Monday, December 26, 2011

a million tiny “no”s

On Christmas Eve, my malaise took me for a walk around town, searching for a way to fill the empty space left by the fact, incontrovertible, that my children are not at home with me baking cookies for Santa.  They were with my X and her new partner, doing whatever they do which I’d rather not think about since it doesn’t include me.  Being a middle class American, my hard-wired instinct was to fill this hole in my heart by buying more gifts for those same missing, missed kids. 

Lucky for me, I had two bits of perspective.  One: there wasn’t much money in my bank account, a common occurrence since the divorce.  Two: Facebook.  My daily checking thereof NOT usually something I like to admit to, but when it’s Christmas Eve and your little kids are making their Santa snacks at a home in which you are not welcome, Facebook really doesn’t feel like so much of a time-waster.  More like a life-saving time-filler.  You never know how long one day can be until you are missing your kids at Christmas time.

A friend had posted on Facebook that morning: “suffering pre-Christmas oscillation between anxiety about overconsumption and the desire to delight and thrill my kids. I haven't gotten my kids enough gifts! I've gotten my kids too many gifts! Aaagh!”

And remembering that post saved me.  I let my feet wander through the toy store, linger by the games shelf, and move on.  (Oh, they would love this!  But they have enough, more than enough, too much really.)  When your kids have two houses, you have to be very conscious not to compete for best Christmas, and by proxy, best parent.  Out here in the shopping frenzy of Christmas Eve, everyone was jolly, laughing, hurrying.  I had all the time in the world, not expecting my kids back until noon on the 25th, but I pretended to smile back.  My hands, seemingly disconnected from my shut-down self, browsed the bookstore shelves, allowing a few small items to pile up on a bench, but only if they seem likely to advance the progress of our slowish readers: Mad Libs for the one learning parts of speech, Hangman for the one working on simple spelling.  The honey store extracted a few more dollars as they are a local business devoted to the continued health of the honeybee population, and a few pieces of their honey taffy would fill the kids’ expectation that Santa always puts candy in stockings without adding to the corn syrup and chocolate intake that surely would have begun near dawn at their other house.

To walk through town on December 24 with a hole in your soul and emerge without an enormous sack full of crap requires an inexhaustible source of internal “no”s.  No plastic.  No made-in-far-away non-durable goods.  No non-FSC-certified paper.  No Farm Bill-subsidized corn syrup.  No clamshell cases.  No, no, no.  No pretending that “retail therapy” is anything other than just digging yourself in further, into debt, into depression, into denial that you are part of the problem.  Unless.  Unless, your profligate spending of “no”s adds up to you heading home to discover that the stockings are, in fact, just the right amount full, and the honey is sweet in a cup of tea, and your attempts to be part of the solution, however small, have made the waiting tolerable.  Because the only thing that can fill the hole, the big “yes,” will arrive.  And they will not miss for even one second any of the things you said “no” to.

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