I took my labelmaker (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has a labelmaker) to work this morning so that our receptionist could label some things around the office. But after only one label, it ran out of ribbon (yes, it was that kind of morning).
Arriving home late in evening after helping a work friend with an errand he needed to run, I headed to my craft box and began pawing through it, looking for the extra label ribbon that I knew was in there (yes, I’m the kind of mom who has extra label ribbon). I couldn’t find it, so I took the box to the dining room table and dumped the contents across its surface. Then, poking through the markers and paints and glues (aha! I knew I had extra label ribbon!), my hand froze on a tube of paint, I felt the air sucked out of my lungs, and the memory washed over me….
It was Christmas Eve and I stood in front of James’s hearth, fingering the Christmas stockings hanging from the mantle. Five identical stockings, plain and unadorned. I looked across the room at James and pointed to the stockings. He crossed the room and explained that his ex-wife had taken all the stockings when she’d left. “Well,” I said, “When Christmas is over, you need to let me take these and decorate them, personalize them. This looks sad. I’ll fix them up!” He shrugged. “Okay, sure.”
And so, in the days immediately after Christmas, still on a happiness high from my amazing holiday weekend, I went out and bought tubes of paints in Christmas colors, plus puffy white paint to mimic snow, and silver glittery paint to make them festive. I found an old t-shirt and spread it on the dining room table and starting practicing all the letters in their names, drawing snow flakes and holly leaves, ornaments and gifts. I was determined to make those stockings perfect. When the kids arrived at their dad’s next Christmas, they’d find pretty stockings, decorated with love.
But I never decorated those stockings. By the end of that week, my relationship with James was blown apart, all my hopes for shared holidays to come, dashed.
I don’t remember cleaning up the paints or the practice t-shirt. I must have done it when I was still numb with pain. I had forgotten about all those colorful tubes, about my silly plans, about my offer to James to help make things special for his children.
It’s so unfair how life can sucker punch you. There you are, moving along pretty much okay, trying to just put everything behind you, letting go of what you never really had, and WOOMPH!, a sucker punch from left field ushers in all the grief and loss all over again.
I wish that I had decorated those stockings. I wish that those children had some tangible token of my love. They would likely never realize, or probably care, who had decorated them or why, but I would know. I would know that each Christmas, a little tiny piece of me would be there, loving on them still.