by Suzannah Gilman
I have four children, all adults in their twenties now, one about to turn thirty, one married, one getting married in January, and the other two in serious relationships with women they adore. I wanted this. I wanted four children. I wanted big family holidays.
This Christmas Eve and Day, I won’t see any of them.
For years, my four have been saying that they wanted out of Florida, and three of them have gone. Two moved in January of this year, so this season is the transition challenge for me. I never imagined that the day would come when my children would all live in different places. I’m glad that I also never imagined being without them on Christmas.
This hardly seems like Christmas. I didn’t even put up a tree; I decorated the mantel. I won’t be staying up half the night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents. I won’t be cooking a big meal. My fiancé and I are grilling steaks. A single friend is coming over after he has dinner with his brother and his family. I didn’t do any holiday baking. I bought a huge tin of cookies at Costco. Now the song “Blue Christmas” means something to me.
If I dwelled on this long enough, I could have a rollicking pity party.
So instead of thinking about what I don’t have, I’ll think about what I do have.
I had my son and daughter-in-law, who live nearby, at the Thanksgiving table. I also had my daughter and her fiancée, who live north of Dallas-Fort Worth, at the Thanksgiving table.
Then I had my son who lives in Salt Lake City and my son who lives in Houston with me on a trip to celebrate my 50th birthday at a sunny beach in Mexico last week. (The other two couldn’t make it.) So I’ve seen all four of them during the past month. That’s no small thing.
Tonight, December 23, my son and daughter-in-law, my fiancé, and I had dinner at a restaurant our family goes to on special occasions. (This year is their turn to spend Christmas with her family.) When I looked around the restaurant, I saw our specters at the big banquette in the corner, at the booth across the dining room, at the large table that sat all ten of us one night.
I have those memories and these recent memories of conversations, laughter, hugs, jokes, and, okay, a little sighing and head-shaking, too. None of us is perfect.
So is that enough for me on this Christmas, the memories, my children’s love, and the assurance that they know how I treasure them? It’s going to have to be.
I wanted Charles Henry, Matthew, Drew, and Laureli to have lives that bring them joy, and that’s what they have. They all live in places that make them happy. They’ll all spend Christmas with people who make them happy. That means something to me. If I’d made a wish list this year, that would be on it– just under all of us being together, of course. I’m not giving up the dream.