Looking back some 25 years, I realize that first Christmas I celebrated alone with my two sons was an important step into a future that wasn’t part of my plan for us.
My boys were very young and the changes in our family situation were still fresh and a little painful for all of us. A decision I had made for my own well-being meant some major adjustments in Christmas — and in life — for my two little guys. But I was determined to make it special and memorable, and my ex-husband was on board with the effort.
I’d already made it through Thanksgiving without my boys because we’d agreed they would be with their Dad for turkey day and with me for Christmas. I don’t think I ate much that first Thanksgiving day without them, as I sat teary-eyed at my parents’ table hoping they were happy and safe.
Our home during this time of transition was an apartment a couple of blocks from my parents’ house. From the day we moved in, I began creating some new family “traditions”.
- I sat on the floor by their bunk beds each night while we read a book together, discussed their day and said prayers.
- Classical music played quietly in their bedroom as they fell asleep.
- We took walks to the nearby school playground nearly every day after I picked them up at the baby-sitter’s.
- Because we now lived much closer to Grandma and Grandpa, weekly visits became part of our routine.
Our new living situation was far from perfect and there are some things I’d do differently if given the chance today.
But moving myself and my sons back to my hometown in time for Christmas was one of the best decisions I made in that crazy, confusing season of our lives. Every night, the boys could see the Christmas lights on the county courthouse from our living room window. They could hear the same church bells chime the hour that I had listened to while growing up. The Santa parade was exciting for them, just as it had been for me and my siblings. I told them stories about what it was like to be a little girl growing up in this village, and we drew closer as a family.
We set up an artificial tree in our new living room and I pulled out the box full of all their favorite ornaments. We played Christmas music and drank hot chocolate and laughed at ourselves and the tiny tree while we “made Christmas” in our new home. Then we played in the snow after dark and walked next door to share brownies with our new neighbors.
It was the only Christmas my boys and I would spend in the little apartment in my hometown. My job and other changes moved us to another community. Within a couple of years, we became part of a new family as I remarried, and soon two more brothers came along to share Christmas with us.
I’m not sure how much my two boys, now young men, remember of that Christmas season that we spent healing in my hometown. It remains for me a bittersweet snippet from a lifetime of Christmases. I remember it as a time when my faith in God and in my own resilience grew. It’s when I knew that, with love and patience and tons of God’s grace, we would be okay.