When you’re a child of divorce, holidays can be rough. There’s always the big question: with which parent do you spend Christmas? This can lead to awkward situations.
For me, they handled it thusly: my dad and I would go to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving. As dad and I lived in a small apartment, and my brother had a large extended family, it made more sense than did everyone coming to our place.
We’d drive down in the morning, sometimes even the night before, and then celebrate the day with them. It was a traditional day. We’d watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, get the table set, help with the cooking and then chow down on a truly HUGE meal. My sister-in-law is an incredible cook, and she’d fill that table with all manner of delicious foods. I did pass on the marshmallows and yams, just not my dish. Once we’d digested at least a portion of our meal, and downed a couple cups of coffee to keep us awake, we’d head home.
Then Christmas would arrive. For that, my mom and I would repeat the process. Again, sometimes we’d go down the night before, which was usually a big help to my brother and his wife. Getting the gifts out of hiding and arranging everything around the tree was often a big job. Having a young fellow like me around to help with the heavy lifting was a definite plus. Then, come the morning. We opened our gifts and enjoyed ourselves. Yet, there was always a slight pang of regret at dad not being there.
Then there was one very special year. Dad finally agreed to come along to be with the entire family for the holiday. I was a bit dubious about the whole thing, but he’d been showing some real improvements over the years, and I was hopeful that the day could pass without incident.
As with other years, mom and I went down the day before, and then dad came down that morning. I think I actually held my breath as he drove into the yard. He and mom exchanged a simple greeting, and then he joined in the festivities. As we had already opened all of our gifts, dad was center stage, and he was like the proverbial kid in a candy store. It gladdened my heart to see him so happy.
Dinner was fantastic, and then we posed for a big family picture out by the pool. I still have that photo; it’s one of my favorites. Later, as we relaxed in the living room, dad sat back in the recliner chair and spoke to my mother of what a wonderful family they had. That image: my father in the chair, her standing before him, smiles on their faces, burned into my memory as one of perhaps the best Christmases ever.
After that, holidays became a lot more fun for the whole family. We never had another Christmas where we were all able to get together, as such a big group. The kids were getting older, I was off at college, some of us spent time with other family or friends and thus a situation just like that one special Christmas did not come again.
While I felt a slight regret, at that, and still do to this day, I will always cherish the memory of that Christmas.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.