A Good Kind of Christmas

She had hoped he’d walk into the kitchen, smell the Spritz Cookies baking in the oven, warmly greet the kids, and come up behind to wrap her in his arms and whisper, “Merry Christmas, honey.”  Instead, he walked in, grabbed the vacuum and started bumping into their toes as he cleaned up flour dust and cookie sprinkles.  “Daddy, aren’t the cookies pretty?”  He took a few more swipes with the vacuum and said, “Yes, honey, now let’s start cleaning up this mess.”

She’d planned to stroll arm-in-arm, watching the snow fall, seeing the Christmas lights twinkle, and enter shops to jointly select Santa’s gifts for the kids.  Instead, he told her that he was too busy and shopping was a wife’s job.

She decorated the tree with ornaments the kids had made, hung the stockings she’d sewn for each of them, and hand-colored the Christmas cards she’d planned to mail to their friends and family.  He told her he’d already sent cards to his friends and family, and that she didn’t need to bother combining his list with her list.

She put lots of thought into the gift she would make for him – maybe a collage of photos from his childhood, or a shadow box full of keepsakes from his outdoor adventures.  He let out a sigh of frustration when he asked, “So, what should I be getting you this year?”

He’d sit on the couch and watch TV while she read The Tub People’s Christmas. When the kids giggled over the arrival of Santa in the story, he asked if they’d keep it down so he could hear his show.


She wondered if she had too many expectations.

She chided herself for pinning her hopes on some romantic notion of a cozy family Christmas.

She considered the possibility that she could decorate differently, bake yummier cookies, or ask him what he’d rather see her do around the house during the holiday.

In the end, no amount of baking, decorating or praying can bring together a fractured family, even during the holidays.


Now, as she steps over the roll of red wrapping paper in the middle of the dining room floor on her way to grab the tin of Spritz Cookies, she smiles at what Christmas has turned in to.

They’d made a mess of flour, chocolate wrappers, and sprinkles while making cookies and listening to Jimmy Buffett sing “Mele Kalikimaka.”  No one turned off the stereo, complained of the mess or ran over their toes with a vacuum.

Most of the ornaments are on the tree, some of the holiday decorations are scattered around the living room, and some are still in the box.

They might watch a Christmas movie together, or one will read a book and the other will make a new ornament with wire and beads.

The kids take turns making the year’s Christmas card.  She sends cards to the same folks she sent to when she was married, but now the picture she includes shows three genuine smiles, instead of four forced grins.


It may not be the Christmas she had planned, but it is a good kind of Christmas.

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  1. Dear Jesse,

    As always you find such beautiful ways of expressing the pain of what was and the joy of what is in your life now. I know it is not what you planned for but it is far more peaceful and joyous than what you lived. Your spirits are so much lighter. I can sense that in your writing.

    I can relate to this so much this Christmas. We are celebrating later than Christmas day because this year I get the second half of Christmas break with the kids. I did not work so hard for all those years to have a divided holiday season. However, I remind myself that it beats the alternative of living through yet another stressful, nervous, and exhausting Christmas season.

    I wish you and yours a wonderful and deliciously messy holiday season–with flour on your faces and peace in your spirits.

    Warm hugs,

  2. Yes, it’s an authentic Christmas!

    Congrats and Happy Holidays to you, Will, Jen and everyone else!

  3. You had separate Christmas card lists too??? I don’t know why I am surprised, but there is always that one commonality that strikes you.

    Anyway, have a lovely messy Christmas doing whatever touches your heart. xxx

  4. Lynn,

    There’s nothing quite like life with a narcissist to make us skilled at finding the positive in any situation.

    Your comment made me tear up.

    You must know that I wish you and yours the best, both at this time of the year, and in the new year to come.

    Here’s to moving forward!!

    Sending love,


  5. Donna,

    Wishing you the same, and all good things in the new year.


  6. Z,

    I know… those commonalities always fascinate me, too. I’d swear they act from the same script.

    Happy messy Christmas to you and yours!

  7. Thank you Jesse–for your kind wishes and for being here.

    Happy New Year!!

    Wishing you loads of fun and joy this season.

    Love to you and yours,

  8. Ah, yes, the sighs of aggravation. I will not miss the sighs and the blank looks that accompanied the opening of my gifts in those years; or when a gift was especially good (ie, expensive), the visibly feigned happy look that said, “neither this nor anything will ever please me, but I’m going to make sure you both know it and yet, can’t call me out on it. See? I’m pretending to be happy.”

  9. Sprung,

    Further proof that all Ns work from the same script.

    I remember that look when he’d open a gift. I also remember the way he’d wax poetically over the gift he’d given me. (How pairs of snowmobile mittens does a girl need? Especially if she doesn’t snowmobile?)

    Wishing you a cozy holiday void of those sighs of aggravation and the blank looks.

  10. It has been 4 years since I have had to endure the narcissistic Christmas and the first where I felt it didn’t have to be perfect. I am getting there. :)

    I am also optimistically hopeful (so not like me!) for a less stressful 2013. There should be some resolve in all our legal battles and hopefully closure to our divorce file. (Please let me be truly divorced!)

    Hoping you all have your versions of a perfect holiday and a brighter new year! xx

  11. Z,

    My fingers are crossed for you. Let 2013 be the year you close that file!

  12. sounds perfect to me! The new one that is:) A belated Merry Chrstmas and Happy New Year!

    xo, NM

  13. I’m not going to miss the gift he got for me that was really for him or about him. I’m not going to miss him complaining all day that he really needed to be at work. I’m not going to miss my kids wondering when he was going to lose his temper. I’m not going to miss walking on eggshells all day because I didn’t know what would set him off. I’m not going to miss trying to appease him or please him so that I could eek out some small moment of feeling loved on Christmas. I’m not going to miss going to the movies because he couldn’t stand having to be home with us all day and needed to escape. Christmas with a narcissist is like every other day with a narcissist. It will be all about him even if he has to make everyone miserable in the process.

  14. Sandy,

    As I read your comment, my hands were doing that thing that they always do when I completely agree with someone…

    I won’t miss counting down the minutes until it’s December 26th so we can get back to “normal”.

    I hope you have a peace-filled Christmas.

  15. I had to laugh at that last comment to me. It is still not closed! Court is in a few weeks. Maybe 2015 is the year… Bahahaha!

  16. Z,

    I so very much hope so.

  17. It would be a blessing, but my experience is signaling 2021. :(
    2015 will be trial in Jan.
    Appellate mediation in July or August
    Then either another hearing at the end of the year or a new complaint.
    I know this seems negative when we are supposed to be enjoying the season, but I can’t help it. Bah humbug to NPD.

  18. Z,

    I understand. There isn’t a chunk of coal big enough for that stocking.

  19. LOL! Thanks for making me laugh. Coal in his stocking would make him actually shed some tears.

  20. Z,

    I sincerely hope 2015 is the year for you.

  21. Thank you! Me too. I have a lot to be thankful for, including you. xxx

  22. Z,

    You know you are on my gratitude list. ;)

  23. That made me warm inside. Thank you.

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