When I was a child, I used to think that Christmas was a time for getting a present. I thought the better the present, the sweeter the Christmas. I was amazed by the decorations that my grandparents and parents always put up every year. I was taught that it was a day we celebrated the birth of Jesus and that Santa Claus, who was at the mall, traveled the world with flying reindeer, creeping into peoples houses, giving presents to every boy and girl who was good all year.
When I was a little older, maybe a teenager, I thought that Christmas was a time to give and get presents. I also thought that Christmas needed a tree, wrapping paper, bows, and candles. I came to expect my moms horrid fruitcake that weighed twenty pounds. Ironically, she used an angel food cake pan for the mold. It took an entire afternoon to make.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s, as a mother, I thought Christmas was about giving and watching my children’s eyes light up as they experienced their “best Christmas ever”, which was an end result of my year long hard work at cutting coupons, saving every dollar that my (now ex) husband made so we could provide them with clothes, shoes, a couple of their favorite toys, and I could make all the family dishes that they came to remember as being part of “Christmas”. I tried to carry on the tradition of Santa at first, but by the time my third child was born I was overcome with the guilt of lying to them. Half the time we couldn’t fill their wish list anyway, so why make them think that a magical deity would fly there, land on the house with flying reindeer, sneak into the house at night and bring them what they wanted? Telling them the truth was better anyway. It made Christmas more meaningful because Christmas wasn’t just about gifts, it was about family. I lived and breathed my children as a stay at home mother for their entire lives. That was hard sometimes, and my spouse never made it easy either, but somehow it worked.
When I was 41, my husband of 17 years threw me out of the house with nothing but the clothes on my back, and while I was destitute and homeless, he filed for divorce. I had no lawyer and he had the most expensive one in town. The only reason I wasn’t living under a bridge was because a friend took me in. The judge awarded my ex-husband everything…custody of our children, the house, the vehicles, the finances. I mourned the loss of my children, crying every day, sometimes off and on all day, for months. I wanted to tuck them into bed, read them a book, wake up with the smell of their hair under my nose as they buried themselves in my body with that first hug good morning. I wanted everything back except my abusive husband. That first Christmas was a day of sorrow. I couldn’t even speak to my children because their father didn’t allow it. I got very drunk, cried myself back to sleep…slept the day away.
I’m 42 now. Reunited with my best friend Aaron, who is now my life partner, after twenty years apart. I’ve grown accustomed to the parental alienation that my ex-husband has created. Aaron and I live in a tiny travel trailer. We barely have money to get by, so we were not able to by anything for each other. No hint of Christmas here. No tree, decorations, no presents, wrapping paper, bows, or candles. No family….and yet, it’s the best Christmas ever. I woke up this morning to read a text my 16 year old daughter sent me overnight, saying she was sorry she missed my phone call. That means she knows I love her, her brother and her sisters. I cooked a meal for Aaron and myself out of what we have. It’s not a turkey or ham, but its made with love. We’ll take the guitar and visit our friends later on today, and give them the gift of music. I’ll try again to call my children.
The miracle of Christmas is not a deity, or Santa Claus, or presents, or decorations and a tree. It’s just love.