Once upon a time I was previously married and had two very young kids. Christmas was always a very stressful time of year because we generally didn't have the money to spend on anything let alone presents.
A few days before Christmas we went and got a real tree. Well, it was more like a Charlie Brown Tree. It was ugly and crooked. But we had lights that my in laws had given us and the kids had made ornaments in school, plus we had some of our own.
Off to home we went to take our prize pine and set it up.
Husband cut the twine holding the tree on the roof of the Isuzu Trooper. His knife was very sharp. He cut the twine and his ring finger down to the bone.
We dumped the tree in the house, I called the neighbor and herded the boys to their house. At the ER I watched them sew the finger up.
The tree was set up and decorated. If one squinted, it even looked beautiful. If one turned the lights out and looked at it, it looked even better.
Christmas Eve we went shopping. I didn't want to go. Our account was pretty empty and the rent was due in just 5 days. I watched the credit card burn and the checks being written. Toy's R Us got our rent money.
With the kids in bed, I wrapped the gifts.
Husband went to bed.
I put things under the tree and then crept into bed very late. I lay awake most of the night worried about how we were going to pay bills. I wasn't impressed with the toys we'd gotten either. It seemed as if our shopping had been a frantic 'snatch and grab'.
The boys got us up early and I put on my robe and watched them with my husband. They marveled at their packages and toys. I didn't get any warm fuzzy feeling inside. Just the lump of dread knowing that there were bills to pay.
And who the heck decided Christmas was about gifts anyway?
Pretty soon my husband came into the living room pushing a red 10 speed bicycle. I had to admit, I had been wanting one desperately.
Still that horrid feeling of something is wrong kept nagging at me.
Husband asked me what I planned for Christmas Supper.
Whoops. I hadn't gone shopping because there was now money in the account. No my feeling of unease went to a feeling of being sick.
I didn't plan on anything really, just something ordinary and simple.
The bike, the toys, all things we couldn't afford and now no special supper? Husband was angry in the 10th degree. He pointed at me with his splinted bandaged finger and called me names. I walked into the kitchen for his tirade while he carried on.
I was a terrible mother, I was no good, I was stupid, I'd better get my ass out there right away and find a ham.
Gratefully, I left the house to look for groceries. Husband assured me that the check wouldn't bounce for at least 4 days. And he'd be paid by then.
I drove around with a sinking feeling. All the parking lots were empty. Nothing was open. The retail world had stopped.
You see it wasn't often that we actually did Christmas on Christmas Day. Normally my husband would have been on duty. But he was off with the injured finger.
I returned home empty handed. The boys were blissfully playing. Angry husband stomped out of the house to look himself.
He returned empty handed.
I cooked oatmeal cereal that night while husband fumed. The boys were happy as a couple of clams. Apparently they did not care what they had for Christmas Supper, as long as they could get back to the new shiny toys.
Me? I'm no longer married to that husband. I don't get into buying a ton of gifts and I'm sort of a tight wad in that department. Christmas Diner/Supper is still not a big deal for me. I hate to cook anyway.
But Christmas Eve is still special for me.
And it is not about the gifts either.