Christmas is so different now for my family and me than it was just a bit ago. The first year we moved here from Michigan and we saw plastic, light-up snowmen on balmy green lawns, it was somewhat disconcerting. It felt weird to drive to the mall to do our holiday shopping on dry streets and in short sleeves.
Now this is our normal and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I LOVE living in Austin more than I can say. The blow-up snowmen and snow globes look perfectly lovely and I don’t think twice about the owner probably having no idea what it is to build snowmen on the regular.
I’ve lost a lot since moving here. I only have contact with one of my brothers regularly. My parents and my other three siblings haven’t spoken to me in years. My oldest son rarely reaches out more than to text an obligatory holiday wish a couple of times a year. My marriage has run a triathlon or two and only slightly resembles what it used to be. We sold our beautiful house after 10 years – 9 of which I felt imprisoned in it.
After spending far too many years in a toxic little city where my world was nearly destroyed, I am finally in a place that feels more like home than any other has. It is smaller, older and a rental, but it is exactly where I want to be.
When I look back on our Christmases past, especially when our kiddos were little, I remember how hard I worked to create traditions that would make our children feel special, a part of, loved and while I’m not sorry for any of it, I’m over it. We’ve kept the ones that matter to us and we often reminisce about the matching Christmas outfits or pajamas, the huge, formal tree in our living room & the small colorful tree in the den, the trips to Bronner’s for a new ornament each year, the crazy family Christmas pictures & letters (please!), or the debt we went into trying to “buy” a merry Christmas. We still go to Christmas Eve service and then gather to eat obnoxious amounts of snacks (shrimp, baked goods, an amazing charcuterie board and more) while opening our gifts. While we are all perfectly okay with others joining us on Christmas Day, the night before is ours, alone, and we protect it fiercely. Aaron insists I still make red & green breakfast on Christmas morning after they get their stockings, always with apples, oranges and pears and more. Hannah makes sure we watch A Christmas Story while lazing around together after breakfast and we always have a really nice, usually beef tenderloin, for dinner.
Parts of this will change soon. Marriages will happen, grandchildren will be born and we will adjust. They will make new traditions for their new families and we will make new ones with our new members. This is how it is supposed to be.
I am excited for my children as they become independent, finding their places in the world – and much sooner than I did, thank you, Pappa! My job has been to teach them not to need me, succeeding at that is a smidge hard to accept. I am adjusting to less time, less attention, less need of me and while I am rejoicing, I am searching for my new identity, searching for my purpose. I’ve been mostly a mama and wife since I was 22 years old, more years than not. And I was, for the most part, pretty good at both of those things. But, if I’m honest, I sacrificed a lot of “me” to serve my family, as most mamas do, and I’m ready to take care of me and rediscover who I am, really, this time.
As Erma Bombeck said, “When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
I’ve a feeling that most people reading this will think it makes no sense at all:
“Is she brokenhearted that her children are growing up and away or is she thrilled to be done taking care of so many others all of the time?”
Mamas with empty nests will understand.
I’m not sure I understand, yet, but I’m working on it and I’m sure I’m right where I’m supposed to be while I figure it out.
“When I thought I’d lost me,
You knew where I’d left me”