Monday, December 24, 2012

Train Crashes into Iceberg

I'm not sure when my personal Polar Express derailed. The train wreck was already unfolding long before the end of my marriage. In the decade before we had children, The Someone and I frequently traveled back to the Midwest to spend the holidays with family. The year that our second child was born delivered the coldest Iowa winter on record. The airlines lost the children's car seats, our winter coats, and all our luggage. It was days before I had anything to wear besides my brother's sweatpants, and The Someone complained for years that the muscle cramps in his back were due to being underdressed while pulling our three-year-old on a sled. But it was probably carrying our hatless, coatless baby inside my shirt from the airport door to the curb and into my brother's drafty truck in sub-zero weather that convinced us we should to create our own Christmas traditions in Los Angeles.

Other than the gingerbread house baked from scratch and the sugar cookies, not much stuck to the free- floating iceberg of our lives away from family. There were a couple years of dad and daughter forays to choose a Christmas tree, several years of big festive dinners with friends. There were a few years at the same favorite restaurant for Christmas Eve dinner A few years of a Christmas carol Mass at the church The Someone attended--for which we routinely forgot to bring the de rigueur gift for needy children. Some years I cooked salmon. Some years I have no idea what we ate. Gifts for our children figured quite prominently into the celebration when they were younger, but The Someone and I never shopped together for them--or even discussed what they might like--that I can recall. Our 1950s division of labor required that I tend to those sorts of errands while he made the money. We bought gifts for one another, of course--in the early years before children, quite lovely sentimental things. Later when there was money he bought me diamond earrings, pearls, a beautiful outfit, or a cashmere sweater. But, in the later years, as the pressures at work pulled The Someone away from us for more and more hours, as our appetites for everything diminished, as our marriage lodged into some kind of permanent solstice, Christmas seemed like a charade.

My gifts from The Someone became more and more impersonal, and the things I chose for him never quite hit the mark. Books remained unread, a scarf stayed in its box, the whimsical choice of a 6 ft. tall farm windmill never went to his office as I thought it might. The daughters stockings were filled with the same lip balm, the same lotions--until we did away with gift-giving all together. No one in our house really needed anything, and if there was something Mr. Ex and I wanted, well, those desires went undetected on our personal radar.

I had my chance to reinvent Christmas when the marriage ended, but I didn't. The daughters were pretty much grown--and Thanksgiving is our day for gathering together. As my son's birthmother, while I'm not regarded by him as superfluous, I am wary of elbowing into the traditions created by the parents who raised him. So each year has been different since 2007. Hawaii, St. Paul, home--which has, itself, changed again this year. The man who loves me and I don't make a big deal out of Christmas either. We'll eat dinner at my place with my mother tonight, and tomorrow he'll go off to his sister's place. But I'm searching for something. Not religion. Not material things. Just something, or some place, or a purpose I can look forward to during the darkest week of the year.


Elizabeth said...

For whatever it's worth, I find great comfort in this beautiful post -- this beautiful, naked writing -- a relief, a balm, a solace in this season of absurd expectation. Thank you, Denise. And may your days be merry and bright.

ain't for city gals said...

I know exactly what you year Iam going to LaPosada at Winslow Az and just be...a glorious but simple place.

NOLA said...

Yes, oh yes. Hated Christmas as a child, hate it now. But I'd like to replace that negative feeling with something positive.

This year I'd hoped to be kayaking off Baja. It was a brilliant plan that fell apart with realities, sadly. Next year I must make something like that happen.

And ... Winslow AZ? Dear Commenter, you just completely shifted my axis of reality. I was stuck in Winslow, AZ for two weeks when my car engine blew up and the mechanic was less than stellar. I have always remembered it as the worst place on the planet (and I've been a lot of bad places), but I realize now it's because I was stuck right off the freeway and there is a side to Winslow that is not the seediest place ever.

Ms. Moon said...

I decided this afternoon that I would rather cut off my arm than spend another christmas day (I am thenceforth never capitalizing that word again) at home.
It was all fine until the afternoon of the day.
Wounds cut on christmas never ever really heal, do they?

Allison said...

Amen. I refer to it as the season of unfulfilled expectations.

Anonymous said...

I would like a Christmas tradition as well, besides the one that leaves me feeling used up and tired beyond belief. I spent the day with Miss Katie and my mum, both of whom suck the life out of people, not because they mean to but because of their enormous needs. One Christmas day I would like to do nothing for anyone, although I'd probably bitch about that too:)

I need to get outside. It's been so cold here that I don't want to be outside but I need fresh air and trees.

I'm rambling now. Take care woman.

Anonymous said...

Reading this post caused me to feel a near-anxiety attack. I'm living that right now. On the final threads of a marraige, no traditions for the past to carry forward, no real desire to anyway. I need something. Something more. A connection. A time of relaxation. Something to make these last days of the year become something more than pure dreadful days.

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Andrea said...

This is a sad story but, like Elizabeth, I find comfort in it too. Maybe because it's so honest. This happens.
And I was lightened by the post following it, even the blurry photograph (so similar to the ones my mother takes - really, they could be of anybody).
I hope you find the place or the purpose (or both) that carry you through.