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    A Very Normal Christmas

    What is a ‘normal’ Christmas anyways?

    Perhaps 2018 was my last ‘normal’ Christmas. My daughter was 3 that year. We baked cookies. We sat out the empty bag for Santa. I rocked her to sleep. Santa brought her a dollhouse – custom painted to look like OUR house. Funny how talented that Santa bloke is. I made my from-scratch cinnamon rolls the next morning and ate them with my husband as we watched our daughter delight in the general merriment.

    In contrast, 2019 was anything but normal. My husband had left me in July, so we split our daughter’s Christmas day in two King Solomon style. He handed me a bottle of red in a holiday bag when he picked her up at noon. I was bitter and hurt so I refused the gesture, closed the door behind them, and cried.

    My luck (nor anyone’s) improved in 2020. My first ever Christmas Eve and morning in a new-to me home was spent alone. Without my daughter. Without anyone. There was a pandemic. Family remained unvaccinated. Madness, chaos, and despair seem to rule the day. I cried all of Christmas Eve and most of Christmas morning; but my girl came home at noon. She helped me find my smile because despite it all, she still was able to delight in the general merriment of it all.

    On Christmas Eve in 2021, my neighbor got drunk and told me that my ex-husband had never loved me. Why else would he have left me? Stung is an understatement. Surely, that will never count as normal. But I tried. I baked cinnamon rolls but my daughter wouldn’t eat them. And then at noon the dreaded switch-over came. I had pre-planned though and promptly departed for the airport to escape the loneliness. I visited my best friend in Portland. She broke my heart two weeks later; and perhaps I broke hers. Nevertheless, I cried that year.

    I didn’t bake my from-scratch rolls in 2022. In fact, I didn’t do much of anything in 2022 to be honest; unless you count surviving. I think surviving is supposed to count. It was a lonely Christmas Eve. A quiet Christmas morning. And though my heart lightened somewhat when my baby came home, I couldn’t shake the heaviness and a post-Christmas day trip to see my extended family somehow left me lonelier, and with more tears, than before. I refuse to believe that 2022 was my new normal.

    But I could see this year being a real contender for my new normal. By most accounts, it was a wonderful (half) holiday. Despite my hectic work schedule, my now 8-year old daughter and I delighted in each other’s company for the first 10 days of the break. We laughed. We played. We talked. And then last night (Christmas Eve), we watched The Muppet’s Christmas Carol and made cookies that didn’t look like cookies and made last minute preparations for Santa. Then this morning, I watched her pull Santa’s gifts from the same bag that once… a long time ago, held that beloved, custom dollhouse.

    Like a portal to another world, today it produced a custom crocheted doll of Ramona Flowers. A last minute Wish List addition, but Santa magically manages to pull through even on those tough requests, doesn’t he? We played some Mario Bros. and nearly an entire game of Doctor Who Monopoly (She lasted longer than I predicted, and had more cash on hand when she threw in the towel). She even ate my from-scratch cinnamon rolls with me and told me that they were the best cinnamon rolls she had ever tasted. My heart was full.

    Then noon came and so did he. I handed him a gift (for their family of three from… me), along with cookies and a few of those from-scratch cinnamon rolls that he used to love. A gesture, of course, but one sincerely sent. Along with my child. He got her as well I suppose; undoubtedly more appreciated than the gift — as it should be. But not before I hugged her a million times; trying to savor her presence just a moment longer before relinquishing it. And like that, it was his turn to make the most of a half holiday. So she waved goodbye and I managed to hold my tears at bay until they rounded the corner.

    It was a good Christmas. It was. It really, really was.
    My best since 2018 without doubt.
    But, does everyone’s Christmas normally involve tears these days, or is that just a hallmark of a single mom’s Christmas day?

    I’m a full-time mom of an 8 year-old, but also a part-time empty nester; It is never harder to forget that fact than during the holidays. The house goes all quiet, but my soul still aches loudly.

    I’ve spent the last few hours daydreaming about my daughter one day being all grown up. A home and family of her own. Perhaps she’ll invite me to delight in her family’s presence from sun up to sun down on Christmas Day. I wonder when that magical day that might be? My first FULL Christmas Day with my daughter since 2018 can’t come soon enough! But I have to believe that it will. And maybe that, one day, IT will be my new normal. If so, I can’t promise will be no tears, but I can assure you they would be tears of joy! ✨

    But perhaps Judy Garland said it best:

    “Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow.
    Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.
    So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

  • Languishing

    But its clear now that I have tried to make a permanent home out of this temporary situation and like a Bear awakening in the Spring, I realize my Languishing Cave cannot sustain me much longer. If I stay, I will eventually starve. My carefully constructed refuge now only offers the illusion of safety. Lingering here too long will bring about my own ruin. And I know it.
    And yet…

    begin again, find peace, give a damn, laugh more, live easy, love hard
    / April 6, 2023
  • Year 35

    A casual observer of my life since my 35th birthday would likely conclude that not much has changed in the…

    live easy
    / November 8, 2022
  • Before 35

    My annual 40-by-40 update is officially six days overdue; I haven’t even started it. It is forthcoming, but considering I…

    begin again, find peace
    / October 24, 2022