Divorced Holidays

Ah, the holidays are here and aren’t they beautiful? The lights are bright, the music is cheerful, and the eggnog is sweet and thick with hints of nutmeg. There’s always the smell of food cooking, and sweets in the air, there’s a bunch of great movies to watch, such as; Polar Express, A Christmas Carol (the original), Rudolph, and The Grinch, to name a few. This time of year families gather from across the country, or countries in some cases, and they eat, laugh, share stories, and give gifts to one another and all is well in Holiday Land.


I do believe in all of this, and I am a part of it all. I bake the cookies, decorate the tree, enjoy buying and giving to others, wrapping presents, and I watch all the movies. But even the movies know there’s a level of sadness involved in every holiday. Rudolph is an outcast that isn’t good enough for Santa until the old man needs him, we all know about Scrooge and the Grinch, and Polar Express has its fair share of sad children who Christmas just doesn’t “work out for”.

We grew up never believing in Santa Claus, because my mother didn’t think it was a good idea. This did not affect how wonderful Christmas was for us and how many presents we had. We got to eat the cookies and drink the milk. We did, however, grow up with married parents.

Because our father was in the military for most of our childhood there were a lot of times we didn’t spend holidays with grandparents, and relatives, instead it was just the 6 of us. I loved it just being us, especially at Thanksgiving, because it meant more leftovers. On Christmas morning, when we were young, we would wake up freakishly early, in our Christmas themed pajamas, and open gifts together. Afterwards, we would usually do something that involved being outside in the snow. As we got older Christmas morning still had the themed pajamas, but instead of playing in the snow, we would sun bathe on the roof of our military housing in Key West. Then came the age when we stopped waking up early, instead, crawled out of bed late, and drank mimosas while opening gifts, and the rest of the day was spent drinking, with friends and family that would come by, but still the 6 of us were together.

My parents got divorced when I was 19. We were all pretty much grown, and starting our own lives. My brother was the youngest at 17 but almost finished with Welding school and he too would be leaving the nest. It’s weird because you don’t hear much about the affect of divorce on grown children; instead, it’s always the affect on young children. I would say that, either way, divorce isn’t easy on any age or any family. The pro (and the con really), to it happening when you’re young, is that you grow up getting use to the idea, you didn’t have time to start routines and family traditions. The routine when you’re young becomes bouncing around, splitting holidays, and you grow up getting more and more comfortable with it, until you don’t even notice it at all, that is your “norm”.

When you’re grown and you’ve spent 18 Christmas’s and 18 Thanksgivings (22 for Natalee, 21 for Anne, 16 for Pete) with the same people, and then suddenly, you’re having to make decisions as to who to see, and who to be with, and either way you go someone is missing, it’s strange, and it’s hard. The first year we spent Thanksgiving without my mom, and spent it instead with my dad. It was sad since the split had just happened, but all in all it wasn’t as bad as imagined. Christmas was a weird time; my mother brought her new boyfriend down, I was in a serious relationship, and it involved bouncing from my dad’s, my boyfriend’s parents, and my mom’s. And then there was this strange new person that none of us really knew, sharing our holiday with us. And it was hard on my dad too, knowing this guy was with us and my mom on Christmas.

As the years go by, however, it gets a little easier each time. There’s still this level of drama and concern as to whose feelings are being hurt and who you should spend the most time with. Should we go spend Christmas with our mother and her husband? If we do, will our dad be ok? If we don’t, will our mom be ok? If mom decides to come down here, how do we split our time for so many different people without hurting anyone’s feelings?  The holidays can’t be spent together because it’s too awkward and too uncomfortable and nothing will ever be the same. You watch family movies and realize that your family isn’t the family you grew up with anymore; it’s this other thing completely. Your life changes, as an adult or a child… Divorce, changes everything.

But the pro to all of this is that we are all still healthy and here and in some way or another… together.

Now, we have more people to share with.  We have a woman who introduced us to Pumpkin Cheesecake, which has become a new tradition for Thanksgiving (and everything else she cooks is phenomenal too); A woman, who loves music as much as Anne does, and who will actually battle her over the IPOD dock. And we have her son who loves Harry Potter as much as I do and still likes to get up freakishly early for presents. And no matter how much her or my dad likes to admit it, they love each other and we can tell.  And there’s a man who is extremely generous, who makes my mother insanely happy, and who can actually play board games with every one of us, without getting offended or pissed off (or he just plays it off well).

So, does any of this mean that all of us could get together and be one big happy family? Or that we’ve all accepted the situation and are happy about it? No, not at all, it’s still hard, and fresh, and sad sometimes. But who doesn’t have a reason to be sad during the holidays? It’s much harder to find the reasons to be thankful, to be merry and cheerful, but I’d rather spend the time looking for all the reasons to be joyful than all the reasons not to be. So, the 6 of us are not together in the way we were before, and there is a lot more to work through and consider during the holidays, but we are still a family. I love the new additions, and I’m hopeful that one day, it will all be more comfortable, and that one day our “norm” will be more… together.


4 thoughts on “Divorced Holidays

  1. Holidays are just tough. I grew up with a wonderful loving family. Our family was always together except for the time my brother spent overseas during the war. This lasted into my adult years but eventually you will be separated and you are left with memories. However you are right, new people come in and before you know it, if you are lucky, new memories and traditions start taking shape. You have a wonderful attitude, don’t you ever let that go!!!

  2. Adrienne,
    I was saddened by this story. I too am a child of divorce and I was only 11 when my mother left. There were 5 of us. You are absolutely right as far as age is concerned. It doesn’t matter if you are a little child or an adult child, the hurt and pain doesn’t ever go away. It may fade and not always be forefront, but it is always there floating around in memory. Both my parents have passed now. I enjoyed every word. I am glad you can be so accepting of the new people who have joined your family. I was not so fortunate and my siblings will agree. But in raising my own kids I knew in my heart I would never let that happen to them. Divorce is ugly and painful .
    Good luck in life it sounds like you married a wonderful man and thank you for sharing this!

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