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It’s a little early or a little late for Christmas photos, but I was watching an Amtrak pull out heading east this morning, wishing I was on it.  During the holidays, Union Station is lit up with a rainbow of lights.  I hope that the construction project centered around this historic depot doesn’t prevent the lights from shining this year.

Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The reason it hurts so much to separate is because our souls are connected. Maybe they always have been and will be. Maybe we’ve lived a thousand lives before this one and in each of them we’ve found each other. And maybe each time, we’ve been forced apart for the same reasons. That means that this goodbye is both a goodbye for the past ten thousand years and a prelude to what will come.”  —  Nicholas Sparks

Daly gratitudes:
Getting done with Job #2 early tonight
Tin cups

OK, so Christmas Eve alone was NOT a good thing – definitely not.  It was horrible. But it’s a new day, even if it is still dark outside, and I survived the personal storm – or at least it’s in a lull.   So I guess that’s a good thing.

Who knows what today will bring?

I’ve always been a Christmas Day gift opener.  I have wonderful childhood memories of Christmas morning.  My parents never put the presents under the tree until after we’d gone to bed on Christmas Eve.  They always closed the door to the living room, and wouldn’t let us in until they were ready.  So we would peek through the keyhole.  They always had the lights off, so the tree would be glowing in its own magic.

Pat’s family always opened presents on Christmas Eve, which made no sense to me.  Maybe with five boys, they just didn’t want to deal with a sleepless night.  When Pat and I got together, it was quite the debate – have Christmas on Christmas Eve or on Christmas Day?   We tried compromises – we alternated from year to year (which I hated), did half the presents on Christmas Eve and the other half on Christmas Day (better).  But once Kelsea came along, I convinced him that we had to have Christmas on Christmas Day – otherwise, the whole Santa thing wouldn’t work.  So, it’s been Christmas morning for years, with one present on Christmas Eve.

Well, I don’t live there anymore, but Kelsea still does, and she still celebrates Christmas on Christmas morning.  I’ll go over to Pat’s house mid-morning tomorrow, along with my nieces, and spend some time there.  Kelsea will come to my house in the afternoon, and we’ll have our Christmas on Christmas night.  It all works out okay.

But this Christmas Eve, I’ll be on my own.  That’s not a bad thing.  I’ve debated going to a Christmas Eve service at some church.  I’m not religious, but I’ve always enjoyed the Christmas Eve services.  However, I’m used to going to Duke Chapel for my service, and there’s not a church in Boulder that can hold a candle to that cathedral.  It just won’t be the same going to some modern, dry-walled structure.  So I may just hang out and wrap presents so that they can be unwrapped tomorrow.  I’ll bake a ham. And I’ll be just fine.

To all my friends in the blogosphere, I wish you a happy, peaceful, joyful Christmas.

And here’s a gift for a dear friend:

Santa lives at the Mall now. 

He’s surrounded by a tunnel of greenery and roped off from the press of children, who must form a single-file line to the big guy.  Parents aren’t allowed to take pictures of their children in Santa’s lap.  The only permissible pictures cost some ridiculous amount and are taken by a teenager clad in an elf costume. 

The Santa at Flatirons Mall isn’t bad this year.  He’s no Edmund Gwenn, but he’ll do.  (For those of you who don’t know Edmund Gwenn, he’s the iconic actor who portrayed Santa in the 1949 classic “Miracle on 34th Street.) 

I’ve seen some horrendous parodies of Santa, courtesy of the Internet, and some total Santa creepers, which could truly influence susceptible children:

How times have changed.

When I was a child, way back in the days of yore, there were two places in town that had Santa: Northgate Mall, which was within walking distance of my house,

and Belk’s Department Store, which was a bus ride downtown. 

