Elves on Shelves: A Christmas Tale of Divorce

FullSizeRender11-624x467There will be two trees this year.

Plus, we’ve split up all the boxes of decorations and garlands and crap that we had bought together back when we were married. Back when we did Christmas together as a guy and a girl who were still married and all.

One Elf on the Shelf isn’t enough anymore either. The one we had last year, her mom sent it to us in a package for the kids. So that one stays at her house. I had to head out to find my own. Those little bast*rds are expensive though, you know, so I bought a crappy old elf in a thrift store. The kids are cool with it. I think she’s a girl; it’s tough to tell with some of these elves. Violet, 5, and Henry,3, they named her in a fit of ideas. It was a fun afternoon. We settled on Jessie Jingle. So that’s good, I guess.

All the holiday records we accumulated over the past decade of marriage: they’ve been divided up now and I seem to have gotten the better end of the bargain there. I’ll admit that. I got the Sinatra Christmas and the Bing Crosby record and the Elvis one, too. She got her own copy of the Phil Spector album when she went record shopping not too long ago. That was a good grab, I think. So yeah, I’m happy to know my kids will be hearing that one playing in both of their homes, making spirits bright in two separate houses, miles apart on Christmas Eve.

On the surface, as the divorce settles down around us like slow-falling snow, stacking up higher and higher, the final date creeping in closer and closer with each passing day, with every hour falling away, I guess we’ve done a pretty good job setting up two different December homes for our kids to soak up all that holiday spirit. Kids need that and deserve it and we both know it. But there’s a sadness to it all, too. For me there is, at least. I don’t know how it is for her. We don’t talk about stuff like that much anymore.

I was always a Christmas guy. Maybe you know the type. Come Thanksgiving, I always went man-child, letting myself get so caught up in that one month of the year when it seems at least reasonably acceptable for a grown adult to break out his collection of old plastic Santa Clauses and to listen non-stop to the old songs, the old carols or whatever. I never got into the Mariah Carey stuff, or anything new, really. Perhaps I’m nuts, but something about Christmastime always made me feel connected to some kind of old soul vibe. I’m the least nostalgic dude on Earth, but for whatever reason, Christmas makes me feel like a kid again and I have never tried to fight off, really.

Over ten years of marriage, she seemed to dig it, my Christmas blood. Or else she played along pretty good and that’s all you can ask for when you’re a guy in his late-30s/early 40s who still wants to have a ceramic snowman peering out of every nook and cranny on the bookshelf, you know? I appreciated her indulging me. There are times now when I start to wonder if  maybe some of my hyper-spirit rubbed off on her at all. I stop myself as soon as I begin down that path, though. What’s the use? What’s the point? Even if she took something away from our nine Christmases together, in Utah and in Brooklyn and in Pennsylvania, it doesn’t mean jack now, you know?

Divorce doesn’t give a damn about your dumb memories. I used to wake up early every single damn day in December, even long  before we had kids, sneaking out of the bedroom to plug in the lights for a woman I loved so that when she finally dragged her butt out of bed, all sleepy-eyed and grumpy, she could walk into a magical, dazzled room. I’ve had to ask myself a lot of questions this past year about things I did wrong, about why our love died like it did.

And from time to time, whenever all these Christmas memories tried crawling up out of my cellar and started bugging me to stare at them and reconcile with them and accept them as yet another well-cooled batch of simple, beautiful things that are gone forever, I’d even go so far as to ask myself whether I ever loved her. I think I wanted to convince myself that I never really had. Things are easier that way, man. They just are. But I suck at lying, especially to myself. So, as I wondered if maybe I used to wake up on all of those mornings and head out into the cold living rooms we occupied just to plug stuff in, just to be able to stand there and stare at the colored light rays pinging off the cheap dollar store silver garlands, I really forced myself to answer a very serious question in my little world.

First thing in the morning, did I make sure the room was all magic looking for her?

Or was I really doing it for me?

You stare down some weird-ass questions when you divorce if you’re being true to yourself. You have to. You kind of owe it to the galaxy at large. Otherwise, what? You come out of something so traumatic and sad and you carry nothing beneficial into the world? Screw that. I want to own the path behind me, this ragged road of my own personal history of love and romance and fighting and hurt and partnership and sinking ship. I need to embrace it, all of it — all this stuff I’d spent a huge chunk of my life creating with her only to have it fall apart in our hands like soppy bread.

And so, now that we’ve jetted and it’s over and Christmas is here, I think a big part of me wanted to be able to reclaim Christmastime as something all my own, as this one bad-ass part of my life, of my existence, that she had never been able to mark up. My own wall without even a swift midnight blast of her graffiti anywhere on it.

That’s how these human minds work, you see. Even at our most uncertain, we want to be sure that we’re still stronger than hell. I wanted to keep Christmas as my own, for me and my kids, with no trace of her anywhere up in it, just so I could breathe easy and not think of her anymore for a while. Or us, even.

But whatever.

I woke up and plugged things in for her. Even if she was never a morning person and probably didn’t even notice it all that much, I did it for her. I admit it. Who cares?

You cannot slight the Ghost of Christmas Past, fool.

And someone really ought to write about that.


Image: Serge Bielanko Private

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