I love Christmas. I love decorating the tree, wrapping presents, seeing the surprise on my kids’ faces when they open their gifts. I bake a gazillion different types of cookies. I don’t always get presents out the door on time, or cards out at all some years, but that’s more a product of a busy life than any lack of spirit.
One of the aspects of the season I love most is Christmas music. I don’t let myself turn it on until December 1st, then I pretty much play it all the time until December 26th. Christmas music generally puts me in an upbeat mood. Who doesn’t love a good rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside? I like the classics sung by the likes of Dean Martin just as much as so-called “alternative Christmas rock.” Jack Johnson’s surfer version of Rudolph is super clever. Who can feel Grinchy when listening to Carol of the Bells?
But this year’s Christmas spirit feels a little forced. While I outwardly cloak myself in proclamations that I’m loving the quiet stress-free-ness of this year’s holiday, it’s clearer and clearer to me that this year I’ll have a blue blue Christmas.
This year, the boys are with their father.
It doesn’t mean I won’t see my little bundles of joy, but they won’t sleep at my house on Christmas Eve. My tree won’t be the one they rush to first upon waking up at an hour that will undoubtedly be unreasonable. The stockings I hung by the chimney with care won’t be the first they pillage.
We have this little Christmas pajamas ritual where everyone gets new pajamas on Christmas Eve to wear to sleep that night. I bought theirs not really thinking that they won’t get worn until December 26th. As a single mom, I buy myself a pair too. Similarly, to maintain the illusion of Santa, I fill my own stocking, usually with beauty products that I am running low on and would have had to replace anyway. But do I bother this year with my pajamas? Do I fill the stockings the night before or wake up Christmas morning and do it. Do I set out cookies and milk and a note? “Dear Santa, the boys aren’t here tonight but take my word for it, they were mostly good this year. Love, Jack and Colin’s Mommy.”
In 2009, the first year I had a Christmas without the boys, my sister Meghann came to DC. Maybe it’s the 15-year age gulf (she’s young enough to be my daughter) or her own overflowing sense of Christmas exuberance, but having her here gave me reason to be full of Christmas cheer. This year, despite the joy I try to project in civilized company, internally I’m a little Ebeneezer Scrooge, a little George Bailey and a lot dreading Saturday night.
I try to tell myself it won’t always be this way. I have confidence that at some point I will have a significant other who will be here to keep my spirits in check (or at least wipe away my tears) even when the boys are not. Or maybe in 2013 – my next Christmas without the boys – I will travel to an exotic destination. But these thoughts of Christmases future won’t soothe as I get through the next 36 hours.
It’ll be me, a log in the fireplace, a bottle of champagne and as many sappy Christmas movies as I can line up. No church, no gourmet dinner, no caroling.
If I am going to lay around all night, I might want those new pajamas after all.