The following is a GUEST POST written by Colleen Caulfield.
In a tender moment a few nights ago, my 10-year-old son was snuggled up next to me watching television when a Christmas commercial came on. He sighed and then looked up at me only to ask, “Mom, what are you going to do on Christmas Eve?”
I looked down at him, fighting tears, and said, “I’ll be here waiting for you and your brother.”
He softly responds, “But you’ll be alone…” and I, of course, respond, “I’ll be just fine.”
Though I know I won’t be…
At least not just yet.
Then I quickly put that thought out of my mind because bedtime routines were set to begin and lunches had to be made. There was no time on that night to fret the six hours that I began to dread since last Christmas. The hours of 4 pm to 10 pm when my children go with their father and his family. Those are the longest six hours of my life, when I don’t have my children on Christmas Eve. Those six hours when I have no one around on Christmas Eve. When it is me. A bottle of wine. And my dog.
This morning as I was baking cookies and listening to Christmas music with my youngest son, the words came back to me…
“What are you going to do on Christmas Eve…but you’ll be alone…”
In that moment, a wave of sadness, worse than a wave of loneliness hit me. The thought that I will in fact be alone hit me, and hit me hard.
I’ve been divorced since May, and this is the second Christmas that I am celebrating without my ex-husband, and that fact quite honestly (and perhaps sadly) does not bother me. I am fiercely independent, and I have been happier since my divorce than I’ve been in years because I couldn’t put up the façade anymore that I loved my husband when unfortunately I did not, and I hadn’t, for a very long time.
I stayed with him for years because I tried to keep the family in tact and because I told myself that I could be happy with the family I had because of him, this being not only my beautiful children, but also his parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it. I loved them, and I still do, and I was willing, at that time, to look past the fact that I fell out of love with the man I married many years ago just so I could be a part of his family. His wonderful family that was mine…at one time.
You see, what I have a hard time with at the holidays is the family I once had, the family I once shared the holidays with, is no more. They celebrate together, they celebrate with my children, and I sit home…with my bottle of red and my dog, Buster. It is in this moment that I’ve come to realize that this is the ONLY time that I feel truly, absolutely, irrevocably alone.
I miss my children.
I miss my own family, who lives 1 ½ hours away.
And I miss the family I once had.
I do my best during the holiday season to not let those thoughts bother me. I smile, I keep busy with the holiday frenzy, and I focus on the time that I cherish so much with my boys.
But today, as I was making cookies, listening to Frank Sinatra sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” those thoughts crept in…and I couldn’t avoid them. And it showed.
I became flustered, stopped mixing cookies momentarily as I tried to remember which ingredient and how much came next.
I used to embrace the early sight of the Christmas holidays in the stores, the maybe a bit too soon playing of Christmas music on the radio, but truthfully this year, as well as last year, I just wasn’t ready yet. The thought of the six hours without my children, without any family, is too much for even someone as strong as I am to take, on holiday when others spend the night surrounded by loved ones.
“Mom, are you feeling okay?” my ever intuitive and sensitive 10-year-old asked.
Through tears I answer once again, “I’ll be just fine.”
Though I truly don’t know when I will be.
…or if I EVER will be.
…but I suppose I have to be.
I’m just not ready…yet.