December of 2000 was - and I know this sounds bizarre - my worst "Best Christmas."
That seems like a bit of an oxymoron, but when anyone waxes nostalgic and asks about my favorite Christmas memories, Christmas of 2000 has got to be at the top. That Christmas, after 5 long years of infertility, treatments, invasive procedures and petrie dishes, I was pregnant.
Not only that, but I was pregnant with a viable baby - I reached my third trimester on Christmas Eve. Four months before, my husband of nine years and I had moved into our dream house, brand new construction in the greatest neighborhood in a beautiful little town. Our jobs were going well. Our house was decorated to the rafters in Christmas cheer, and just the weekend before, we'd had a holiday housewarming full of friends and loved ones.
Christmas Eve saw us comfortably ensconced in glow and entertaining our family - him in a fuzzy red sweater and me in a maternity jumper I'd waited too damn long to fit into. We ate and they drank (I was pregnant after all) and we all laughed and opened presents - along with more than a few for the baby-to-be, and then we hugged them all goodbye, closed the door, and sighed with happiness.
After a bit of cleanup, we cuddled up on the floor in front of the sparkling Christmas tree with a couple of big pillows, and I watched the lights play off my husbands arms as they encircled me from behind, twinkling patterns on the backs of his hands as they stroked over my slightly bulging stomach. I laid my head back on his shoulder and we talked about all the Christmases to come, the sound of laughter as our son or daughter ripped through presents, about the grandchildren someday. I fell asleep in his arms right there, sure I couldn't possibly have a happier Christmas. It was perfect.
Three weeks later I found out about his girlfriend, and if you read this blog, you know the rest.
It took me years to remember anything good about that Christmas. For the longest time, all I remembered was betrayal. I remembered that he went back to his office on December 26th and told her how much he'd missed her. I remembered the lies that I didn't recognize as lies. All that glowing happiness sat tarnished under the weight of that monstrous betrayal, and it made me sick to even try to remember that Christmas. Eventually, bits and pieces would come back, and I moved on enough to realize that I wasn't betraying myself by remembering that happiness. I wasn't deliberately ignoring the memory of that betrayal and the lessons I learned from it. I was choosing to own the happiness that I experienced that Christmas Eve - which was very real in that moment. What came after, came after - and deserves to be thought of separately.
Fast forward to Christmas of 2010 - my best "Worst Christmas." My husband had walked out the door in March of that year. I was financially decimated and barely making bills. Our Christmas tree was wrecked and I could only afford a $29 tree from Wal-Mart. The presents weren't as numerous as they used to be, and definitely weren't expensive. I spent Christmas Eve alone because he had the kids. I cried all day.
When I picked them up at 9pm and brought them home, they asked if we could watch a movie and we all voted on "Polar Express." I popped up popcorn, and my son asked if we could have bacon, too. Why not! We made a bunch of bacon to go with our popcorn, watched the movie and sang along with the songs, and in the glow of that cheap tree, we were together and laughing and loved and it was perfect in that moment. Just perfect. We didn't have as much, but we had us, and we were good.
I guess Christmas is all about perspective. I hope wherever you are, you are happy with the Christmas you're living right now. We're all good here.