If you must know, yes. Yes, I did hang my life-size Christmas advent tree up before Halloween this year.
“Why?” you ask.
Because I had a perfectly good nail on the wall, just wasting his gifts and talents, waiting for the opportunity to transform from eyesore to awesome. You all know me and Christmas. (If you don’t, they don’t call me the Christmas Kraken for nothing. You’ll never see candy canes the same again, here.) It’s over the top. The last three years though? Not so much. This will be the first year in a while that I’m A) not moving a salon out of my kitchen and into a garage, B) not nauseous and pregnant, or C) not exhausted with a nursing baby. With 24 pockets hanging on the wall, waiting to be filled with inspiration, wonder and meaningful intention, little did I realize I’d be struck most soberly moving into this holiday season.
Somewhere between mulling over Christmas caroling and family service opportunities, it hit me. It finally hit me. My oldest is finally five. I was five. I knew this day would come, I just didn’t realize it’d come so quickly.
It’s been 29 years since I had the feeling of celebrating Christmas as a five year old. That Christmas Eve, instead of my father settling his kids down and getting ready to transform our little trailer into something magical or meaningful, he pulled into the driveway with his mistress and her two kids. My mother and I were playing Uno, unaware of the commotion about to ensue, while my one year old brother was asleep in his crib. That Christmas Eve, my father burst through the door, packed his bags and drove off with his new family. I recall tears and pleading.
I had hoped that being a mother would give me greater insight into his abandonment. Perhaps I could find greater understanding as a parent. But now that I’m here?
Pity. And sadness. I can’t even begin to imagine what my mother must have been feeling, torn between holding it all together or breaking down.
And I think of my one year old brother, Joey. That’s my Shepherd now. And while I never really believed that Joey could have remembered or understood what happened, I see the way Shepherd already loves Brian. I notice the excitement in his eyes when he hears Brian’s voice from another room. I watch as he laughs in fits for the tickle-time affection. After only daughters, my dad finally got his boy only to leave that innocent and joyful babe while he slept? Have you ever watched a baby sleep? It’s hard to tear myself away from the sight. It’s an indescribable peace that you’d wish you could savor for eternity. To walk out on a one year old son while he sleeps has got to be one of the most cowardly acts I’ve ever witnessed.
But then there was me, the five year old.
I’ve got to tell you, I look at my five year old and I wouldn’t, couldn’t, trade him for anybody else’s five year old. He’s the best kid.
And that statement right there, that one just above, I have chased to be worthy of my entire life. I actually believed that I could win over my dad somehow, that he’d find me worth holding onto, worth fighting for. If I had realized then what I know now, that we were simply a burdensome responsibility, oh! There are so many behaviors I’ve adopted that could have been curbed. There are shackles of thought patterns from which I could have been freed! Instead I’ve won so many people who didn’t need winning! I’ve valued valueless impressions. I’ve fought to be wanted, just wanted… nothing more. Seduction that yields desire that will never fit into a father-shaped hole.
With both thankfulness and sorrow, I acknowledge how different my father and I are. While right about now he was having an affair 29 years ago, today, when I’m alone in the evenings, I’m over here plotting how to teach my kids The Little Drummer Boy and the purposes of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And I look to my heavenly King and I know that what the enemy meant for destruction and despair, the Lord has utterly turned on its head. The family he left behind, my mom with three kids, we held tighter to Christ in my dad’s absence. We have tasted the comfort of the Father to the Fatherless. We know that the Lord is good and we desire to share the blessing of Christ to all whose soil would welcome seeds of the Gospel. We are far from perfect, but we are four people who live with purposes greater than our own self-interests.
There are definitely moments when I retreat in solitude for a breather… but I enjoy coming back to my family with a full tank.
This season I’m going to choose to be grateful for the life that I have, the family that I have.
We are so blessed, friends. We are SO blessed.