It used to be, the hardest part about Christmas and Hannukah for me was finding that last red Power Ranger. I don’t know who said women were the weaker sex, but they have obviously never seen six tennis moms engaged in hand to hand combat over the last Barbie Dream House in a 100 mile vicinity. I can tell you, I’ve lost many an acrylic nail in the now defunct Toys R Us. For me it wasn’t just a toy store, it was a battle ground.
Still, it was all worth it, seeing that smile on Christmas morning when the rarely- seen-by-the-human-eye yellow Pikachu Game Boy was unwrapped. I would sit there picking the scab on my knuckle grinning victoriously. It was a grueling battle, but I had won.
Another successful holiday season.
Fast forward about fifteen years. I am driving away from my house sobbing so hard I can barely make the turn out of the driveway. Inside are my soon to be ex-husband and my four children, opening gifts and enjoying my infamous Christmas breakfast casserole that they have enjoyed every year since they were old enough for solid food.
That year, I had Christmas morning, he had the afternoon. The judge said I was to leave the family home for two hours so that the father could be with his children on the holiday. It was what was fair, my attorney reported.
“Oh, okay!” I remember shrieking when I got the news. “Now we’re going to be fair?” Because divorce is gut wrenching, life altering, and heart shattering. It is unforgiving and incomprehensible. It is above all, unbearably sad. The one thing divorce is not, is fair.
Driving away that day I thought of our very first holiday as mother and father, our very first trip to that Toys R Us. Walking up and down the aisle, pushing a cart together, we tossed in little stuffed animals and colorful rattles and even a puzzle for our seventh month old daughter who was obviously a genius. For years we had been a married couple, now we were parents and we were in love with our baby and ourselves.
Years passed. There were more children and Christmas’s of Beauty and the Beast play figures and monster heads that spit out slime. There was of course the Barbies, the pirate ship Lego kits and then in later years the sweaters they couldn’t live without or the newest computer games.
“And now,” I remember thinking, “I’m alone in my car on Christmas eating congealed egg casserole off of a paper towel.”
I’ll never get over this, I told myself.
And yet…I did. As will you.
This isn’t a chin up! You got this girl! post. This may be the hardest thing you ever do, moving through the holidays while in the midst of divorce. The key word here is MOVING. You must keep moving minute by minute, day by day, through the process, slogging along. Some days you will skate right through other days you will army crawl on your belly. If you have children you will be dragging them along behind you which in my case was a blessing. Each day I got up, woke them up and made sure they headed off to school. Did I fall back into bed in a sobbing heap once they left? Sure. Did we all live on frozen pizza and Cap’n Crunch for a while? Sure. But it’s okay. We kept moving.
We came through. My ex and I each have significant others now and have enjoyed college graduations, birthdays and other occasions all together. I send them one of my sweet potato pies every Thanksgiving, they send me a bottle of bourbon from my ex’s distillery that sits proudly on our bar. We have come through it.
Of course there will be scars. Divorce will leave a deep and permanent mark. You will always know it’s there but the day will come, I promise you, when it won’t hurt to touch it.
My youngest is 25 now. Here was the text exchange my ex and I shared before Thanksgiving:
ME: Do you have the kids on Thanksgiving or the Friday after this year? I forget.
EX: Friday. You get them for Thanksgiving!
ME: You sure? Because I feel like I had everyone on Thanksgiving last year.
EX: Nope, they’re all yours.
ME: Do you want them for Thanksgiving?
EX: Nah. You enjoy. We are heading to the beach for the day.
ME: I’ve decided to give you full custody.
I never would have believed on that Christmas riding around in my car with my cold piece of egg casserole that we would get to this point. I couldn’t imagine being able to have a civil conversation that didn’t end in the words “Mother _ _ _#@## much less laugh together.
Just keep moving. Some days you’ll just go an inch or so and some days you will cover miles. I know this season is tough. Just remember whether it’s the gleam from the star at the top of the tree or the flicker of the flame of the Hannukah candles, keep moving towards the light.