This year Christmas will be just my brood and I. Today we will bake cookies for Santa and leave carrots out for the reindeer. We’ll gather moths for the gerbils so they can have their Christmas feast. We will watch Christmas movies, and possibly all sleep in my bed. Christmas will be peaceful; there’ll be presents and good cheer, ecstatic sisters, and a house filled with love and laughter. I should not be sad about the things we won’t have this year, but I am.
It’s not the lack of presents. The girls have so many toys already that I’ve stopped keeping most of them in our condo. This year I was able to buy them a few things that they wanted, but we are financially dependent upon my school loans, and as the semester came to an end, so did our living expenses. I was given, once again, a very generous gift from donators to my support group. Clothing and presents were provided for the girls and several gift cards were given to me. Everything will come in handy and I am sincerely appreciative. I am still so new to this idea of accepting things; I am so used to giving. Every time something is given to me I anticipate the day I’m able to give back. I will never forget what these gifts have meant to me. But not even my inability to participate in the cycle of giving has me down this season.
It’s the lack of family. It’s the loss of his family. My mother lives in Illinois, my sister in New Orléans. I already knew that we would not be spending Christmas with my mother and sister. All throughout my marriage spending time with my family was not as essential to our routine as spending time with his. When I entered my marriage I was already feeling at odds with my mother and sister. I was disconnected from them, and being with my husband gave me the permission to explore myself and my budding adulthood without their influence. I did a lot of the isolation for him; all he had to do was encourage me to not put up with the negativity I felt coming from them.
His family became very important to me. His mother was always comforting, loving, open-minded, and available. She assisted us with our sustainability efforts and treated our children well. His sister became one of my best friends. I felt very close to her and enjoyed the times we got to spend together. I always knew that leaving my husband might also mean that I would be sacrificing my relationships with them. I hated the thought, and on many occasions I chose to stay with him because I could not imagine losing my new family.
His mother and sister were amazing, but also his grandmothers, his cousins, his childhood friends. He’d grown up with a security that I’d always envied. For most of his life he’d lived in the same house, with the majority of his family within a 10 mile radius. Family gatherings were frequent and heavily attended. I hadn’t had that kind of life; my family was far away and slightly deranged dysfunctional. I’d always wanted the type of family life that being a part of his family provided. I wanted to be able to throw a party and have more than three people attend. I wanted to have a family member’s house to hang out at on the weekends. I wanted to be able to stop by unannounced and feel comfortable staying the night. I wanted to have the poker buddies, the fishing company, and the annual camping trips. I’d wanted the community of relatives supporting me unconditionally.
I knew there’d be no easy way to leave him without the possibility of losing his family, but I didn’t think things would end as horribly as they did. Now, with the felony charges and restraining order against him, I have more than likely lost them. They have contacted me only a handful of times since The Big Incident, and all of those times have been extremely brief. The standard, “How are the girls?” and nothing more. Due to the restraining order, they aren’t allowed to ask me about the court cases, and I’d assume they want to avoid talking about my marriage, but how do you avoid those topics? So they avoid contact. I haven’t called them for those same reasons. I feel that it would be almost unfair of me. They must be supporting him, so I am now the enemy. And it’s not as though I don’t understand, but it still saddens me.
I did not want to lose them. I did not want to lose the Christmas’ with them. More than the mounds of presents; I enjoyed the family Christmas gatherings, my daughters’ excitement being with everybody, the chance to feel included in a clan of people who may not have looked like me, but who shared my last name, who would fight for me, who would be there for me and my babies. This Christmas will be the first of…how many? without his family. Will I or my children ever be invited back in?
It pains me to think of this loss. I try to imagine that someday, after the court cases, after some time has passed, I will not have totally lost the relationships I built with them. Maybe he has not told them horrible lies about me. But as he never takes the blame for anything I’m almost certain he has been badmouthing me. Maybe somehow they do not believe the horrible things he is saying. Maybe they would like to contact me, to support me, but they feel like it’d be disloyal to him. Maybe they really believe his side of the story. I really don’t know what they’re thinking, because they don’t talk to me. So I sit 1000 miles away and worry.
This Christmas will be filled with so many good things. My daughters and I are thriving, my pregnancy is going well and is almost at its end, my schooling is three courses shy of being complete, my daughters will have a mini, mama-made feast and they won’t notice the lesser number of presents from Christmas’ past. Our condo is comfortable and safe. We don’t have any money, but I have a plan for ways to make it through until my next school loan check is disbursed. We’ll be okay.
I don’t know if I should mourn the loss of his family. I’m holding out. I’m hoping I don’t have to let them go. It will be impossible to not think of them on Christmas. To not think of him being with them, enjoying them, being accepted and loved by them as my daughters and I used to be. It will be hard for me, but they are his family, and maybe I never really had them anyway. Maybe they were never really mine. But it felt like they were mine, every time we traveled to see them at Christmastime.