As I sit in the computer room in the house I grew up in, wearing the Christmas PJ’s that have become a traditional gift over the years, I realize for the first time in a while that appearances can be deceiving. This house looks the same. We have the same white lights on the tree, the same Buckeyes are made every year, and I somehow find slumber in my pepto-bismal pink bedroom, a color upon which I insisted in a 7th grade bout of girlieness. My dog still dances on his hind feet upon my arrival, my Mom still spends too long fixing her hair in the mornings, and I still have a staunch avoidance to putting my clothes anywhere but on my bedroom floor, apparently an inherent behaviour stemming from many days as a teen at this abode. The house looks, smells like Christmas, and we behave accordingly. Except while everything is the same, nothing actually is.
This is my first Christmas with only my Mom. Despite our voices raised in song at Mass and the hugs and the presents and the food – oh! the food – there’s a sadness in our hearts. While the traditions are the same – I open my stocking first and put silly bows on my head while I tear into wrapping paper without abandon – my Dad isn’t here to videotape the event nor to offer his swiss-army knife to break through that pesky tape on all of the boxes. There is no coffee brewing in our kitchen; there are no robes & DVD’s and golf trinkets opened on December 25th, at least not in this house anymore. We get along just fine, you see, yet it’s not the same.
Divorce is all around us. More than 1/2 the marriages end with a dissolution, be it a divorce, separation, annulment. As Sarah mentioned earlier this month, it’s become commonplace to use divorce as a “get out of jail free” card because, well, everyone else is doing it. I hate that this is the case, I hate that children learn that broken homes are commonplace, I hate that people that promised to love & cherish changed their minds, be it a year or two or twenty-seven later. Change is inevitable – this is never as clear to me as this year when very few of my friends are home for the holidays as they’re at their boyfriend’s or fiancee’s or husband’s family’s place in far-away lands – but change in one’s whole being, a change in the core values and traditions that 26-years can instill in you, well, that’s heartbreaking.
I’m wary of marriage; my Mom thinks it’s because I’ve seen one unravel before my very eyes. While I’m sure that has something to do with it, I think I take a pessimist’s view of “happily ever after”, thinking that the fairy-tale is just too good to be true. I hate to think how many people I know have cheated on their boyfriends-now-husbands and their girlfriends-now-wives, with their partner never in the know. If they can do it, after all, who’s to say it’s not going to happen to me?
Christmas is a time to be joyful, a time to count your blessings. I listened to the priest at mass talk about making room for God and people and love in our life, saying that whatever you want won’t come unless you make room in your life for it. Out with the old, in with the new, as the saying goes. And as I hope the message doesn’t extend to husbands and wives and matrimony, I know there’s no scent of coffee brewing as I go downstairs on Christmas morning. And I miss that. I miss what I thought was forever after.