Tag Archives: Christmas and holiday season

So This is Christmas

I'll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.

I’ll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.

Christmas is less than two days away.

The most-beloved holiday on the Christian calendar. It’s so popular, most of the Jewish people I know celebrate it, too.

I don’t think we should wield the word “magic” too lightly, but that is precisely what so many of us experienced on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning throughout our childhoods.

Do you remember that first Christmas where the magic went away?

Maybe it was whenever you stopped believing in St. Nick’s Christmas Eve rounds. Maybe it was a holiday season spent away from your family. Maybe it was after a great personal loss. Maybe it was after your family went away.

I remember my first one. It was during my last year of college, and I lived far enough away from my family where I had to leave early Christmas Eve to head back to school. On Christmas Day, my job working with special needs people required that I be at a house with mostly strangers helping to prepare Christmas dinner.

It was my first Christmas dating my ex-wife. She was home with her family. I spent Christmas Eve night alone, assembling a large DVD cabinet my parents had given to me.

I spent the day with strangers. We ate turkey and watched The Goonies. We made the best of it.

But Christmas came and went without any of the magic I’d felt my entire life.

By next Christmas, I was living in Florida. That decision murdered Christmas.

I spent that Christmas Day with a handful of new friends I’d met at the newspaper. None of us could afford to fly home to be with our families—or we were on call at the paper in case of a major news event. As the lowest members on the totem pole, some of us had to be available.

I didn’t have a Christmas tree.

We played basketball in 80-degree temperatures.

The magic was gone.

It Found Me Again

Moving back to Ohio returned a bit of magic to the season. While it was my wife’s family and not my own with whom we would celebrate, it was still family. When our son came along five years ago, it further enhanced the holidays.

Even last year, with my marriage on the rocks, Christmas brought us all together. It was—literally—the last time it felt like family with my ex-wife, son and I together.

Then, poof.



Normalcy. Peace. Routine. Tradition. Love. Happiness.

The ever-hopeful voice that lives inside my head still whispered the possibility of unexpected Christmas blessings.

And perhaps they’ll come. I always like to say that there’s no reason to believe today won’t be the day that the best thing that ever happened to you, happens.

But as I sit here staring at the calendar, wondering where all that time went between spring when my life fell apart, and now, when I’m still firmly in wake-up-and-just-try-not-to-die mode, I feel… I’m not sure what.

Not joy. Not peace. Not magic.

But I also don’t feel horrible things.

Not despair. Not dread. Not hopeless.

I’m somewhere in between.

I’ll wake up with my son on Christmas Eve. We’ll have breakfast and I’ll take him to his mom’s.

I’ll spend the day wrapping gifts. Buying odds and ends for a small gathering of friends Christmas Eve night. Once again, a rogue group of people, away from their families, making the best of it.

Things can never be the same.

I don’t get to wake up an excited little boy on Christmas morning ever again. It’s all part of that hourglass sand moving from top to bottom.

I don’t get to wake up with my family. Drinking coffee. Eating pastries. Opening gifts. Watching A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

There’s a fair chance Christmas morning brings with it a slight hangover from too many Christmas ales.

I’ll attend church alone.

I’ll spend the day picking up the pieces from the night before.

Perhaps I’ll listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on repeat for a while, because it’s my favorite Christmas song.

Maybe I’ll watch Elf because laughing is healthy.

Maybe I’ll volunteer at a local shelter.

Maybe I’ll drink alone.

Maybe I’ll cry.

I don’t know.

I just know this is it. My new life.

And I must accept whatever comes. And just… deal.

So this is Christmas.

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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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