Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On tangled lives and ornament hooks

We spent a glorious weekend palming balls to make sure they were hanging right and contemplating the best way to lift up the skirt and get the kitty off.
We had to lift up the skirt to get the kitty off.

In other words, it's Christmas tree time.

As we got out the boxes packed with ornaments and lights, it dawned on me this is the fourth Christmas we've spent together. The guy who started out as my gentleman friend is now my husband, and I still giggle sometimes when I use that word. It makes me feel like a second grader huddled in the school library looking up words like "intercourse" and "areola" in a battered dictionary. I'm pretty sure I'm getting away with something deliciously naughty, but I'm not certain what it is.

This funny feeling is evident when I look at the two large plastic totes that hold our ornaments. There's a purple one and a green one, and I remember exactly how we came to own them. It was a week after that first Christmas together, and our relationship was like a precious and fragile ornament we wanted to swaddle in a protective layer of bubble wrap.

Because exactly one year before that, I was in the midst of a devastating divorce that reached the pinnacle of awfulness around the holidays. Three years before that – in a completely separate, but startlingly similar set of circumstances – my gentleman friend went through the same experience. To say we both bore holiday battle scars would be an understatement akin to suggesting I'm mildly fond of having my stocking stuffed.

So there we were at the end of our first Christmas together, feeling deliriously in love, hopelessly optimistic, and understandably guarded. We shared an address and a Christmas tree and a plan to stay together for the long-haul, but we also shared a healthy dose of cynicism. When it came time to pack up our ornaments for the season, we bit our lips and stole nervous glances at each other.

"Do you think it's okay to store our ornaments separately?" I asked.

His relief was palpable. "I'm glad you said something. Yeah, let's not combine them. Not that I'm not all-in with this relationship, but–"

"I know," I said, resisting the urge to make an all-in joke. "Believe me, I know."

And I did. We both knew the heartbreak of divvying up Christmas ornaments and automobiles, pets and plates. We were fresh and hopeful and cautious and raw. We had the urge to guard our hearts the way you handle a hand-painted eggshell adored with glitter and dangling from gossamer ribbon.

That's a funny analogy, because guess what we made that first Christmas together? We blew the guts out of a dozen eggs as we sat clustered around the dining room table with his two children and the two 27-year-old housemates I'd taken in to help pay the mortgage after my ex left. Our odd little six-member family decorated those pristine white shells with cheap paint and sub-par art skills. We made poop jokes and pipe-cleaner snowflakes, and at the end of it all, we lost track of who created what. Our artwork and our lives got mixed up together in one lovely, tangled mess.

Which is pretty much what those boxes look like now. Sure, there's still some division between his keepsake ornaments and mine, but we do it less out of an abundance of caution and more to remind ourselves where we came from. The rag-tied camel I packed out of the Sahara Desert is tucked beside the ornament my new stepdaughter made from gold-painted macaroni back when someone besides me got to call her daddy "husband."

Is it messy? Absolutely. Is it scary? Sometimes. Is it wonderful? Without a doubt.

Isn't that what love is?


Unknown said...

This is an absolutely beautiful post. Thank you for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Tawna! Love your blog and your sense of humor. Hope you and yours (and the amusing ex-roommates) have a great Christmas!

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Wonderful post. Merry Christmas!

Deborah Blake said...

What a fabulous analogy. And a very pretty tree too!

Christine Maria Rose said...

What a lovely tale Tawna! So glad you've found each other. Have a wonderful Christmas

Unknown said...

this is just a hilarious stuff. you have done it in a great way.
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