I have no feelings as I sit alone in my two bedroom loft apartment numb. Numb from the shock and the feeling I might collapse of heartache wrapping my two boys Christmas presents by myself for the first time this year. For the first time ever. With no one to pass me the tape, nobody to bitch about how much money I’ve spent, just nobody to sit there and be with me in that memory.
I’m sitting in the closet in my loft bedroom, the loft bedroom that is mine because my 7-year–old sleeps in the master bedroom, and his 3 year old brother in the second bedroom, so that we can all have our own room. After moving from their dad’s ranch style house- I wanted them to feel as much familiarity as possible. Even if it’s just space instead of tangible things like their mommy and daddy playing with them every night before bed. Like their mommy and daddy having nerf gun wars and making them laugh when they are crying over the most absurd things kids get dramatic over. His is the house they’ve called home for so long. The house that I once called home but always knew would never be permanently home for me. The house I left and that led me to sitting on my closet floor drinking so that I felt the liquor on my lips instead of the tears that were dripping from my eyes.
I am sitting in the closet holding my knees to my chest, my chest that feels like it might burst with a feeling I can’t quite grasp. Is it regret? Is it sadness, agony, despair, sorrow? Do I miss being a family? Is this not what I wanted? Or is it, but maybe I’m just confused because this weak moment I am having in the here and now is just so damn hard. So damn hard.
I am sitting there hugging my knees, tipsy. Now I’m starting to feel pretty buzzed, and then well- drunk out of my mind. I’m thinking what the hell have I done? I am surrounded by snowman and Santa Claus wrapping paper- all that I got to pick out on my own just like I wanted. I am surrounded by scissors, and tape that I get to use as much of as I damn well please, just like I wanted. I have gifts around me I’ve been hiding from them, gifts that my own mom has bought several of because she knew I couldn’t afford this first year on my own and she wanted my boys to have a good Christmas. I suddenly think she sat where I sat before when she left my dad.
Alone. Deserted. And scared to death. Yet fearless, confident, and brave all at the same time. I think how marvelous complex human emotion can be, and if there were ever a time for it to show its face it’s in a time like this, like right now. I’m sitting here thinking that the thing I have feared and pretended would never happen to me all my life- the breaking up of my family-has happened and I have no defense but to feel the blow in my gut that is the failure I have become as a mother.
I have been drinking more than I normally do for months; but it stills my thoughts of skepticism that I am a strong enough to do this, and relieves the madness that comes with single motherhood. So I take another sip. I want to be me again and this is helping me to forget so that I can remember being myself. I don’t want to remember watching my kids leave for their dad’s for a long weekend knowing they will be packing right back up soon to come back to me. It pains me to know they switch houses, and have to remember to bring their kindles and their favorite toys and remember the rules that are here, and the rules that are there and that the look on my 7-year-olds face when I bark at him to quit forgetting his homework kills me. It kills something inside of me as a parent. But I still do it. No matter how many time I beat myself up over those parenting moments they still happen, and I forgive myself over and over again, but I often wonder does he? Does my son forgive the looks of annoyance I cast when I have to pick up his backpack he left at his dad’s yet another time?
And yet single motherhood is something I chose. My kids did not make this decision, I did, and I have to live with it. And in this moment, wrapping their Christmas presents for the first time alone, I start to wonder if I made the right choice. I know deep down I did, that this is what is best, but up until this moment, here alone on my closet floor wrapping gifts their dad and I should have picked out together, should have bickered about the outrageous price of toys that will be forgotten faster than the money we spent to purchase them together, I realize that it’s not only my kids waking up to just me when they want to wake up to the both of us on Christmas morning that breaks my heart. It’s not only me thinking about them and their feelings and what they have to deal with that is making me bleed with the grief that comes with divorce.
As I bring the beer to my lips to take the last sip I realize this is about me too. I am finally letting myself feel it, the heartbreak, the loneliness I thought I was too strong to feel, the incompleteness. It doesn’t’ matter how much I know it wouldn’t work between their dad and I, or how much he knows it wouldn’t work, it’s that sense of completeness that is absent without him wrapping those presents that takes a hold of me and it knocks me sideways and leaves me staggering (not from the beer) but from the emotion of it, trying to figure out my feelings and what I could take away from this.
What I can take away from this is this was our first year separated. It was a long hard year with many firsts. I am confident next year will be a little better and the next year a little better after that. I am confident that is the worst Christmas I will ever have to endure, and even if I have another one just like it next year, I will keep the same smile I had for them that Christmas morning when they woke up, because yet again I conquered something I was never good at- misery. And I did it for them and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives because they are, and will be my everything no matter what the circumstances.