I worked at my part time job at the restaurant yesterday, serving guests who did not have to work on Christmas Eve. “I feel so bad for you people and cashiers who have to work today,” a woman at one of my tables clucked between bites of her salad.
Five hours and $20 measly dollars later I fought back tears as I left. “Merry Christmas!” the other servers and cooks and managers called to me. “You, too,” I said quietly, afraid that if I opened my mouth too wide I’d start to cry.
I sat in my car as it warmed up and considered letting go and having myself a pity sob, but I had to run to the liquor store for Christmas party booze and thought it might not look the best if I loaded up my cart with red eyes and a puffy nose.
Besides my irritation at the paltry holiday tips (my guests were generous, I just happened to only get three tables all day), I knew what awaited me Christmas morning – an empty house.
This morning, for the first time in my entire life, I woke up alone on Christmas day. No kids ran into my room at 5:08 am shouting, “Santa came! Santa came! Come look and see!” I don’t even know what Santa brought them this year.
The kids were with me at my family gathering last night. My youngest snuggled with me on the couch as wrapping paper flew through the air as it was torn off package after package. “Your cheek is warm,” he told me. He reached his little arm around my head and pulled me closer. My boys giggled uncontrollably at the huge boxes their uncles had brought, my daughter smiled wide at her new Easy Bake Oven and apron set.
A lovely evening, to be sure, but after the gifts were loaded into my van I had to drive through the snow to deliver the children to their dad’s house, where they’d await Santa’s arrival without me.
I slept until 8:00, a small miracle, and woke to Facebook updates from friends and family members recounting how early their children had risen, how many gifts were piled under the trees – photo upon photo of kids in Christmas jammies and faces smiling together. I scrolled through my phone’s notifications – I had emails from Monster.com with new job opportunities, something from Linkedin, a follower had liked one of my photos on Instagram, a man I’d recently gone on a first date with texted me to say Merry Christmas, Tiger texted me just a few minutes ago to wish me the same, as well.
More electronic connections ahead – I sent messages to some of my closest girlfriends wishing them a happy day and they wrote back little messages, too, which made me grin as I ate Cinnamon Toast Crunch and read last Sunday’s paper (finally). I just texted my ex husband to see if he’d let the kids call me – I can’t wait any longer to hear about the presents waiting for them when they woke.
I woke up feeling sad that I was missing out on a holiday morning of chaos and togetherness, but I’ll see the kids this afternoon and we will have our chaos and togetherness then. The kids may not have been with me when they opened their gifts from Santa but they are still my children, and I know they’re having a great morning with their dad and his parents. The loneliness I temporarily felt as I listened to my empty house when I woke is nothing compared to the loneliness of being married to the wrong person and pretending everything was fine.
I’m still in my (non-Christmas) jammies and now it’s time to clean the kitchen and wrap the presents for the kids to open when they get here. Looking on the bright side, I was able to go to bed before midnight last night because I knew I’d have time to ready the gifts in the morning. I can listen to pop music if I want to and save the Christmas tunes for when the children arrive. Since it’s a holiday and no one is here to judge me, I might just have a glass of wine at 11:00 am because why not? I’m kicking myself a little for not buying champagne and orange juice yesterday – a mimosa seems a little more dignified for a pre-noon adult beverage than a glass of sauvignon blanc.
Merry Christmas (or simply Happy Wednesday) to you all! Hug the ones you love who are near to you, reach out to those who aren’t, and do what you can to make it a great day, whether you’re surrounded by hoards of annoying family members or resting alone, perhaps with a glass of wine in one hand.
Image used under creative commons license from hajime7.