow, this post isn’t about that. Tomorrow is my younger son’s first birthday. When my older son turned one, a ton of friends and family came. It was an amazing day that I still remember in vivid detail, even though he doesn’t. I know my younger son will never remember his first birthday either, which is fortunate because every person I invited declined. All with valid reasons, but they all declined. My sweet baby’s birthday will be celebrated with zero guests. Everyone who has declined says “Don’t take it personally.” Of course, I should be able to not take it personally. And I know that no one loves my son as much as I do, so it feels extremely painful to me, when to everyone else it’s no big deal. And no, I don’t want to remember this day as the day my beautiful son turned one and I cried myself to sleep because I don’t think there are enough loving people in his life.

But I cannot help how I feel and how I feel is just miserable.

The gift of meaningful experiences

Before I get to the point of this post, I just want to note that I do intend to tie this concept of minimalism to what this blog is primarily about, writing. But seeing as next week is Christmas, I did want to write about that, or at least one aspect of that.

Although my family was never religious, we did celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, which of course means buying a lot of stuff. When I turned maybe 20-ish, we basically stopped celebrating it (no tree, no presents). My parents and I did spend the day together, however. We would usually go out to the movies, and then go to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The point was that we were together, and we always had a good time. And no one missed the gifts.

After my parents both died (about a dozen years ago), I stopped celebrating entirely, because I didn’t really see the point. My husband and I used to go out with friends and drink on Christmas, because that’s what married couples do before they have kids. Now that we have two kids, my perspective has changed a bit.

I want to give my children holidays that are meaningful and memorable. Does this have anything to do with getting stuff? Absolutely not. Do I remember anything anyone ever gave me for Christmas? No, not one thing. When I look back on this holiday, and holidays in general, from when I was a child, I remember is tons of relatives coming over to visit, and sitting down to share a meal with them. That’s what I remember, not the gifts.

In fact, the only gift I remember ever was when I was in my mid-20s and bought my mom a spa weekend. We stayed over for two nights and had massages and swam in the pool, and generally had a great time together. That’s why I generally prefer the gift of time and experience rather than material gifts. Instead of taking up space in your house, they add something of value to your life.

I always highly appreciate offers to take me out to dinner or a movie, or offers to take me and the kids to the park or zoo. This year, my husband and I bought tickets each other tickets to a show we wanted to see (Ghost Quartet, for those interested). We are taking our older son to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Madison Square Garden. I know these are events we will be able to look back on and remember for years to come.

Did I buy the kids other gifts as well? Yes, because they are very young and of course have not yet learned to not compare themselves to others. But did I buy them expensive gifts? No, I spent about $15 a child (excluding tickets to the show). And in addition to the show we’re going to this Sunday, I also have some activities planned, like having friends over to decorate ornaments and bake cookies. To me, minimalism is not about the absence of things (although a less cluttered house is always a bonus), but rather the presence of people who matter in my life.