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.
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?