The reality of divorce is that you get to walk away from things in your life that aren’t working and make you miserable. Of course you also leave behind the working parts that make you happy.
That largest challenge for me, as I imagine it is for most divorced (ugh, that word still freaks me out…) mothers, is that of sharing my children. Even though they haven’t been children for a number of years, it hasn’t gotten any easier to be away from them for birthdays and holidays. The nature of adulthood dictates that I would be sharing them with their friends and significant others even if I had stayed married, and I had been coming to terms with that. The hard part has been accepting that by virtue of finance and geography, they’d be spending more time with my ex than me.
This is my third holiday season as an unmarried woman, and the third one of not having either of my children with me. The first two Thanksgivings and Christmases were made tolerable by having access to friends and family of my significant other. This year will be the first one spent as a party of two. Don’t get me wrong; on most days there is no one on earth I’d rather be alone with than my guy. But something about not having the distraction of other people to spend time with this year has hit me really hard.
For one thing, cooking a serious holiday meal, something I had done for a large crowd for many years, just feels silly to do for just two. But eating in a restaurant on Thanksgiving? Inconceivable! I ended up compromising by hitting up one of our favorite local restaurants that happened to be featuring takeout packages to cook at home. All the pageantry, none of the shopping, chopping, mashing, hassle, etc. That meant there was really nothing to do but put everything in the oven, leaving me with loads of time to consider the lack of others at my table. So this Thanksgiving morning I got very busy with other things. The dog needed a serious walk, three long neglected closets demanded purging and rearranging, and what the hell, the wine store was oddly open all day, why not supplement my already full stash? Nothing like a little retail therapy to set me right.
Soon enough it was time to cook. Even though the meat and sides were ostensibly ready to go I couldn’t stop myself from augmenting them a bit. The stuffing had been prepared without sautéed celery and sausage? We can fix that! The roasted root vegetables were in large, ungainly hunks? So much better to cut them down to bite sized and perhaps toss them in some melted butter before heating. Who could heat mashed potatoes without adding salt, pepper and a healthy wad of butter? Not me! The gravy, normally a fussed over three-day process, was too depressing to face. Rather than a rich, dark, aromatic bowl of mother’s love, this was a pale, slightly lumpy, gooey mess that had I no fix for. And oh did I get myself in a snit over that. In spite of my best efforts to make myself miserable, the meal was adequate at worst, and if I’d let myself believe it, pretty damn good at best.
In the midst of all the self made drama, was my amazing and slightly confused partner. By his way of thinking, days off from work spent with a woman you love and a goofy little dog were about as good as life gets. And that woman putting together a meal, whether she’d slaved over it or not, was the proverbial gravy on the less than robust mound of mashies. Still, he was most empathetic and very careful with and respectful of my not so festive mood, all while showering me with affection and praise for my version of a most imperfect meal.
By my second glass of spectacular pinot noir, I began to recognize what an ass I was being and decided to turn it around. Yes, both of my sons and their partners were thousands of miles away with their father. And no, there were no other friends or family members sharing our table. But come on now, how many people did I know who had made the kinds of decisions I’d made and were as lucky as I have been that at the way things turned out? A few hours of wallowing in self-pity was one thing, but I had no right to negate all the amazing and wonderful things in my life. So I said to myself, as Cher did to Nicholas Cage in Moonstruck, “SNAP OUT OF IT!”
Life’s too short to focus on what I don’t have. One of the reasons I left my marriage was to grow as a person and embrace new experiences. As hard as missing my boys is, I cannot deny that what I am is blessed, and what I endeavor to be is grateful.