Ghosts of Christmas Past


Erin, Me, and Jeff on Christmas Eve in the late 70s.

When my parents divorced, when I was 7 years old, they devised a scheme where we, my brother, sister and me, would split christmas day between them, alternating year to year who got us on christmas eve and who got us christmas night.

Sounds fair, right? Sure.

But consider the gut wrenching sadness we felt when leaving one lonely parent (especially before they were each remarried) around noon to head to the other. To the credit of my mom and dad, they never let on how sad they were to see us leave mid-holiday. But I secretly hated it. No matter how we spun it, leaving one for the other felt like a betrayal and next year’s retribution was too far away to consider. We did this for 15 years until my mom and dad lived a little too far apart to make the mid-day change-off feasibile.

After that we tried to spend Thanksgiving with one parent and fit in visits to both parents during the christmas holiday. Whomever didn’t get us for thanksgiving, got us for christmas day.

These days, my brother doesn’t come East for the holidays at all. But my sister and I still head home (you know, ’cause we aren’t married). We now hit one parent for Thanksgiving and the other for Christmas. Our break isn’t long enough to fit in visits to both anymore.

Techically speaking, this year is Dad’s year for christmas and my sister and I already have flight reservations to meet him at his future home in Washington, NC. But tell me, how do we go there with joyous hearts knowing our mother will potentially be spending the holiday alone and newly separated from her husband of nearly 15 years? It isn’t an easy question.

So, I am planning to talk to my Dad about inviting my Mom to come with us to NC for the first jointly celebrated holiday in 24 years. How weird would that be? Strangely enough, I bet it would be weirder for us, the kids, than they, the parents.

I am sure they’d be all mature and adult about the matter, but there is something itchy for me when in the room with both parents. The last time this happened was on the day of my college graduation in May 1996. Dinner that night was painfully awkward. Or rather, I was painfully awkward over dinner. They seemed to get along fine, I don’t know why I can’t just sit back and relax. Mom and Dad have never fought or turned into strange monsters when in each other’s presence… so why the weirdness?

Maybe growing up in two totally different households does that to you. My dad was all contemporary, progressive, and liberal. Mom was all toille, antiques and conservative. Splitting my early days between them where Monday and Tuesday was spent with Mom and Wednesday and Thursday was spent at Dad’s and flip-flopping weekends (which I did for almost 10 years) has made me a bit schizophrenic and the joining of both these worlds in one room results in a mental crash.

I don’t know. Just random thoughts for this Monday morning.


Me with Santa wishing for a ‘sit-n-spin’

3 thoughts on “Ghosts of Christmas Past

  1. Have you seen SQUID AND THE WHALE yet? It deals with this same issue of child-sharing. Basically, the kids evince that it blows, but the movie exhibits it all with great candor and wit. It’s based on the writer/director’s own childhood. (Phoebe Cates and Kevin Kline’s son plays the younger son, and it’s one juicy part.)

  2. i know this issue well. and i hate to say it, but it has the potential to get worse when you get married. ann and i have to split between her family and my family every other year. but, my parents are separated, so that’s another splinter. thankfully, my parents do get along fairly well, so when they aren’t seeing other people, they are content to spend it together with ann and i. my dad just started seeing someone new, and we have already had one argument about thanksgiving, and have started the conversations about christmas. i have no answers, but i feel your pain. it makes me want to pack up ann and feidler and disappear for the entire holiday season.

  3. NYM: thank you for the advice– I can always count on you for movie suggestions!!!A&D: Yes, that is my fear, that it will get worse when I marry. Unless I find that elusive british sugardaddy who will keep me in plush and splendor in a flat overlooking the Thames. Then, everyone will have no choice but to come to ME ME ME! That’s my plan and I am sticking to it.

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