As I consider it, I think these two shopping powerhouses were in cahoots with each other, because each had a Santa AND a Mrs. Claus.  This was very clever, because back in the 1960’s, we were more clever than children these days.  And if we saw Santa at one place, we knew that he couldn’t be at the other place – hence, the ploy of Mrs. Claus.  And by the way, Mrs. Claus DID NOT LOOK LIKE THIS:

She looked like this:

They’d trade off.  Mrs. Claus would say “Oh, Santa’s gone off to tend the reindeers,” and we’d buy into it.  It wasn’t the same, sitting on Mrs. Claus’ lap – I recall usually seeing her at Belk’s.  But I actually felt like I was kind of covering my bases by talking to both of them.  Mrs. Claus would be more likely to understand things from that “just us girls” perspective, and she could share that with Santa, in case he didn’t understand me.

I seem to recall that E-Bro did not like going to see Santa AT ALL. 

The Santa at Northgate was in a little shack on the sidewalk. 

It was all lit up outside and dark red inside, and Santa’s throne was against the back wall of the shack.  So it was a little scary going inside. 

But I think E-Bro at one point resisted going in most forcefully, and I remember standing there watching his unseemly display (I couldn’t have been more than 3) with exceptional disdain.  And even though I was scared to death too, mostly because my big brother was, I boldly strode inside with my head held high and I sat on that lap and I told that man what he was going to bring me for Christmas – or else!  I gave him my well-thought out list.  And my knees were shaking when I left.

The last time I sat on Santa’s lap was about 15 years ago, after a particularly festive girl’s Christmas lunch.  And it was still weird – OK, maybe it was weirder because I was in my 30’s.  But Santa didn’t seem to mind a bit.  Which made it even weirder.

Anyway, no more Santa for me.  But hey, I still have the spirit – and the hat.

It comes out shortly after Kelsea’s birthday (which is December 1).  OK, it was a little late this year, due to extenuating circumstances, but really, many have said that it’s not Christmas until they see it.  Yes, it’s the Santa Hat.

I know that Santa Hats abound in all shapes, colors and sizes. 

But mine is special. I got it about 20 years ago at McGuckin’s, which, for those of you unfamiliar with Boulder, is the one of the wonders of the hardware store world, and the place that you go in this town to find the thing you can’t find anywhere else – whatever it is, they probably have it.

It has withstood the test of time in perfect condition, although after a dry-cleaning experience, the ball had to be stitched back on.  It’s beautiful – nice ruby-red velvet, good quality floof – and always makes people smile, comment and compliment.  I wear it constantly when I am out in public from the day it goes on until Christmas, and often forget that I have it on, so I am puzzled by people’s stares and smiles.  Until I remember it.  And it makes me feel special.

The hat carries with it a certain code of behavior.  For example, it’s much more difficult not to give money to homeless people when wearing it.  And I have to be very careful to be more polite and considerate in traffic.  I just wouldn’t do to have a woman in a Santa Hat flipping someone off.

My dear departed friend Andrew so admired it that he went out and bought an identical one that very year – which was wise, because I have never, ever seen them again anywhere.  There have been others, but none of the quality of ours.  He always got the same reactions I did, and he loved making people smile.  This is the first Christmas since his death, and I wondered what happened to his Santa Hat.  I hope it found its way to a good home.

As I said, it’s been hard for me to get into the Christmas spirit this year, so it took longer than usual for the Santa Hat to make an appearance, but it has, and I’m glad.  I like the smiles.  They brighten my sadness.  And I hope the magic of the Santa Hat will last for years to come.

I’ve taken a few steps back to the bad place tonight – who knows why, maybe it’s because Kelsea’s not here, maybe it’s the approaching lonely holiday, maybe it’s just that I don’t know what to do with myself.  But at any rate, Santa Hat or not, I’m pretty down.

Regardless, gratitudes for today: geese in flight, the Red Letter Bookstore where treasures abound, my Mother’s creche, warm weather today, finding my old film camera that I’d been looking for for a year – I wonder what’s on the film inside?

I love Christmas.  I do.  I always have.  It has always been the bright spot in the bleakness of winter for me.

