It has been 6 years now since the kids father and I were together. I tend to loose track of time but I can remember this because on the first Christmas we were apart I started a tradition to take the kids to a special Christmas Eve dinner. The first year was at the Arizona Biltmore where you could order s’mores for $10. Money was tight and my financial future was unreliable so I couldn't afford dinner but wanted to create new memories. The lobby was decorated immaculately and as we found a corner to have the kids open a small gift from me we walked past the families where there was a mom and dad together and I felt a sting but at the time I am not sure I knew what it was or the significance of it. Besides I had to be strong and it was easy since I was fostering so much bitterness.
Each year has had it’s own special meaning. Had I been blogging and writing as each year passed I would probably be able to look back and see the trail I have been forging. No matter how many books and articles you read, well-meaning friends advice your receive on divorce, you are never prepared for the affect divorce has on you and your children. Divorce is hell and it hurts and it is ugly and sometimes you want to forget and so you make yourself remember why it took place.
Some years I was so angry at the kids father and worked hard to hide the loathing I felt for him. Some years I was more reconciled and realized all over again as if it was a new revelation, that it is what it is and IT is. Some years I have been flooded with memories of the better times in my years of being married.
Phoenix Hyatt Compass Restaurant. To be able to revolve high above the ground and see the skyline of Phoenix seemed a perfect Christmas Eve gift. This seemed to be the year because the obstacles kept me from planning it before were gone. The menu obstacle; Compass changed their menu this year and Drew has become more adventurous in his eating and I was sure he would find something he would like. The financial obstacle; I adjusted the budget this year so I had the means to spend what I knew it would cost to go there. I even splurged on valet parking! The emotional obstacle; I had been to the Compass a few other times but never without my ex-husband. Certainly, after being married over 20 years there are a lot of places that I go that I was there with him at one time or another. But for some reason this place caused the butterflies to take flight in the pit of my stomach. We had a lovely time. The evening seemed to be perfect and even when Drew asked if I had been before I was able to tell him the circumstances of my previous visits all which included his dad.
Allison was house sitting and we dropped her off on our way home from dinner. When Drew and I got home he decided he wanted to stay up. I felt tired but I needed to wrap gifts and get things ready for morning. But soon nothing was going right. We didn’t have scotch tape and had to resort to using bits of packing tape. I had been so sure of the gifts I had purchased but at that moment I felt unsure. I had started to fall back into the pattern of obsessive perfectionism the day before when I was formatting our Christmas letter. And here it was rearing it’s ugly head. Drew was being so sweet, anticipating the day ahead as midnight drew near. As he was helping me wrap he asked innocently “what gift do you want to open first”? The tears silently streamed down my face. I told him there wouldn’t be gifts for me to choose from as I explained Allison had given me her gift early and grandma and grandpa’s would probably come in an envelope. I explained that it was okay but I didn’t know how to tell him that it wasn’t the gifts or his question that was bringing the emotions front and center, but the realization that I am feeling very alone. That sometimes I get so very weary of being the sole decision maker for our family and all that comes with it. Or that one day he and Allison would have busy lives that won’t intersect with mine on a daily basis.
The melancholy that I was immersed in was my companion Christmas morning. Allison overslept, and I had not been able to reach her and I was making the breakfast casserole alone. We decided since it was so cold and my mom wasn’t feeling well that they should wait to come over until Allison arrived. I couldn’t shake the feeling and worked to keep my snarky attitude at bay as those expected arrived and we started opening gifts. As almost a way to put the exclamation mark behind my depressed feelings I was able to bypass the only wrapped gift that had my name on the tag and keep it under the tree until it was the only gift left. My mom asked when was I going to open something and I explained that Drew’s gift was there and Allison had already given me hers.
By mid afternoon the kids had left to see their dad. Mom and dad had headed home to take naps and I became aware of my utter exhaustion As I laid down on the couch to nap I realized that had I not been exhausted some of these emotions and feeling that had so freely roused themselves probably would not have had the liberty to do so. As painful as they were, I am glad they did and thankful I didn’t have to justify them or pacify them.
The Christmas Eve tradition that was started 6 years ago is not only a gift that I give my children but it is also a gift I give myself. This Christmas was filled with 2 other very special gifts both given Christmas Eve. The first was from Allison who verbalized for me what I didn’t know but is in my heart, when she said that she realized that the planning and surprises that I do for our Christmas Eve outing is a gift to me. She is so wise. And later when Drew was heading up the stairs to go to bed, he turned around and said “mom, I think I finally get the true meaning of Christmas”. And I cried.
A well-meaning friend once said, after I told her about another weekend I had participated in with Beginning Experience (for those dealing with the loss of a loved one because of divorce or death), “oh, I thought you’d be over your divorce by now”. No, it isn’t something you get over. But you change, grow, discover, make new and eventually become new.
And with a grateful heart I say, thank you and bless you!