This will be the first Christmas EVER without my daughters. When you get divorced and your children are split in two, you know this dreaded day will come eventually. It’s like April 15th in December. Looking back, I’ve been blessed with 12 wonder-filled Christmas mornings, over a decade of giddy dawns. It’s been magical. I’ve had a good run. But this year, it’s my ex’s turn to experience all that.
I’ll miss the little things: The frosted cookies on a plate with a note to Santa; the frenzied, last-minute gift-wrapping; getting up before dawn to wait by the lighted tree, hot tea in hand, camera at the ready; and then that Kodak moment, the look of pure joy, mouths forming perfect ‘O’s’ as my sleepy children get their first look at Santa’s handiwork.
Yes, I’ll be alone on Christmas morning. But woe is NOT me, for I have been given the gift of perspective; an epiphany that, like the symbolism of Christmas itself, has come in the form of a newborn baby. Her name is Emilie. She’s sweet and beautiful…and lying in the intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, tubes as long as she is coming out of her in every direction. Emilie was born with a defect that prompted surgery three days into her fragile life. Her parents – my neighbors – are, understandably, on pins and needles. While the prognosis is good, and there’s every reason to believe that Emilie will wake up Christmas morning in her own home, still . . . I worry. I pray. And I count my blessings.
Certainly, I’ll miss my kids on Christmas morning. But there are much bigger heartaches, one being played out just a few houses over. As divorced parents, we need to look at the overall picture. It really doesn’t matter which custodial parent’s home your children wake up in on December 25. What’s most important is that they are alive, in good health and loved year-round.
So what do I plan to do, all alone, on that calendar day we call “Christmas?” Something I don’t do often enough: RELAX. I’ll sleep in, enjoy a long, uninterrupted cup of tea (what is THAT?) while watching the twinkling lights of my tree and start a new book. I can hardly wait.
About mid-morning, when I know my kids have ripped into all those gifts at their dad’s house, I’ll call to say “Merry Christmas” and let them know a similar scenario awaits their return.
And more than a few times, I will glance through the window, toward my neighbors’ house and try to imagine the joy unfolding as Emilie celebrates her very first Christmas with a family so grateful to have her home.
Christmas is about celebrating the life of children. And thanks to one precious baby, I’ll be singing a different tune this year… “Four calling birds, three French hens, two healthy children and a heart filled with love and gratitude for my bounty year-round.”
Written in 2006 by Contributing Editor Lynn Armitage, but worth another reminder.
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