So This is Christmas

Comments 46
I'll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.
I’ll just keep walking forward. Waiting for the snow to melt. The flowers to bloom. The sun to rise. Because those things will happen.

Christmas is less than two days away.

The most-beloved holiday on the Christian calendar. It’s so popular, most of the Jewish people I know celebrate it, too.

I don’t think we should wield the word “magic” too lightly, but that is precisely what so many of us experienced on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning throughout our childhoods.

Do you remember that first Christmas where the magic went away?

Maybe it was whenever you stopped believing in St. Nick’s Christmas Eve rounds. Maybe it was a holiday season spent away from your family. Maybe it was after a great personal loss. Maybe it was after your family went away.

I remember my first one. It was during my last year of college, and I lived far enough away from my family where I had to leave early Christmas Eve to head back to school. On Christmas Day, my job working with special needs people required that I be at a house with mostly strangers helping to prepare Christmas dinner.

It was my first Christmas dating my ex-wife. She was home with her family. I spent Christmas Eve night alone, assembling a large DVD cabinet my parents had given to me.

I spent the day with strangers. We ate turkey and watched The Goonies. We made the best of it.

But Christmas came and went without any of the magic I’d felt my entire life.

By next Christmas, I was living in Florida. That decision murdered Christmas.

I spent that Christmas Day with a handful of new friends I’d met at the newspaper. None of us could afford to fly home to be with our families—or we were on call at the paper in case of a major news event. As the lowest members on the totem pole, some of us had to be available.

I didn’t have a Christmas tree.

We played basketball in 80-degree temperatures.

The magic was gone.

It Found Me Again

Moving back to Ohio returned a bit of magic to the season. While it was my wife’s family and not my own with whom we would celebrate, it was still family. When our son came along five years ago, it further enhanced the holidays.

Even last year, with my marriage on the rocks, Christmas brought us all together. It was—literally—the last time it felt like family with my ex-wife, son and I together.

Then, poof.



Normalcy. Peace. Routine. Tradition. Love. Happiness.

The ever-hopeful voice that lives inside my head still whispered the possibility of unexpected Christmas blessings.

And perhaps they’ll come. I always like to say that there’s no reason to believe today won’t be the day that the best thing that ever happened to you, happens.

But as I sit here staring at the calendar, wondering where all that time went between spring when my life fell apart, and now, when I’m still firmly in wake-up-and-just-try-not-to-die mode, I feel… I’m not sure what.

Not joy. Not peace. Not magic.

But I also don’t feel horrible things.

Not despair. Not dread. Not hopeless.

I’m somewhere in between.

I’ll wake up with my son on Christmas Eve. We’ll have breakfast and I’ll take him to his mom’s.

I’ll spend the day wrapping gifts. Buying odds and ends for a small gathering of friends Christmas Eve night. Once again, a rogue group of people, away from their families, making the best of it.

Things can never be the same.

I don’t get to wake up an excited little boy on Christmas morning ever again. It’s all part of that hourglass sand moving from top to bottom.

I don’t get to wake up with my family. Drinking coffee. Eating pastries. Opening gifts. Watching A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

There’s a fair chance Christmas morning brings with it a slight hangover from too many Christmas ales.

I’ll attend church alone.

I’ll spend the day picking up the pieces from the night before.

Perhaps I’ll listen to “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on repeat for a while, because it’s my favorite Christmas song.

Maybe I’ll watch Elf because laughing is healthy.

Maybe I’ll volunteer at a local shelter.

Maybe I’ll drink alone.

Maybe I’ll cry.

I don’t know.

I just know this is it. My new life.

And I must accept whatever comes. And just… deal.

So this is Christmas.

46 thoughts on “So This is Christmas”

  1. hey i won’t click like this is v sad I can relate in my past life all three of us would go to a shopping mall in cambridge split up to buy christmas presents for one another meet up and hide them wrapped up and then place under the tree. xmas morning we took turns giving out the presents this one for mum, that for that dad and of course m got the most. i miss that and my family

    nevertheless happy xmas and a healthy new year

    btw limbo is gd better than despair not what we would have chosen but it is what it is a new kind of reality maybe not all bad

      1. Whatever makes you feel good, if that’s the best you can DO, then by all means, drink. But I think you could do better than that. I think you are worth more than that.

