My Not-So-Typical Christmas Tradition

Christmas.  It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.  I love the beautiful decorations, the food, the parties, the food, the excitement of opening presents, and of course, more food.

Growing up, December was always a special time for me.  We would decorate our tree on my father’s birthday, December 9, (and many years later would celebrate my son’s birth on that same day!), and then we would celebrate my mother’s Christmas Day birthday.  My grandfather used to tell us the story of how Santa Claus brought my mother down the chimney to him, which, as a child, made me extremely jealous.

Christmas was full of love and happiness.  I was blessed!

Then, the unthinkable happened to my fantasy Christmas:  I got divorced.  Not just some easy-peasy, that-was-mine-this-is-yours divorce, but the “I kind of wish he’d get hit by a bus” divorce.

In an instant, my holidays were totally disrupted.  Suddenly, I only had my son with me for the first half of Christmas vacation, after which he would go to his father’s house at noon on Christmas Day.  Then he would return home after New Year’s Day.  It was agonizing.

One day, while visiting my eighty-something-year-old grandmother, she asked why I hated my ex so much.  I explained all of the reasons, and she listened quietly before saying, “What does it matter?  You’re divorced, but you have a child that loves you both and needs you to get along, especially now that the holidays are close.”

So, I went back home feeling like a first grader who just got scolded, and spoke with my ex.  After deciding to meet at the library (so we couldn’t yell at each other), we had a much-needed, long discussion.  For the first time since our divorce, we both agreed that we needed to put aside our differences and be parents to our son.  Civility wasn’t always easy, but we did it.

By then, he had married a very sweet lady and had a precious daughter, and one day, my son made a comment of how hard it was having to split his time between his parents on Christmas.  He wanted to spend time with us all, but having a big Christmas lunch at my house, followed by a big Christmas dinner at his dad’s house was just too much for him.

So, after great thought, and a few glasses of chardonnay, I reluctantly invited them over for Christmas lunch one year.

I know, I know….I can just hear many of you now saying, “I could never do that!”  But, let me tell you, when you know you’re doing something for your child, you can literally do ANYTHING.  It wasn’t easy, and there were times during dinner that I was tempted to stab my ex with a fork…but I digress.

It worked.

And just like that, we began a new Christmas tradition.  Each year, we would all have Christmas lunch together:  my son and his sister, my ex and his wife, my parents and grandmother.  When I remarried many years later, my sweet and understanding husband accepted our arrangement like it was no big deal. He saw that it was a good thing and welcomed my ex and his family into our house like they were old friends.

A few years have passed since we shared our last Christmas together.  Our son is nearly 23-years-old, and is venturing out as a young man, with a wonderful girlfriend who I hope will become part of our family one day.  My father passed away last year, and my mother moved to live with my 97-year-old grandmother.

Christmases are different, but I will be forever grateful for those wise words encouraging us to set aside our anger, forgive past mistakes, and put our child first.

After all, isn’t that what the holidays are really about?

 

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Moving and Shaking at Christmas

This year, my husband and I spent the last few days and hours before Christmas moving from our home of the last three years to a new home less than a mile away. I know, I know. Moving at Christmastime isn’t the brightest thing we’ve ever done, especially since we were not planning on moving until May. But the home we have had our eye on came on the market over Thanksgiving and so we swooped in and grabbed it, even though it would mean we had to move over the Christmas holidays.

“How bad could it be?” we thought.

You’d think this would be a simple process, however, I can assure you IT WAS NOT.

We expected it would take the movers four to five hours to move us. Nope. It took almost nine hours. And they still didn’t get it all. When we realized after the five hours passed that we still had at least a third left in the house to move, and we were already wayyyyyy over our moving budget, we asked them to just start throwing boxes in the truck and then into our new basement. It started to look like a game of “Hot Potato” as they picked up the pace. So far, I haven’t found anything broken where they dropped the potato.

To top off the fun, the temperature was a chilly 37 degrees and since the doors had to stay open for the movers to get in and out of the house, we turned off the heat and I piled on the clothes. I looked like the kid from “Christmas Story.” For those of you who know me, I’m usually still wearing a light sweater in 80 degree weather. I was praying for a peri-menopause hot flash but just like when you take your car to the mechanic and it works perfectly, my body decided that I didn’t need a hot flash at that moment.

So I froze.

The movers eventually left and all I could think of was how bad I needed a nice warm shower. My muscles were achy, my core was frozen and my armpits smelled like I had never heard of deodorant.

But apparently that was not in the divine plan. In all of the moving craziness, we had not lit the pilot light in the gas water heater nor did we have any idea how to do it. Thankfully, Heaven sent us our angelic handyman to come by at 9 P.M. to light the water heater. (It could have been the pitiful phone call that I placed to him begging him to help us out. I might have also let out a small sob which could have been his deciding factor).

Regardless, three hours later I got my hot shower.

We unpacked for the next two days and finally got our Christmas tree up at 1 A.M. Christmas Eve since my step-kids were coming home mid-day on Christmas. photo(40)

And believe it or not, by the time my in-laws came over that evening for Christmas dinner, we had the house looking like we had been living in it for months instead of days.

The moral of the story is that with some determination, you can make something good out of difficult situations. (Having muscular men around to lift the heavy items doesn’t hurt.)

Now my days are being filled with changing out light fixtures, painting rooms, hanging pictures, putting away pots and pans, dishes and clothes. And the Angry Birds band-aids that I have on five of my fingers indicate my dedication to getting this house in order.

Maybe I’ll be completely finished unpacking by the Spring.

Because then it will be time to work in the yard and plant my garden!

Careful How You Hang Those Christmas Lights

In the South, you can always tell that Christmas is getting closer simply by the noticing the amount of Christmas lights on people’s homes that are actually turned ON, not just the ones that are usually left hanging on the house year round.

My husband and I were taking the kids and my in-laws to Lake Lanier Islands to see the “Night of Lights”, where you drive in your car, turn your radio to a certain station to hear coordinated Christmas songs, and watch the amazing light display that Lake Lanier is famous for.

We were all in the car, laughing and talking about the upcoming holidays, when we drove by a few houses that had lights all over, and several of those blow up decorations including Yoda decked out in a Santa suit and elves riding on a see-saw. (It’s just not Christmas without seeing something like that.) Multi-colored lights were thrown up in the trees; the owners clearly hoping for a beautiful, artsy effect with minimal effort.

As we drove by another display, however, our SUV to come to a screeching halt.

My husband and I saw it first. We looked at each other, kind of in shock. I choked on my diet Coke. He screamed out “Oh My God did you see that???”

My in-laws thought we had run over a small animal. They asked what was wrong so we did a U-turn in the middle of the road, drove 100 feet back down the road and did another U-turn.

Then, this is the display we saw:

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Okay, so I can reasonably imagine that you are having the same reaction that we did. (Thankfully, the kids just saw colorful Christmas lights through their virgin eyes and they just thought we were laughing at how pretty the lights were).

Was this a joke?

Nope.

This was simply a too-many-Budweisers-Christmas-light-throwing-in-the-tree blooper. To add to the visual enjoyment, the limbs were swaying in a light breeze giving it a nice life-like effect.

So people, please, if you are going to hang Christmas lights by randomly tossing them into the trees, do a quick drive by, so that people don’t think your home is a brothel.

But I must say that the entertainment value was priceless….and a year later, we are still laughing about it.