Tis the Season...Happy and Sad!
“Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and Go Gators!”
The best time I had as Mayor of the Nation’s Oldest City was riding in the Christmas Parade in a horse drawn carriage through the streets packed with holiday well-wishers. I got to wave and smile like I was Santa Claus himself, (I do have a white beard and a portly physique), and would shout,
“Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and Go Gators!” (My alma mater).
It was always a happy time and put me in the mood for Christmas, (me being a Christian fellow and all!). So for me the holidays are all about Christmas. The Happy and the Sad, because while it can be the “most wonderful time of the year” it can also be the saddest. I’m not talking about your standard year round sadness, although that’s tough enough, but the additional burden of sadness that comes when you are really trying to make everyone happy and it just falls flat. My biggest “miss” at Christmas came the first year after my divorce in 2001:
I was working out “holiday visitation” with my children’s mother and we agreed that I would get Thanksgiving with our kids so I could continue taking them to North Carolina for “Turkey Day” as we had for most of their young lives. We felt that stability was a priority for their tender hearts especially when divorce blows everyone’s life out of the water! For the same reason we wanted our children to go to bed on Christmas Eve and wake up in the same house Christmas morning so Santa Claus had no “confusion in his delivery system”. Therefore I would get the kids the day after Christmas on “Boxing Day” as the British call the 26th of December. Hoping to have the best darn Christmas ever, I did all the shopping, overspending of course, so I could also be the best “Disney World Dad” as they call us in the world of the recently divorced. Excited about their having two Christmas mornings I had bought a new video camera to record every happy moment.
I woke up on the 25th of December as excited as ever, except no one was home, so I cooked a pound of bacon to go with the chocolate cake and milk. (Nothing traditional, mind you, but when left alone I make bad, but happy, food choices!). I turned on the Christmas tree lights, (it was still dark outside), lit up the living room, turned on the gas logs and positioned the video camera! Then I began to unwrap my presents from Santa!
“Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas kids!” facing the video camera, I then proceeded to open all of my gifts with laughter in my voice and holiday cheer written all over my face. I would show the gift and thank Santa Claus and say stuff like, “When you get here tomorrow kids we’ll play with this remote control car”, or “I’ll wear this Christmas sweater when we open up presents tomorrow”, stuff like that so they would feel like they were right there with me on Christmas morning. I even told them about the invites I had from friends to come over on Christmas Day which I thought was really nice of everyone and I truly did not feel alone or neglected.
Hayley, Molly and Kirby arrived the next day and after a little breakfast we all go into the living room so we can see what Santa had brought to their St. Augustine home! But first we turned on my Christmas Morning video I shot the day before. My face came on with the cheery ho, ho, ho. They sat in front of the television with little cups of hot chocolate and I watched from behind. As it played through I would chuckle at my jokes but the kids weren’t really laughing? They shifted around and I heard one of them cough and realized that they were all starting to cry. It was making them really sad to watch their Dad be alone on Christmas Day acting like nothing was wrong when actually everything in their lives had gone terribly wrong. Then I cried, too. I’m crying as I type this out because it remains one of the saddest moments in my life and theirs too, I guess. Now they refer to it as the Christmas “Mourning” video. I was an idiot on that Christmas, so I’m sorry kids, I missed that one.
Fast forward to 2009 and life is much different. I am now married to my beloved Jane and we have seven kids between us. It’s our first Christmas and we wanted it to be the “best darn Christmas ever”. When you get married and blend two households it’s not just children, pets and vacuums that get blended. (Keep one, get rid of the other one, that old chestnut, not kids, of course!) It also applies to everyone’s cherished holiday traditions, activities, special foods and “tons of holiday decorations”! It can be emotionally challenging because Jane’s children moved out of their family home into mine and all of mine had moved to Gainesville with their mother. So all of us were trying to make “new traditions” with our “new” extended family.
On a cool night in early December of that first year, our plans are for all of us to decorate the tree, (well maybe not all…teenagers you understand), then have a tasty holiday dinner. We’re trying to make new memories, warm, holiday feelings in the midst of all this upheaval in everyone’s world. (Jane also got divorced a couple of years after me, so ALL of our kids are walking wounded). Sorting through the multiple boxes of ornaments was quite a task and we are all a little grumpy. (Probably just me if the truth be told). There were hundreds of them; store-bought, children-made, gifts from neighbors and friends, two sets of each from both families. It was mind boggling. Finally we are just about finished and somebody unwraps the Angels to top the tree! Yes, I said, Angels plural because, of course, we both had one from each family. The Boles Angel was a large Arch Angel with wings and woven gold wire to wrap around the tree limb at the top. The Masson family had a delicate Angel with flowing robes that sat on top of the tallest spire of the tree. I am standing on the ladder when Jane hands me an Angel then my dear wife hands me “another” Angel, smiling sweetly. Everyone is watching. The Christmas music is playing, the fire is crackling warmly, dinner smells good and this is the final act of the decorating of the tree.
I could have said, “All right, we can’t have two Angels on the top of the tree, they won’t fit”, but I didn’t say that. I could have said, “All right, you kids are going to have to pick one,” but luckily I didn’t say that, either. I didn’t flip a coin or throw Jane under the bus and make her pick one. I looked down from the ladder and saw all those little eyes wondering just whose Christmas tradition was going to lose out. Well I decided in that split second that none of those choices were good. I looked at those two Angels and asked for some divine guidance. I took the larger Angel, spread open his arms and wrapped them around the delicate Angel snugly and safely. Then I placed them both on the top of the tree! And everyone smiled and was happy!
So now years later those same two Angels remain locked together in that warm embrace as they sit on top of our tree year after year and everyone, especially me, is at Peace and satisfied.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza and Go Gators!
Joseph L. Boles, Jr. Attorney at Law
Boles Law Firm (904) 824-4278