  2. I had finally convinced myself I’m not upset about being here alone this year. Now…not so much. Boo!

  3. I know it’s hard and nothing can replace what you’ve lost. But, you still have your son, so even if schedules are different, you can still make it great and memorable. For me, it hasn’t felt like Christmas for several years. Honestly, just about the only thing I look forward to at Christmastime, is for it to be over.

    Just because Christmas may not be the same, doesn’t mean that it can’t be good. Finding new traditions, helping others and giving of yourself will most certainly bring you joy. Different isn’t always bad.

    (Side note – you’ve got me beat by one year at 34.)

    1. I will make the best of it I can. I always try.

      Wishing you and your loved ones a fun, safe and joyful Christmas. Glad the age mystery is solved. 🙂

  4. Matt I agree with Mel, don’t just be, do.And mewhoami gives sound advice too. You are right when you write that things can never be the same…. but that does not mean you can’t find happiness going forward, you can’t make new traditions. It is hard to let go of what we knew, but surrounding your self with good friends and positive people will get you through. My parents were divorced, and the man I am married to was divorced- so I understand loss and change.My stepdaughter was 8 when I married her father-(she is now 30) and she talks about how special it was to start new and different traditions, that she has always remembered. Try to focus forward not backward if you can. Hugs to you. It will get better-

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      I had stepfamilies too. And they were wonderful. I hope I didn’t come off super dour and whiny. I don’t feel that way.

      Simply reflecting on the crazy year and all the changes that came with it.

      I believe very strongly that some good things will happen moving forward. I’m quite excited about that stuff getting here.

      Thank you so much for reading and saying kind things.

  5. Lord, I am in tears reading this and I so know how you feel. I’ve been dreading Christmas and all the memories and triggers that are going to come about..
    This is going to be my second “magic-less” Christmas – was actually going to post about the first one sometime…
    Wish I could spend Christmas with you, since I love those movies too and I’d actually welcome someone to go to church with and to drink with and to cry with and yeah… that song is also my favourite. I almost quoted it yesterday, the part about “from now on our troubles will be miles away”
    I wish.
    Sigh. HUGS to you… to all of us having miserable Christmases this year that just aren’t what we thought we’d be having…. </3

    1. Aww. 🙁

      Thank you. This actually made me smile in it’s own little sad, semi-twisted way.

      Very sweet of you. For the record, I only cry when I’m by myself. I act significantly tougher in real life. I just like to be transparent here. 🙂

      Wishing you many good things this Christmas. Please think about what I wrote. Because it’s true. Every day is an opportunity to be the greatest day of your life.

      Might be tomorrow.

      Smile, please. Merry Christmas.

      1. I will remember. Thank you. I do think those things too, in my less-hysterically sad moments, I promise… And you’re right, there’s no reason why good things can’t happen even when we’re swimming in an ocean of all the bad.
        Merry Christmas to you too.

        P.S. I just posted this, not to be a complete jerk but because it actually did make me laugh… heh. Stupid but sometimes the little dumb things make a difference.

    1. Thank you so much for caring. I am sad. But I also make the best of things. I’ll be surrounded by friends tomorrow night laughing and having a great time.

      I am very, very blessed to have people in my life like that. 🙂

      And to have so many supportive people here. Thank you so much.

  6. I’m with everyone else here. Make new memories with your son. Enjoy your friends. This is your life, but only for right now. Like everything else, it will shift and change. Transition sucks, but on the other hand, there’s so much potential…

    1. I agree strongly. There is enormous potential for good. When I stay focused on that, I do feel very hopeful. 🙂

  7. I remember coming home from church on Christmas Eve alone– because the girls were spending the night at their Dad’s. It was weird, but I was OK. Last year my eldest decided to make Christmas dinner for her father at her tiny apartment. This year they have decided to do Christmas eve, so she will be joining my extended family for dinner again. Each year we reinvent Christmas, and somehow it works. I’ll be thinking of you as you navigate your first post-divorce Christmas. It won’t be the same, but it will be Christmas. Hugs.

