“Do you have plans for the holidays?” she asked, breaking the ice at the business lunch.
“We’re traveling to Boston.”
“We like to keep it relaxed.”
“We’ll enjoy a lot of traditions.”
“I’m hosting my family.”
Spanning over 20 years in age, each was a divorced mom with children. Two married anew, one who remained single, and me, remarried and now widowed. As the wait staff took orders for the soup of the day and salad with salmon, each shared a little more.
“Neither of us ever go back home for Christmas.”
“We alternate Christmas Eve with Christmas Day.”
“My children come from out of town.”
“We try to keep the stress down as much as we can.”
Faces lit up as they described a holiday they were looking forward to and their tone turned matter-of-fact when they described the challenges of navigating between two households. I listened but could not discern a hint of bitterness in any of them about the need to navigate this time of year in a way that was different than others who never got dealt the divorce card.
Our business on an upcoming project completed, we declined dessert, paid the check, and gave quick sidewalk farewells before hurrying to our cars to escape the cold. I reflected on how it was that each of these parents seemed full of grace about what is often an angst filled time.
Perhaps a meeting with professionals, even when relationships are solid, wasn’t the appropriate time or place to be vulnerable about the emptiness we can feel in our hearts when we don’t get to have our children 100% of the precious times. Perhaps we were simply tired of talking about it and had no energy left for more complaint. Perhaps it was that time had passed and wounds had healed and that all really was well.
I don’t really know for the others. But this I’m pretty sure of. There once was a time when the thought of divorce evoked images of only lonely holidays. And a time when the sharing of certain days and hours on the calendar had to be negotiated, put in writing, and approved by a judge in a black robe. And there once was a first hollowed day when their children were without them and they were without their children.
On this day, time had passed. Each had had memorable holidays with or without children in their post-divorce life. Court orders were now documents only rarely retrieved to check on a forgotten detail. Each was experienced in the survival of the season, and how to make it something beautifully special, whether for themselves or their children.
Each had arrived at a place of acceptance. To a state of surrender to what is rather than struggle about what they wish it were. To a place of peace, which is a pretty sweet spot for any time of year, even if only for an hour.