From Now On Our Troubles Will Be Miles Away


I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want… real estate.

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Minus one.

The Christmas tree is up. No lights or ornaments yet. I promised my five-year-old son I’d wait for him. He’ll be here later today.

I decorated my house for Christmas alone yesterday. My first holiday season as a single, divorced father.

The most-interesting and occasionally unpleasant thing about my new life is how emotions creep up and surprise me.

I wasn’t so naïve as to believe I’d be unaffected by the experience of going through boxes of holiday décor to see what I would set out versus what I will deliver to my ex-wife this afternoon.

But, damn.

I was really surprised by what my insides did.

Through the Years, We All Will Be Together

I opened a small tin.

There were many ornaments from her childhood. I closed it.

I picked up her stocking, her name stitched across the top. It has an angel on it. She loves angels. Has an entire Christmas tree dedicated to them every year. I folded it and put it back.

I went through a phase as a college student and young adult where I didn’t really make a big deal out of Christmas.

But it truly was a magical time of year for me as a child.

And as an adult—particularly as a father—I found myself softening up and gravitating back toward all of the goodness I’d always associated with the season of Christmas.

I even started listening to Christmas music again after avoiding it for several years.

These changes took place in large part because of my ex-wife. That girl oozes Christmas this time of year.

“This place looks like someone vomited Christmas EVERYWHERE. I love it!” said a former co-worker about my house when attending my ex-wife’s birthday party two years ago.

We had kicked around the idea of starting a new tradition where we had an open house party every Christmas evening. After the presents have been opened. All businesses closed. Maybe people would feel like getting out and drinking eggnog with us.

I always thought that sounded like fun.

If the Fates Allow

My last really nice memory with my ex-wife was this past Christmas.

Just the three of us and her brother’s family of three at her mother’s house.

I knew we were in enormous trouble.

But the spirit of the season poked through. It’s the last time it felt like family.

We had friends at our place for New Year’s. The clock struck midnight. I leaned down and kissed her cheek.

“This is the year everything gets better. 2013’s gonna be the best one yet,” I promised her.

“I hope so,” she said.

Faithful friends who are dear to us, gathered near to us once more.

We celebrated with fake smiles and sparkling wine.

But in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2013, we went to our separate bedrooms, starting the year just as it will end.

Thinking about Christmas paralyzes me. Because it matters again.

But I can’t run from any of it. There’s nowhere to hide.

Opening gifts and eating turkey with my family back in my hometown? Hours away from my son?

Staying home? Alone?

Accept my ex-wife’s Christmas invitation?

I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic (for once) but, shit. No. Right?

All of it sounds horrible. And I’m an optimist!

Is it possible to live vicariously enough through your child to overcome the shock from all the changes between last year and now?

Seems like a lot to ask of an oblivious kindergartener.

He’ll pick up an ornament later today.

“Where do you want to put this one, dad?”

I’ll glance over.

It will be the one with a photo of my ex in her wedding dress. Or the one with the bride and groom figurines. Or the one with a pretty ring jutting out of a red jewelry box. Or one of the dozens of ornaments an aunt or uncle had sent to both of us over the years.

Happy golden days of yore.

“Not that one, kiddo.”


“We’re going to give that one to mommy, bud.”


“No, sweetheart. We’re not going to hang that one on the tree this year.”

But we’ll soldier through, my little man and I.

Maybe watch a Christmas movie.

And I’ll hang that shining star up on the highest bough. The one being held by the angel who sits atop the tree, watching over the proceedings between now and early January.


The calendar flip.

A simple act. Turning that page. But hopefully a meaningful one.

Hopefully one that delivers the good tidings I falsely promised would come this year.

When our troubles will be out of sight.

But first, we tackle December 25. Together.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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28 thoughts on “From Now On Our Troubles Will Be Miles Away

  1. phoenixasubbie says:

    I wish all three of you a happy, healing holiday season. Who knows what magic it can bring.


  2. Caitlin May says:

    As soon as I saw the title to this post I thought, “Yeah right! WHOSE troubles are miles away? Not mine. BS. BS BS BS BS BS.” And then the anger left me and I thought, “I should probably just read his post. It’s probably funny.” I was wrong. You punched me in the gut with matched feelings regarding my own measly Christmas by myself. I didn’t bring anything Christmas with me when I moved, except my stocking and two hand-towels. I don’t even have my tree. I bought one Christmas decoration this year, and that it. It’s lonely over here, too. Enjoy your son, and the blessings that will seep through the cracks and surprise us both this year.


    • Matt says:

      Thank you. Good luck, miss. They won’t all be like this. Another rung on the ladder.

      I hope you’re having a good afternoon.


