I hope your holiday was wonderful and that it included some memory making time with your children. That's two of my little Santa's Helpers on the sofa, the ten year old being cute as ever while the 13 year old keeping up his status quo as "bored" no matter the season.
Our tree was a six foot blue spruce, but it was dwarfed by their growing bodies, especially, Mr. I'm Sixteen Now, who towers over me like... Well, like most anyone does. What can I say, his father is a mere 5'6", where he got the American Football gene is beyond me.
This was the first year since the break up nearly a decade ago that I have had them on Christmas Eve. Normally, I would pick them up on Christmas Day. After they had had time to open presents and play a bit at their mother's house I would pick them up and tell them that Santa came to dad's house too. I didn't mind missing out on Christmas Eve that much, really. Truth be told, I knew how hard it was not to have them under my roof, and most of this time I have had someone to spend the evening with. I thought I was big hearted, letting their mother keep them, instead of being alone. So humble and thoughtful, right?
Alas, my own arrogance escapes me most of the time. This year, when her mother's Christmas Eve Celebration was scheduled for a later time, I jumped at her offer to keep the boys. It meant that I would have to be quick; normally I finish wrapping gifts by 3:00 AM Christmas morning. We hid their presents in the dark room, a feature of this house that we never really use, and it was fun waking up before dawn and sneaking about before they awoke.
I got to pick them up on the 23rd when we had Christmas at my Father's farm. Then the 24th all to ourselves, including a "traditional" Italian Christmas Eve dinner of shrimp and pasta and stuffed clams (note: if you have any fear of msg allergies, don't get the frozen stuffed clams... ugh... I was blotchy and red the rest of the night!) and then a drive around town to see the lights.
Christmas breakfast was pretty much non-existent, though I had planned on the fruit muffins from the basket my boss gave to me. I think we scarffed cookies in passing. Dinner was a first for us: Christmas Goose. No, it's not greasy, not if you cook it right, and please, just don't eat the skin. The one thing to remember when serving a 13.5 pound goose (aside from the excessive price per pound after being told that the bird I ordered would be 10 to 11 lb) is that the largest part of the bird is the cavity. Yes. The cavity. After all, that's how they float, I suppose. Still it was lovely.
The opening of the presents was a delight, as usual, except that I was sleepy from being up early and my partner, Brian was ill and quiet, choosing to run the camcorder in the corner of the living room, and keep out of the way as much as possible. He is a hardware store man, and we were going to send him on a scavenger hunt for the tools he'd asked for. Instead we had mercy on his sick soul and just sent Josiah to the tool bench for the air compressor. Though I couldn't tell at the time from his death blank stare, he later insisted he was both surprised and happy. I wasn't sure what to get my boys this year. They never say what they want, but we must have done well, with all the "awesome"s, "sweet!"s and "Cool!"s we heard. Contented sigh...
The tough part was taking them home. I hadn't realized how empty her house would feel, how quickly we would have to gather "what we want to take to mom's" and exit before dinner had a chance to even settle in our bellies. Luckily the goose on the road remained in our stomachs; it's nearly an hour drive to their mother's.
There presents waited under their mother's tree, and grandparents were on the way. I thought I might stay for a few minutes, but then, this was their time with her family, and still, after many years, there is awkwardness. I doubt it has anything to do with gay issues anymore. V and I have become mostly good friends, better than I had expected, nearly as good as I had dared to hope. I suppose it would be the same for her parents, no matter the reasons for divorce. In their eyes I'm the jerk who hurt their little girl.
Despite our hurdles, the boys have done well. They don't seem to mind multiple Christmases, especially since they usually get a few days with each of us. We know we did the right thing, but inwardly the right thing isn't always the easiest. Staying together and living a lie "for the kids' sake" would have been a cowardly and unfair thing to do. Children are like little emotional barometers. They knew things were not right between their mother and I back then, even though we tried to hide it. Our hope is that in living honestly we have passed on something valuable about life and courage to our boys, something about integrity. Still, the sweet sad feeling of the drive home alone is hard to ignore. But better that then the tainted gift of their living with tormented parents.
mmm... I think I just got preachy (remember that arrogance comment?). I beg pardon. I just want to be honest. I guess the truth is that we as parents don't always have the luxury of choosing between black and white, it's tougher, but better when we choose what's best for our children, instead of some guilt induced sense of the traditional idea of what's right.
To cheer me up next day Brian was in the dining room fixing up broken lighted animals that were throw-aways from the hardware store. We took them to the lawn of a good friend who has a love for "bears." Ahem... And let them frolic with his lone buck between the bushes. Unfortunately we were caught as he arrived home from his parents, just as we were lighting up his front yard. We tried to run, but he saw our dancing and prancing and had us blocked in his driveway, cowering behind the hood of the Explorer. "What are you two doing?" he asked. "And what's my deer doing to that bear!?"