While my friends and family run around in a frenzy of mall purchases and the attendant anxiety of how to pay for it all, I bask in the serenity of having let it all go—well, most of it. … Christmas held such expectations of material splendor that it was impossible to have any quality time with my nieces and nephews, wound up as they were on the highs of the day, with their exhausted parents busy trying to police the pandemonium. And so, one year, I decided to stay home and cook myself a duck. I could have gone to the families of friends nearby, but that would have been just another permutation of what I had escaped, so I opted for solitude. It was delicious—both the duck and the solitude.