      • Caitlin May says:

        I can’t wait for 2013 to be over. It’s one ladder-rung I’d rather just burn.

        My afternoon is fantastic. Reading and writing = heaven. It’s cold here so I’m about to make some hot tea and crawl under the covers with my book.


  3. mel says:

    remember the hope. you are an optimist.


  4. Jen says:

    Get out of the house, out of your head and outside there with your son – skate, drive around and look at lights, if you live near mountains all the better, make a calendar of all the Christmas things you guys can do, follow everything up with hot chocolate. Fresh air, twinkling lights, so so good for the soul.

    My Dad made his own Christmas Eve tradition for my brother and I and we both remember those days of just us and him very fondly. Now he is remarried and we have a massive blended family, but we still crave those quiet magical times.


  5. You’re going into it with a healthy perspective. — Knowing it will be tough but determined to make a fresh start of it. Make a point of coming up with new traditions to replace the ones you have to leave behind.

    I told my ex I wanted a divorce on December 12. (I shall pause, while the significance of that timing sinks in… Talk about your Grinch!) The last thing we did as a family before my big announcement was to go pick out a Christmas tree. We limped through that Christmas all together– because he hadn`t even had a chance to move out yet– but the following year we had to set about re-inventing the holiday. I even managed to exorcise my tree-shopping demons by hauling the kids out to a tree farm to cut our own for a few years.

    And each year is a little different. Last year my 19-year old opted to cook steaks for her dad and watch Star Trek with him in her own tiny apartment in lieu of my extended family`s traditional turkey extravaganza. And that was ok.


    • Matt says:

      I hadn’t spent much time thinking about the holidays.

      I’m really surprised by how much I care. But yes. New traditions will form. In due time.

      Thank you for sharing your stories.


  6. I found today’s post to be incredibly sad. It makes me glad that I was raised in another faith that does not celebrate Christmas. Now I am married to a Christian wife, and I celebrate the holiday with her family. So much easier to go from nothing to everything than from everything to nothing.


    • Matt says:

      There are people in this world who might suggest that if I make my focus this holiday season on the spiritual significance of the occasion, I will have a much easier time dealing with the more superficial aspects of Christmas.

      Not an unwise thought.


  7. This will be my last Christmas with my family intact. What a strange thing to realize that yet here I am. Things will go well enough with laughs, smiles on the faces of our kids. We will even exchange gifts as a married couple but I will think on that day how that will never happen again. We will never wake up on Christmas morning as a family and open gifts again. She’s robbing me of that opportunity.


    • Matt says:

      I’m sorry that you have to head into the holidays knowing this. And I’m sorry that a year from now, you’ll be feeling some of the same things I am now.

      This world is not fair.

      But it can still be joyful. And it will be for you too. I hope you can find a way to sear some good feelings from these coming days into your heart and mind and always keep them close.


  8. Aussa Lorens says:

    It’s half past noon, how am I supposed to explain the fact that I am sitting here crying? Okay– you are not allowed to stop writing, like you cheekily threatened on my blog. You express yourself so well and I imagine it’s somewhat healing to just bleed all these words out onto the page. I am so so sorry for the year you’ve had and the difficulty you face in the coming Christmas season. I’ve had so many shitty holidays, it can seem like such a mockery to have all that joy thrown in your face. But I do hope that you and your son will have some special and meaningful moments… I think you will. And I think that flipping the 2013 calendar shut will be a cathartic moment for a lot of us.


  9. Beautifully written Matt. I can relate on so many small levels, but enough to feel connected for even a few minutes of my day. Thank you for that. I have prayers in my heart for everyone who had a rough year this year. 2014 will be so much better than 2013. I can *almost* promise that. Hugs your way xx


    • Matt says:

      Thank you. :)

      I have much for which to feel grateful and always feel guilty when I write these sappy feeling-sorry-for-myself posts.

      But I appreciate you reading them. I know no other way than to simply write what’s on my mind in a given moment.


  10. Reading your blog is ripping my heart out, it’s so raw. So many of my own divorce and immediate post divorce emotions are bubbling up. You are an amazing writer.


    • Matt says:

      Got me blushing over here.

      Amazing is a strong word. Don’t deserve it. But I appreciate you for checking this stuff out. It’s not for everyone.

      I’m so sorry you’ve been through this. It’s been a wild six months of writing. I’ve tried to keep it as real as I possibly can.

      I appreciate so much when people feel something.

      Thank you.


  11. This. This post is exactly why I wanted to go back and reread from the start. This post is almost two years old and I know you aren’t really here anymore. Nonetheless, my heart just sank into my stomach. Dang it, Matt. You are such a good writer.


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