I love the decorations.  Driving through neighborhoods and voyeuristically peeking into semi-parted curtains to see a tree alight, in a house atwinkle, with reindeer and Santas and snowmen and who knows what grazing on the front lawn – I am like a little kid again, mouth agape with wonder and delight.  Seriously!

I like Christmas shopping – I do it all year long.   And you have to keep in mind that I am not a shopper, at least not when it comes to myself.  I have a talent for giving good presents and I accumulate them in the course of the year.  Sometimes I even forget what I’ve bought for people; had this year been a bit calmer, I had intended to wrap and tag each gift as I bought it, so I would be as surprised as the recipient when it came time for opening.  But I especially like Christmas shopping at this time of year, because everyone seems so happy and festive and friendly. 

I like Christmas carols, tree decorating, hanging stockings – the whole nine yards.  So how is it that I have wound up in the midst of a clan of people who don’t like Christmas?

Kelsea is agreeable to looking at the lights and of course, she likes the presents.  But she doesn’t have the bug – she could take or leave the whole thing, really.  Pat has never given a reindeer’s ass about the holiday – he feels it’s forced.  My former brother/sister-in-law did Christmas up right when their daughters were little.  Now they’re off somewhere in a motor home and won’t be coming back, and my nieces dislike Christmas to the point that they’d taken to celebrating it at New Year’s, if at all.  My now-former-guy didn’t like Christmas either; he had some good reasons, but regardless he wanted nothing to do with it.  I still bought him presents, because that’s just me.

So I look at this sorry bunch of gloomy pusses who have been closest to me and I ask myself, “How can I maintain my Christmas cheer and spirit, even in the midst of a (thankfully soon to be ending) hellacious year without imbibing in exceptionally massive quantities of alcohol?”  And I answer myself, “I dunno, what are you asking ME for?” or, on bad days, “You can’t, so just break out to intoxicants and get it over with.”  But I rarely listen to myself, since I tend to babble a lot.

I haven’t forgotten the true meaning of Christmas as a time of peace and celebration of the birth of a very wise teacher.  But it is easy to get swept up in the commercialism of the holiday, and the charitable part of me would say that’s what my scrooges don’t like.  But I know that’s not true.  At any rate, I try to make sure that as part of my own personal celebration, I keep the thoughts of faith and wonderment in mind and heart.

So here we are, a week before Christmas.  My house looks like a hurricane blew through and then came back for seconds.  Never the tidiest housekeeper, in the throes of urgh this week, I’ve really let things go.  I don’t have a tree.  Nothing is wrapped.  No decorations have emerged.  The one box I have to mail isn’t mailed.  I am tempted to just let it all go, and not have a tree.  But I regretted that the one year I didn’t.  And if this is my last Christmas in the Cottage, I think I’d like to do it right.  Which means that today is the day.  The elf, completely unaided by any of the scrooges, sets forth and boldly tidies, rearranges, moves furniture, throws things away, unburies the tree stand, buys a little tree and makes the magic happen.  And you know what?  The scrooges who are around will love it.  Never in a million years would they admit it, but it will stir a peace and pleasure in their little scroogey hearts, just like the three visiting spirits did with Old Eb in the Dickens novel.

The Elf triumphs yet again.

Gratitude list for the day (so far):  how the warm sunlight streaming through my bedroom window reminds me of the Caribbean; my grumpy daughter; my dreamcatcher hung upon the bed; when thoughts of the future turn hopeful; Hemingway.

Well, another Christmas come and gone.  Overall, it was quite pleasant.  Mr. GF and I had an early Christmas morning opening presents, after which I went over to Pat’s to do Christmas with Kelsea and the clan.  Pat made enough good food to feed twelve people, and I stayed for about 4 hours.  I love being with Kelsea, but I missed Mr. GF and didn’t like leaving him sitting in my house alone, although as he told me, he’s a grown-up and can take care of himself.  Of course he can, but I want to be with my family at Christmas and he is rapidly becoming part of my family (and Kelsea’s – they seem to be getting a bit more accustomed to each other.)

