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.