Christmas came early in our home. He had his kids over last night, a day earlier than planned. Thus he could not attend my company’s Christmas party last night, and our breakfast out this morning was cancelled.
“Christmas is really about the kids,” he said. We’ll reschedule breakfast.
And honestly, I’m ok with that.
Having five kids in the house meant a get-out-of-bed-right-away kind of morning and our front room is currently covered in Christmas gifts, candy wrappers, bits of wrapping paper, empty boxes, and piles of stocking stuffers.
When he woke, he said, “It’s Christmas!” Well, for him, he added.
I sat in the front room to watch the gift exchange, intentionally against the wall on which pictures of my kids hang, curled up with a hot cup of tea, and a near constant smile as he opened gifts from them, and they excitedly tore through their packages.
Today’s reading spoke of holiday triggers, embracing your feelings about the holiday though they may be different from those around you, and learning to let go of the negative feelings so as to create the holiday you want.
My last Christmas with the kids was spent in a delirious fever–strep throat. I managed to sit on the couch long enough to watch the kids open presents, and then I spent the rest of the day in bed. I didn’t know it was the last Christmas with the kids–the affair that would lead me to ending my marriage had barely begun and already been called off once before.
But nonetheless, it was. A year later, I lived in a different house 30 minutes away, and Christmas with the kids was an afternoon of opening stockings and presents before I had to take them back home. The next Christmas, my ex-husband had moved them 3,000 miles away and they opened their gifts in my Airbnb a week before the holiday. This year, they’ll open my gifts to them on Christmas Day at their home. Again, 3,000 miles away.
The unspoken elephant in the room on days like today is that my kids aren’t here. Five stockings representing my kids hang above his kids’ stockings. There’s an ornament on the tree that says, “Oregon,” that my oldest daughter helped me pick out during my trip to visit them last month.
But no, they’re not here.
But, I don’t think Christmas is just about the kids. No, I think it’s about spending time with those you love, and gift-giving and receiving is a tradition I really enjoy. And unfortunately, gift-receiving will not be a part of my holiday with him this year.
Money is tight, he said. And again, Christmas is really about the kids. But it’s also about his parents, who drove down Friday with a car laden with gifts for him and the kids. And for whom he bought a birdfeeder shortly before their arrival. And it’s also about taking his kids to dinner and shopping all this week, while we were arguing and on the outs.
I am adhering to my tradition of gift-giving. I’ve purchased him some things for his stocking, as well as under the tree.
“You’re killing me,” he said lightly, when I told him that this was something important to me. “We had agreed not to exchange gifts, but that’s very sweet of you.”
My stocking will stay empty, and there will not be a present under the tree for me. And I feel selfish for feeling this way, but perhaps to me these are triggers–symbols of ‘lack’, a physical reminder that the abundance of family and love and kids that once marked my holiday is now gone.
My kids are 3,000 miles away. My family, disapproving of my divorce, have mostly stopped communicating with me. I am on my own financially, and my relationship with him is fragile.
This is a very lonely Christmas.
This is not the Christmas I want. If I am to listen to the author’s advice, I should take steps to make this the holiday of my choosing.
I’m just not really sure how to do that.