Trying to balance my new life with my old life sometimes makes me break out in guilt pimples.  Or even extreme raging guilt acne. 

I adore spending time with Kelsea.  And I adore spending time with Mr. GF.  But as you might imagine, sometimes the two don’t mix, especially in the early stages of a relationship.  He and I need our time alone, and he and she need time to get accustomed to each other.  Due to schedules, logistics, work, etc., he and I don’t get to spend as much time together as we’d like.  And sharing Kelsea with Pat, I don’t get to spend as much time with her as I’d like.  The nice thing is that Mr. GF appreciates that she is a priority in my life, just as he is.

So  let’s assume that Mr. GF and I are together next Christmas.  How can I manage it?  He can’t very well go to Pat’s house for the festivities.  What if he and I want to go away?  I can’t take Kelsea away from her dad and her cousins at Christmas.  Perhaps it will be one Christmas with Pat and the next with me, wherever I am.  I guess it’s too soon to bother thinking about such things.  A lot can change in a year, as we well know.  People do this all the time with kids.  If anyone can do it, I can.  I love her that much.  And I love Mr. GF and I love my own new life.  The power of positive thinking… I can do anything, I can make anything work.

Love gives you strength.

When is it officially the first divorced Christmas? 

I had moved out by this time last year, so was it last year?  I am not yet divorced this year, but will be within two weeks, so is it this year?  Or will it be next year, when I’ll be a bona fide divorcee?

Last year, Christmas was hard.  This year, Christmas is harder.  Next year, will Christmas be harder still?

God, I hope not.

We always had such big Christmases.  Presents everywhere!  I shopped throughout the year, but still overspent.  It’s not like that this year.  There will be few presents under either tree.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  Kelsea doesn’t seem to want much, and this is a year for her to learn that holidays are more about togetherness than about presents.  Perhaps it’s a lesson she will hold onto going forward.

But the holidays ARE about togetherness.  This year, I’m stitching things together – Christmas Eve with Mr. GF, Christmas morning at Pat’s house with Kelsea and Pat’s family, Christmas night with Kelsea and Mr. GF.  It feels disjointed somehow – maybe because it is.  I am just trying to make things as comfortable for my daughter as they can be.  Pat’s family still loves me and considers me part of their family, but it’s not like I can introduce Mr. GF into the mix.  Nope.  Too bizarre to celebrate with my ex-husband and his family and my new companion.  That wouldn’t be good for anybody, especially not me and Mr. GF, who are just starting out together.

When worlds collide, right?

Well, as it stands, my worlds are very separate, orbiting around one another in a weird cosmic dance.

So I feel very alone this Christmas.  As some comments on another blog noted, this is an awful time, this time of loss from divorce, but it WILL get better.

Won’t it?

What a broad range of emotions I seem to have at my disposal today.

Today is the Captain’s birthday.  Even though I have another wonderful man in my life, I can’t help but miss him.  His voice could always make me smile.  A toast tonight is in order – ‘To fair winds and absent companions.’  He certainly had a shining spirit and I was lucky to have him in my life for his last few years.

The news of my job ending shouldn’t have come as a shock.  In fact, it didn’t come as a shock.  It’s what I had expected and known for some time.  So why is it upsetting me so much?  I came very close to a panic attack this morning (after I had dragged my sorry ass out of the bed in which I wished to remain with the covers pulled over my head for about 6 months.)  It may be that it’s just the overwhelming nature of things right now:

a) divorce will be final on January 4th;
b) need to transfer all the bills that belong to Pat over to him;
c) need to give him an IRA and a big honking check;
d) need to transfer the car titles to him;
e) need to get the Directory ready for press;
f) need to recollect art files for the newsletter;
g) need to wrap presents;
h) need to get Kelsea’s present;
i) need to mail things to E-Bro – and you can be darn sure they’re not arriving by Christmas;
j) need to lose 30 pounds;
k) need to figure out how on earth I’m going to make ends meet;
l) need to plan my future….

