Today I sent out Christmas cards.

This may not seem like a big thing to you, but to me it is monumental. There was a time in my life where I was the Queen of Christmas – where I had my Christmas letter written, printed, folded and sent by the day after Thanksgiving. My house used to be decorated from top to bottom – from Christmas bedspread and shower curtain, to everyday Christmas dishes and wall hangings and a light up Christmas village on the top of the piano. Every room in my house reflected holiday goodwill – and even though I was in an unhappy marriage – I found happiness in the lights and music of the season.

2 years ago, when I broke up with my long term boyfriend, I couldn’t even fathom decorating for Christmas. But a dear friend promised to help, and with a tank full of gas and some fresh deposited debit cards, we went on a shopping spree to deck the halls. She and her husband hung lights on the front of the house, she superglued and pasted and primped and prodded until my house reflected the good cheer my heart wasn’t quite ready to embrace yet.

Last year, I thought I was ready to reclaim Christmas for myself. I went so far as to write the Christmas letter and ask my friends and relatives for their updated addresses, but then it all fell apart. The lovely decorations my friend had bought the year before stayed in their carefully packed crates. I tried to get motivated, but I wasn’t there yet. I did get out there – my friends invited me to participate in their festivities and I gladly went along and enjoyed the good cheer with them. I even bought a small Christmas tree finally and presents for friends.

This year has been different. You won’t find a Christmas bedspread or shower curtain in my house, but the Christmas spirit started in my heart earlier. SH and I are celebrating our first Christmas together, and it has been fun. We’ve gone for fun drives to see Christmas lights throughout the neighborhoods. SH pulled out the boxes of crates, and I discovered a box from my Queen of Christmas days with enough lights to triple our power bill. At first, I was overwhelmed by the stuff I saw. However, it was easy to let go of most of it and just keep the few things that were happy memories and incorporate them with stuff my friend helped me buy 2 years ago, and new stuff SH and I bought together.

I think that has been the difference. The togetherness. As I look around my house now – it doesn’t look like Martha Stewart or HGTV. There are little touches of Christmas here and there – but more than that – everything is stuff we did together – from the hanging of the ornaments on our little Christmas tree – to the wooden and metal ornaments we hung on the big tree in the front yard – to the silly solar snowmen that blink on the front walk – and the rubber Santa duck in the bathroom – it’s not just Christmas – it’s memories of us together working on it.

The Christmas letter I wrote this year was mostly my story – next year, it will be ours. We sat in front of the TV last night, watching holiday cooking shows and folding and addressing and stamping and licking, and together we got them done. When I dropped them in to the big blue mailbox at work and saw them slide inside and heard the lid clang closed, I felt triumphant. This year the Christmas cheer I feel is not something outside seeping in – it is something inside bubbling out.


The Unwrapped Present

Dodger and I had been dating about a month – we started the day after Thanksgiving. We had moved quickly – the adrenalin rush of a new crush that felt like champagne bubbles in your brain.

I had met his parents, even slept each weekend in his parents’ guest room (he was slightly old-fashioned, but they lived next door – so no major travel issues). He texted and called several times – wanting to be part of everything in my world.

Dodger had a small son, and was strapped for cash, so I had pulled in some favors and raided the prize closet at the radio station where I worked and was able to get some great gifts for him to give including a Phat poster that cost over $100 and some video games. His son was coming for 2 weeks to visit, so I knew our time together would be limited.

My mother went back to New England for Christmas, but I had to work, so I was going to be alone for Christmas. Dodge promised to come down after church on Sunday and would stay with me through Christmas Eve Monday.

I took my time and made a special dinner – and had it ready for the normal time he would arrive. I wrapped up some extra presents I had bought for Dodger – hand-picked out because money was tight, and I had shopped carefully to stretch my funds.

He arrived 3 hours late with no apologies, and I did my best to re-heat the now cold and soggy meal. He crashed in the middle of my queen-sized bed leaving me balancing precariously on the edge – over it in fact, as the rolled edge of the mattress made an angry red indent up the side of my body.

I woke up early and made eggs and pancakes and sausages, which he sniffed suspiciously. His eyes only lit up when I brought out the presents. I gave him first the gifts for his son. He looked at each one greedily, but seemed disappointed when they stopped coming. Then I gave him the 3 gifts I could get for him. One was a DVD he had said he wanted, and said “I’ll wait and watch this with my son!” – the next 2 he asked if he could return for something else for his son. I told him where I got them (he was annoyed I had not kept the receipts) and then he got dressed and got ready to leave.

I was surprised. “I thought we were going to spend the day together? Your son isn’t coming until tonight and you arrived so late yesterday . . .”

He made no apologies. “Sorry, babe – it’s Christmas Eve and I’ve got so much to do, I just can’t stay.”

Then he was gone and I was alone. It was only after he left and I was cleaning up the dishes that I realized he hadn’t even gotten me a card or said thank you. The evening was quiet – I drank a little wine, watched a little TV, killed some monsters online. I went to bed alone and awoke to a quiet house.

Fortunately, my job that year involved meeting the radio and TV crews as we handed a needy family a check for $1,000 dollars. It kind of put everything in perspective. As I drove home, I thought back on what I had and didn’t have; what I did and didn’t need. I sat down and re-read the list I had made of what I wanted in a relationship. It was like knowing who is naughty or nice. My decision was easy.

Two days later he called me. “Hey Babe . . .” he began.

I stopped him, and thanked him for the present he gave me. He was very confused. “I want to thank you – I was a little blinded at first, but I’ve realized you are just not what I need.”

“Are you. . . “He stuttered. “Are you breaking up with me?”

I thanked him again, and assured him that I was. He was dumbfounded.

I’ll call you in a few days after you have thought this over,” he informed me.

Sliced bread, meet Dodger.

He did call, a few days before New Year’s. I assured him I was starting the New Year as a free agent, and after he made sure I knew what I was doing a few times, he hung up.

I later found out that he had a date the next day, and that they did the same whirlwind courtship. In fact, he was a serial dater. I think he was an adrenalin junkie, in it for the rush, but not the long haul.

It would be nice to say that soon after breaking up with Dodger, I met the man of my dreams. I didn’t. I did eventually meet someone that brought out some of the best in me, and lead me to the path where I am today. Had I not broken up with Dodger, I would have missed some amazing steps in my journey. Sometimes reality is a great present – and no one even had to wrap it.