Christmas had exploded all over the place. Marvelous gifts. Delicious breakfast treats. Recyclable wrapping paper everywhere.
The chaos ended around 10 a.m., when the boys left to visit their dad’s family and I was alone, save the dog, in my quiet home.
Every single year, I dread this moment. The second the door to the house slams shut as the boys dash out to spend a few hours with their father, a gray stillness covers the house, strangles me with sadness and saps my Christmas spirit.
When your heart is contained in those two teenage bodies that just bounded out the door, it’s hard to be joyful about Christmas.
Oh, to be fair, in my divorce decree I got to choose, and because Christmas Eve was always a bigger deal in my family, I chose to have them every Christmas Eve. Their dad gets them every Christmas Day.
And I know they’re coming back.
It’s just so gray. So still. So quiet when they’re gone.
On a day where Facebook is aflutter with family pictures, full of smiles, tables of delicious nosh, and status updates about football, card games, and one-liners from Elf, I just want to sit on my couch and try not to cry.
The first year, they were gone for over 24 hours. They spent the night with their paternal grandparents. I had a sinus infection and suffered in the dark watching a Law and Order marathon.
The second year, they were gone for over 24 hours. They spent the night with their paternal grandparents. I had takeout Chinese, a bottle of Chardonnay and a lineup of Christmas movies.
By the way, takeout Chinese on Christmas Day in MY town is a disaster. We don’t have a huge population of people who don’t celebrate Christmas, and so the food had been sitting for hours; the fried rice was dry and the dumplings questionable for human consumption.
The third through eighth years were much the same. Different food. Different movies. Same sad state of affairs. Each year (this one was number nine) has been somewhere on the sadness continuum between downright depressing and seriously sad and I didn’t want to subject my dear friends to my one day pity party.
Each year was a little easier to bear. I knew to expect the sadness. I grew to dread it. I didn’t have to like it. But I knew I’d survive it.
This year something shifted.
The boys still left. The door still slammed. The house and my heart slumped into gray and quiet.
But my Christmas has evolved.
This year, I Skyped with my mom, and we opened Christmas gifts together.
I busied myself in the kitchen and prepared my favorite dish of all time — Spaghetti with White Clams (my mother’s recipe), and opened a great bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Did you know that Target sells the most adorable demi-baguette? It’s just the right size for a divorced mother of two who needs some bread with her pasta, but knows that a whole baguette is dangerous caloric territory!
I savored a fabulous book.
I snuggled with the dog.
I watched HGTV without a single teenage eyeroll.
And changed channels during commercial breaks to check out what was on Food Network. The dog didn’t complain.
I gave myself the gift of a few hours.
And before I knew it, they were home. Safe and sound. Warm and wonderful. Right back in the nest where we all belong.
It was indeed the Merriest of Christmases.
I celebrated it.