Christmas is a season for children and lovers. Thus, I confess, it’s been difficult for me to get in the holiday spirit these past few years. I go full in, kicking and screaming, only for the children’s sake (otherwise I’m sure my descent into Grinchy Scrooginess would be complete). Still, I find my small, cozy family is building new traditions that fit our unique sort of wackiness, and that warms my heart:
- We bake cookies and the emerging trends are 1) to have help from one of my single girlfriends (who can get her kid jones on while making decorating more fun than my children would have with “just mom”) and 2) to cut out lots of little gingerbread people shapes and decorate them in ugly holiday sweaters.
- Photo cards from friends are rolling in, and it’s so fun to see children growing up and the crazy couple who this year chose an eighties theme for their photo shoot.
- We went out to a Chinese buffet this Christmas Eve, as has been our tradition since they were small and we vacationed in Florida and nothing else was open over the holidays.
- I’ve just stuffed the children’s stockings and placed gifts under and around the tree. They’ll be waking me up first thing begging to open them all.
Finally, just for me, I’ve spent the last three nights watching “Love, Actually” with a glass of wine in hand after the children are off to sleep. All those interwoven tales of love never seem to get old. With another week or so of break, feel free to join me one of these nights.
I’ve been crazy busy lately, putting on my sprinting cleats as soon as I wake each day and not taking them off until 10 or 11 each night, so I apologize for neglecting you, dear readers.
Finally, at about 4pm on Christmas Eve, the lines at Target were enough to cause me to see the light: The children really didn’t need any more goodies in their stockings or gifts under the tree — by the time the celebrating was through, we’d all have lost count of how many packages were unwrapped and there would be more new toys and games to play with than could be done in a day. Enough.
But what I really want to share here is the joy it brings me to give gifts. I pride myself on being a thoughtful gift giver, and I think my loved ones would say I do pretty well. It’s especially fun to consider and buy for someone new in one’s life, and I’ve already written how allowing my beau to open one of his gifts early earned me some points.
And receiving gifts allows us to see ourselves through another’s eyes. By way of explaining, let me tell you that my wardrobe is chock full of the same black items. I’ll see something at the store, try it on and love it — because I’ve had success with something incredibly similar before, whether it’s the cut of my trousers or the draped neckline of a top. So I can’t tell you what a delight it’s been to receive a few new pieces to add to my wardrobe this Christmas. My special guy clearly sees me in a more colorful and versatile way than I’ve been seeing myself. What a nice discovery! Plus I’ve been getting an awful lot of compliments.
A colorful new me? He may be on to something.
I must have done something right last weekend, because my guy said I improved my BCS standings with him. (BCS, for those of you who don’t watch college football — like myself — stands for Bowl Championship Series, which is the cockamamie way in which the NCAA determines a national champion team. Don’t ask.)
It all began with a small gesture: an early Christmas gift with which I presented him, thinking we could enjoy it together while relaxing around the house. It was one of those conversation-starter card sets for couples that you get at fancy gift stores for what you know is an outrageous profit based on the bit of acrylic and printed paper that goes in to these suckers. At any rate, it was well worth the quality time shared talking over questions and hypothetical scenarios because it allowed us to do his favorite thing — talk and share and listen.
We got to know each other a bit better — and I guess it scored me some points, too!
The holidays can be a potent, emotionally charged time — especially among families that have suffered divorce. In fact, I’ve been so busy for the past week or so that the emotions of navigating all this family time by myself didn’t really hit me until it was all over.
Even if I don’t miss my ex, I do miss several of the traditions and memories we created and shared together. He’s Jewish; I come from a Christian background. We were blessed to celebrate Chanukah and Christmas. I miss sharing the season with him and his family. And while I’m in contact with some of the former in-laws, I’m no longer part of the family celebrations. I have to experience them through my children’s stories.
My ex missed this, too. When I dropped the children off to spend a few days of their break, he gave me a hug and told me he misses me. I’m smarter than to believe I should take this to mean anything of substance. I still love him. But I don’t miss living with him. And I doubt he misses living with me, aside from some of the happy memories we created together. After all, how can the holidays be recalled with anything but fondness?
So if we remember and reminisce about family celebrations, especially holidays, what is the impact of divorce? It’s the death of a dream. Certainly when we came together, vowed to love one another and brought children into the world, we did so believing that we would be together. We dreamt of a stable family life for our children and creating traditions of all kinds together.
And having failed at maintaining this, I can’t help but wonder what of our children’s dreams we have dashed?