Yes, I know that last three items won’t happen in the next couple of weeks.  But this is what I do – I load it all on until I overwhelm myself.  Not a very smart approach.  I need to just sit with one thing at a time and not have wild, rabid hamsters rampaging through my brain during daylight hours.   God, I’m so smart – now why can’t I listen to my own advice?

So if you see a festive-looking woman in a santa hat having a complete breakdown in a shopping mall, well, that will be me.  Stop and say hi.

Kelsea and I decorated our little Christmas tree with Mr. GF last night.  I have always liked live Christmas trees.  A fake one just won’t do.  It is lifeless, just like canned food.

And we decorated the tree at Pat’s house also, which felt better than last year, but still odd, sad.  To be expected in a divorce, I am sure.  Pat was civil, if distant.  There was no champagne and no laughter, as in most years, but also no irritation.  The outcome was nice though – it’s a pretty little tree.

From my bed, I can see my own tree, lit up in the corner of the living room.  I’ve always liked sleeping with a lit Christmas tree (regardless of the fire hazard.)  In our early years together, Pat and I had a little tabletop tree that we put up on an old typewriter stand in the bedroom.  We always had a tendency to get the “Charlie Brown” trees, sometimes waiting until a tree lot was practically bare before succumbing.

We cut our own one year up in the forest above Fort Collins; fortunately, the mix of champagne and hack saws was not a disaster.  On our first Christmas in the house, we got the tree from a lot that is now the town hall, and dragged it home by hand in the gently falling snow. 

The year that we had trouble and separated for a while, before Kelsea, we reconciled right before Christmas.  We went down to Taos, where we had spent part of our honeymoon, and solidified that we were going to make it work.  We got back on Christmas Eve.  It was the first year we hadn’t had a tree – we usually spent much of Christmas with Pat’s brother and his wife and daughters (wherever the children are is where the Christmas is.)  But we both felt strange about not having a tree so we each made a tree for the other.  I used a pink flamingo, decorated it with lights and a santa hat and put presents beneath it.  He took ribbons and twirled them into a tree shape from the ceiling to the floor and put presents beneath that.  It was a nice alternative-tree Christmas.

My childhood Christmas tree pursuits are marvelous memories.  We would always get our tree at the tree lot that was set up at the church on the corner near East Campus – was it Asbury?  I loved it when they would start to set up the lot because it meant Christmas was coming.  When we finally went to pick out our tree, it would take us at least an hour.  This was not a decision to be rushed.  We’d look at every tree, each having our favorites, until we finally came to a consensus.  I usually went more by my emotions – how much a tree felt right to me – than by anything else.  Then we’d tie it into the trunk of the car for the ride home – only a few blocks, but I was always so concerned that the tree would fall out.  Daddy would put it into a bucket of water in the garage until it was time for it to go up in the house.

Some years, that tree search was accompanied by weather so cold I can remember not being able to feel my fingers and toes.  Ever so rarely, there was snow.  Sometimes, it was rain and mud.  And other years, it was Indian-summer warm.  But regardless of the weather, I remember the scent.  The smell of those pine trees in their long rows under the colored lights.  I would bury my nose in their branches and memorize the scent.  Today, that scent brings me back to happy times when I was little and Christmas seemed like it would never come, but came and went all too quickly.

I don’t know what happened to the family ornaments after my Mother died.  Perhaps E-Bro has some.  Perhaps I have some in one of the boxes that I still haven’t been able to bring myself to unpack since her death.  Perhaps they have gone to new homes to become part of other people’s memories.

I expect more Christmas reminiscences will arise over the next few days.  They are bittersweet this year, but I will hope for a leaning towards the sweet as the years go by. 

July 2020


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