Christmas is coming, I’m sure you’ve noticed, and bringing with it all the best (and worst) of its traditions. It’s a complicated time of year for those whose marriages have recently faltered, and a common dilemma among my newly separated and divorced friends is “what the hell do we do about the Christmas cards????” For me, the problem is intensified by the fact that for the past 7 years I’ve written a Christmas letter to update family and friends on all the goings-on of the year – I’m a Midwesterner after all. So NOW what should I write? “The highlight of the year for us was that our marriage ended. And Merry Christmas to you!” It’s all a bit awkward. I solved the issue by focusing only on the kids, but here’s the letter I was tempted to write…
Dear Family & Friends,
Happy Holidays! It’s been quite a year for us! We didn’t go on an African safari, and no one in our family has won the state chess championship, but none-the-less we’ve had a host of experiences that most of you cannot even imagine. I know this because whenever I tell someone about what we’ve been up to their response is invariably “I cannot imagine.”
2011 represents the first full year since the end of our marriage. You did know our marriage was over, didn’t you? If not, don’t feel bad, I can see how there might be some confusion – after all we didn’t send out announcements, and the fact that we still live together makes the whole thing a bit difficult to decipher from the outside. But we have, indeed, decided to call it quits. And yes, it’s quite sad, but we’re all doing pretty ok.
As for the experiences I alluded to, they mostly revolve around our efforts to keep our family together despite our break-up. I will not write here about meeting his girlfriend for the first time over drinks, or the pink razor that got left in my shower. I’ve already told those stories. But here are a few other highlights from the past year that will give you a bit of insight into life in our household.
My mother-in-law came to stay for a week and we kicked off the visit right away with dinner at a Mexican restaurant. And by “we” I mean my mother-in-law, her husband, my baby boy and baby girl, my ex, his girlfriend, and myself. The week proceeded with a series of meals at home, which were variously prepared by different combinations of me, my mother-in-law, my ex, and his girlfriend. One particular meal I recall noting that the girlfriend had cooked, and while my ex and his Mom reminisced and told her stories I had already heard quite a few times (after all we were married for almost 9 years), I made my exit to do the dishes.
Another lively time was the pre-Halloween blizzard that left us without power or heat for four days. Like any other family would do I’m sure, we moved in with my ex’s girlfriend. Five of us (and a dog) in a one bedroom townhouse, with schools closed and the kids underfoot. It seemed to be some kind of test of the new world we’re trying to create, and I am happy to report that I think we all passed, despite my precious children getting maple syrup all over the girlfriend’s cashmere throw.
Thanksgiving was lovely, and we added some friends to the mix — dinner for 15 at our house. He made the turkey, I did cranberries and sweet potatoes, and she baked the pies.
There are so many other things I could tell you about — like my own love life, or the way my baby boy recently asked me if it was okay to tell the girlfriend he loves her, or how my baby girl seems to think any man I talk to for more than 30 seconds is my boyfriend — but maybe I’ll have to write a Valentine’s letter for those updates.
Living so far from so many of you who I love most, I am grateful for this crazy little life we have and a family that is expanding rather than breaking apart.
Wishing you all love and peace this year,