I'm having a hard time looking forward to Christmas this year.
I had the flu in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, which culminated in an urgent care visit Thanksgiving Day. (I'm feeling much better, though still not quite 100%.) The boys left that evening for their weekend visitation with their father, and I spent most of those days on the couch with my favorite blanket, watching Netflix.
Normally, I would start getting the Christmas tree up while the leftovers were heating, but I didn't really feel up to it. It would've been nice for the boys to come home to a blank tree, ready for them to decorate.
I seriously debated skipping it altogether.
Physically, I've been exhausted, and dragging the trees (We normally have two.) up the stairs was more than I wanted to manage. But the thought of unwrapping each of the ornaments, of reliving twenty years' worth of memories was really more than I could handle. Seeing each year's picture ornaments, or the ones bought for the boys in the years they were born, made me want to puke.
Last year was my first Christmas without DH since 1992. The separation was fresh and contentious. I cleaned out the ornaments, setting aside the ones that were his or had been gifts from his mother. They did eventually make it out of the house with him.
I clearly remember wrapping the boys' presents in the den floor by the tree, crying my eyes out because I was doing it by myself for the first time ever. He wasn't there to help choose their gifts or argue whether we had spent too much. He just wasn't there anymore.
This year, I couldn't stand the thought of doing it all again.
Of course I didn't tell the boys any of this. They knew I was sick, but they were gone for a second weekend with their dad, so I had time. Tricky, 9, suddenly suggested we have nothing but homemade ornaments this year. Max, 12, readily agreed.
So we have spent the last few days making paper garland and covering cardstock candy canes in glitter glue. We wrapped their few, comparatively meager gifts and put them under the tree. Through it all, they are happy and laughing and hugging each other and me.
I generally wait until they go to bed to cry about how I wish it were different, for me and for them, about how I hate that their lives have been so thoroughly skewed in the last year. The guilt and lament can be overwhelming at times, though the tears make the white lights of the tree sparkle even more.
I know what's important is that we are together and generally happy and generally healthy. But this is not what we promised them. This is not the life they, or I, were expecting.
Somewhere in this, we are finding the beauty in all of the ugly. We are finding ways to enjoy small moments, fully and together, because that is all we can afford. We are finding the joy in each other and in this smaller, modified unit we have created over the last year.
There is miraculous wonder, in that we have survived and in some ways thrived. This year, just to get through the holidays in one, emotionally-healthy piece will be the true miracle.