sucker punch

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.

Until tonight.

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.

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7 Comments

Filed under healing, love, parenthood, relationships, sadness, single mom

7 responses to “sucker punch

  1. Gutted. Sucker punched. Eviscerated.
    All apt descriptions of the effect of these triggers. That sense of what should have/could have been, obliterated by reality.
    Damn.

  2. ooooh… shaaaame! Sigh. I’m sorry…

  3. I know all too well what you are talking about; it usually happens when I am feeling quite positive there is life after JC. Its like a kick in the stomach; it knocks the wind right out of me. I don’t know if James is a pseudonym for your ex but my ex’s name really is James. It kinda made me suck my breath in. I 1/2 expect to one day come across a blog written by another one of his victims.

    I have read a few of your posts this morning and look forward to reading more.

    I sincerely hope you have a good day.
    You are an excellent writer and your honesty is refreshing.
    Carrie

    • James is actually his real name, but not a name he commonly goes by.

      It’s funny how those of us who have experienced that sucker punch know exactly how it feels, while other people are like, “Just get over it, will you?” Ummm… That’s kinda the point. I’m trying! Lol.

      Thanks for the compliments, Carrie. I hope I live up to them…. 🙂

  4. As things are moving forward, and I am getting to spend time with Mr Nice’s son, this particular fear has entered my life.
    What happens to the children if we split up? How much more heartbreak does it add? Should we protect them and ourselves more from getting attached to each other?
    I’m sorry James’ children will not have their decorated stockings. Or perhaps, this is something you could do anyway, after a bit more time has gone by?

    • You know, Lady E., upon reflection, I’m not sure what I could have done differently… The girls knew I was dating, and met him and his kids briefly after 2 months, but I didn’t really incorporate him into our time together in any meaningful way until we’d been dating for 8 months. And he didn’t spend the night while they were here until we’d been dating for a year! Geesh, I mean, how much more careful was I supposed to be, right? Argh!!!

      The literature all says to introduce someone once you feel that this person might be someone special and/or permanent. Beyond that, I think it’s all a crap shoot, unfortunately.

      My girls have learned a lot from our break-up. I’ve talked to them quite a bit about dating and why it’s hard and how it’s not like the movies, in which Prince Charming is on every corner. We’ve talked about risking your heart and what that means and how hurt I was and what that felt like. So, I guess, at the very least, it’s been a teachable lesson for us to work with.

      Good luck with Mr. Nice. I think you can only do your best. 🙂 The rest is up to fate…

    • Oh, and, thanks for the suggestion that I do the stockings later — that’s very sweet. But I can’t imagine James and I being friends or whatever would be necessary for me to do those kind of things for his family again. Too much pain and disappointment in that ending.

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