    1. Yes. The sun rises and sets no matter what.

      Christmas will happen whether I feel like it or not. Perhaps being mindful of the spiritual side–the reason for the season–could benefit me.

      I’m sure it could.

      Thank you for thinking about me at all. I really appreciate it.

  8. “I don’t get to wake up an excited little boy on Christmas morning ever again.” This does not have to be true. Go back to court and renegotiate the terms of your custody agreement. At one time I was employed in this general area, and I can tell you that if your son sleeps at your wife’s house on Christmas Eve this year, he should sleep at your house on Christmas Eve next year. It is a generally accepted practice to alternate years. Please, Matt, stand up for yourself on this. You owe it to yourself (and to your son).

    1. I will have my son for Christmas next year. 🙂

      And to be fair, this year, too, a little. His mom is bringing him over in the late evening to open gifts. I will see him for at least a couple hours Christmas night and he will wake up here the next day.

      I feel like I came off way more woe-is-me in this post than I feel.

      In the end, I’m going to have a fun Christmas Eve, and I’m going to watch my son open presents Christmas night.

      Not bad for a divorced guy. 🙂

      Please have a happy and blessed holidays.

    1. Thank you, Lara. I wish all the same to you. There will be some brain-cell casualties, but it’s going to be a fun night. 🙂

      Merry Christmas. I really appreciate you taking the time to write this.

      1. Hah same here! I’m leaving work early so I can go home and do all the cooking before I whip out the spiked eggnog and single malt whiskey. YUM!

        May we both have no hangover for church tomorrow!

  9. Dear Matt,
    As many Followers made awesome comments & suggestions. I wanted for you to know that Your In My Thoughts. I’m touched you shared a Very Painful experience, and know when you’re least expecting the unthinkable. You Will Be Touched with Joy and Happiness. Sending You Love and Light My Friend.

    1. Thank you so much. I’ll have a lot of fun tonight and make the best of tomorrow.

      I really appreciate your kindness. I hope you have a blessed holidays. 🙂

  10. Will you not be able to see your son at all? I hope you can.

    If not, and maybe even if you do, one thing you might consider is doing something, anything, to help people who are worse off than you. This is a suggestion someone shared with me last year, as my marriage/family imploded at this time last year.

    It really does help. It puts your problems into perspective. it doesn’t mean your problems aren’t real, it just makes you feel a little better.

    I hope you manage to have a nice holiday. IMO holidays are overrated and overhyped. I’m all for having fun but this year the consumerist angle on Christmas has really got me bent out of shape. :-/

    1. I may head over to the place where I used to regularly volunteer tomorrow after church. That will be a good idea. But tonight could get out of hand, so I don’t want to make any promises I’m not going to keep.

      I will see my son in the late evening, yes. His mom and he will come over so he can open presents. It should be pleasant.

      I intend to make the best of the holidays, no matter what. Thank you so much for the note.

      1. Try to remember that alcohol is a depressant and will likely leave you feeling worse if you go that route. I know it’s hard, but don’t be that guy. You are better than that.

        Hang in there, man. It will get better. I promise.

  11. Matt, I forgot to say that I mentioned you and your son in church at our Christmas service on Sunday. So you are in the prayers of many people in a tiny town in northern California. Merry Christmas!

    1. This was awesome. That was an incredibly kind thing for you to do. 🙂

      Thank you very much. I don’t even know how to respond to that.

      Here’s to Christmas Day bringing joy to many, many people. I’m very grateful for your thoughtfulness.

      Merry Christmas to you, your wife, and everyone else in your world.

  12. Hope this Christmas is a better one for you. We are stuck for our fourth Christmas in hell, I mean Florida. . . no family. . . if you were still down here I would say you can spend Christmas with us and our four crazy kids. . . .

    1. I just stumbled on this comment. Right now.

      Thank you, Angel. What a wonderful offer.

      But this Christmas WILL be better for me. I will probably still spend it alone. But I’m completely at peace with that.

      Maybe I won’t have many more like it.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Matt Fray

Get my latest writing!

Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter as I continue an on-going exploration of love and relationships.
%d bloggers like this: