Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Home for the Hollidays

Just five years ago, The Ex (then my boyfriend of a few years) and I were heading to a Christmas party.  He picked me up at my apartment. It was the place I’d called home for nearly seven years, and it was serving as our home base while we worked on the major renovation of the house we’d purchased up the road a few months prior.
“I’ve almost got the fireplace finished,” he told me as he helped me into his truck.  “Want to see?”
I did.
He drove the very short distance - five houses or so - to the old beach cottage that was to be our new home.  As the entire interior was a construction zone, I’d placed a small Christmas tree out on the deck, wrapping it in colored lights.  Snow had begun to fall that evening, and when we pulled into the driveway, I noted how dreamy it looked as it blanketed our little outdoor tree thinly in white.
I followed him into the house, noticing immediately that something was different.  Though gutted to the frame and littered with construction debris, our house somehow flickered with golden light.  The fireplace had once been a horrific throwback to the 1970’s: bright red brick with black grout.  Now, though, it was a fieldstone beauty - much like the one in my apartment, which I loved - and a fire glowed warmly within.
I was awestruck.  Earlier in the day, he and I had attempted to affix the new stones to the bare concrete face with little success; we’d posed as if in a strange game of Twister, our hands and feet pressing stones into cement and waiting for them to take.  More than once, we’d thought we had things set only to hear the disheartening crash of an avalanche as we walked away.
Now, though, every stone was in place.  A granite mantlepiece finished it all; I hadn’t even realized he had that beautiful bit of stone cut and ready to install.  While I tried to take it all in, he took me by both hands in front of the blaze at the hearth.
He proposed.
With snow falling on the small, brightly-lit Christmas tree outside and fire illuminating the mess and the progress inside, he put a diamond ring on my finger and asked me to be his wife.
It was the most romantic moment of my life.
In time, the construction zone morphed into our home.  I reveled in moving from finishing sheetrock to painting to decorating.  And when Christmas rolled around again, I loved hanging stockings on the mantelpiece.  My heart was in that house, and the hearth seemed the heart of the home.
Now, as my regular readers know, the man who gave me that romantic moment on a snowy night is not my boyfriend, my fiance, or even my husband - he is The Ex.  Our marriage was brief.  Our divorce was finalized earlier this year. 
This year, Thanksgiving and the subsequent plunge into the Christmas season have been bittersweet.  The romance of that lovely wedding proposal blinded me to myriad truths I’ve since faced.  I understand that he and I are better off apart. 
Still, it’s an interesting thing to have no real home at a time of year when the whole world seems focused on home and hearth.  From bare bones to sheetrock to creature comforts, I worked so hard to make that house our home.  Now there is no “us,” and that house is no longer my home.
This weekend, I decorated my tiny, temporary apartment for the holidays.  Far from the full day my house used to claim, this took less than an hour.  I saw The Ex at the dog beach and learned that he’d put up the Christmas tree.  I bit my tongue and did not ask about other things: the stockings and mantlepiece garland, the lights on the blue spruce planted in my father’s memory, the candles at the windows.
It is not my place even to ask anymore.
I am finding my way forward.  I am working on opening my heart again.  I am learning to trust those who truly deserve it.  I believe I am deserving of love - real, true, boundless love - and I am grateful for the chance to find it.
Memories may make some aspects of Christmas difficult this year, but I think the best I can do is be appreciative of all the beautiful moments in the midst of the difficulties - much like the fire and the proposal amidst the construction debris.
This holiday season, I wish The Ex peace, joy, and love.
I wish it for myself, too.
Beach house Christmas
'Tis the season
The pups approve
Hung by the chimney with care
Dad’s tree
This year: a tiny ‘tree’ for a tiny apartment
The tree on my neighbor’s dock makes me smile 

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