This is my second divorced Christmas and I’m asking myself when, if ever, a new family tradition will emerge. Right now, the holiday season feels as mysterious as a shiny wrapped gift lodged at the bottom of Santa’s bag. I can’t even see the shape of the box, give it a shake or puzzle over its heft. Or maybe it’s worse than that. Maybe my life is one of those office parties where you don’t even bother to draw names and instead have a “white elephant” gift exchange and for all I know from now on each Christmas and New Years will unfold without enough planning, without enough meaning for me or my children to want to keep what we have invented for the next year's celebrations.
It’s these occasions that draw families together that make me wonder what was so wrong with my family that my husband left us for someone else. I know he hasn’t actually divorced our daughters, but that’s the way it feels to me because we weren’t just a couple with children, we were “us.” The four of us. An entity that looked out from the homemade photo on our family Christmas card with hearts conjoined. Something greater than the sum of its parts. That us is as gone as if we’ve been photo-shopped out of existence and now there’s no one there posed in front of the mantle or the tree or the poinsettias or the wreathed front door. The four of us are gone. And I am, one year and five months later, still grieving the loss.
What was wrong with going to Mass and singing Christmas Carols on Christmas Eve with the night just cold enough to make us remember the Midwestern childhoods my husband and I spent growing up with our own families? What was wrong with our dinner out at our favorite restaurant watching the glow of one another’s faces in the candlelight and then going home to light the fire and open presents?Okay, I admit it--there were things that were wrong and we knew it, but still we were us. Our family struggling through some of that togetherness--together. And I miss it. Imperfections and all.