Although there are times when I am no longer sure of anything related to the past I shared with my former partner, I still believe that we did holidays well. I know that I enjoyed all of the holiday traditions that we created and sustained. I loved sharing them with our son. And Christmas was the best of those traditions. From our yearly selection of an ornament for JT's collection to playing Santa on Christmas Eve, Christmas and the traditions we built were always a wonderful experience for me.
As I unpacked the ornaments and the lights, and all the things that make up Christmas in my home, memories flood back to me. I have memories of how we carefully filled the boxes of JT's advent calendar, memories of filling his stocking together, memories of a present I had specially selected for her. At one time, these were treasured memories that I carefully remembered. But now these memories hurt. Things that once brought me great and unmitigated joy are now fraught with a more complicated set of emotions. When I bought her that lovely, detailed elf shoe ornament that I knew she would love, was she even then plotting her removal from our family? When she took JT out of school for a few days in 2005 to bring him with her to visit her family and I was left behind, assured by her that we had a lifetime of holidays to share, was she experimenting with leaving me? When we selected three new Christmas stockings to hang in our new home, was she even then counting the minutes until I would only need two?
I feel like I was living a lie and didn't even know it. So I unpack my holiday traditions and I feel like a fool. Now I understand why holidays like Christmas are so very difficult for some people. Given the choice, I suppose I would retreat and pretend that December wasn't happening.
But I have a young son and he is enraptured by the joys of the holiday. From the sparkly lights outside to his special ornaments on the Christmas tree, he is charmed by the promise of the season. We spent hours together talking about Santa getting ready to journey the world and bring presents to good little girls and boys. He counts the days on his advent calendar and practices the Christmas songs he has learned at school. He admires the packages under the tree. He can hardly wait.
And so I move forward, participating in our old holiday traditions and building some new ones as well. A friend helped JT to make an advent calendar for me. Each day I get a treat from my son ----- a hug, or help clearing the table. It helps to build new traditions. And I also remind myself that I don't really have a choice; I must play cheerful for a little boy who believes in Santa and all things good. And I want to believe there is a little Santa in all of us. So I try.