Here they come: The Holidays. They start innocently enough with Halloween, mere child’s play, and then like an unstoppable string of cars rear-ending each other, it’s all downhill from there. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day; I’ll be spending each one of them as a single woman for the first time in 12 years and let me tell you it’s a frightening prospect, even though nothing could be as frightening as the final holiday season of my marriage.
Last Thanksgiving has to go on record as the worst holiday experience of my life, bar none. My soon-to-be-ex-husband and I were still living together, if you could call it that, and Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, was only a few days away. I had no intention of inviting anyone over, because they would have had to slice though the tension permeating our house before getting anywhere near the turkey. I had received several invitations to dinner but I hated to go off and leave the hubster alone. This was hardly an altruistic impulse on my part. Rather, I didn’t have the stomach or patience to listen to the endless string of “poor me” songs that would have filled the air until Christmas, should I have celebrated this holiday without him. (Looking back, I realize that I didn’t really think this plan through. But hindsight is like the lightening bug, carrying her illumination behind her and there’s not much else to be said!)
I couldn’t face cooking, I was way too resentful for that but lucky for me, some friends who just happen to be professional chefs offered to drop off a dinner complete with homemade yeast rolls and three kinds of pie; what could I say but “Thank you!” After they had come and gone, I decided to run out and borrow a bottle of wine from a friend who lived nearby and remembering that I had left the food on the counter I called my husband and asked him to put it in the oven to stay warm. “I’m busy,” was his reply. “I’m watching football.”
“Why did we get Tivo?” I asked in a frustrated tone. He had no reply, except to refuse again which was par for the course so I hung up, grabbed said bottle and headed back home.
While en-route, he called with some disturbing news: our two enormous dogs, who could obviously reach the stove-top, had done just that and had eaten our entire dinner. “What?” I shouted as hot tears of resentment and anger spurted forth.
“Sorry…I’ll go out and get us something,” he mumbled like the giant fool he was.
I couldn’t believe my ears! “They ate whole dinner?” I yelled. “The one you were too busy to put in the oven? That’s just GREAT!!!!!”
By this time I had pulled over to the side of the road and was sobbing heavily. But I wasn’t just crying over spilled turkey. I was crying over a ruined life, the betrayal of my trust and the fact that I had married an idiot!
Everyone knows that the only kind of food with which to replace a traditional Thanksgiving feast is Chinese. And everyone also knows that any restaurant open on this Family Holiday will be serving up pressed turkey, salty gravy and mashed potatoes that come from a box. Everyone, that is, except the man I’d married. He’d trotted out and picked up the worst imitation Thanksgiving dinner he could lay his stupid hands on, returned home and presented it to me triumphantly as if he had just parted the Red Sea or something equally as miraculous. All it took was one bite to know the food was beyond horrible! And the only thing resembling a miracle was the fact that he was still standing upright and breathing because all I wanted to do at that point was level him to the ground.
As I choked down a plate of peanut butter on crackers, my stand-in Thanksgiving dinner, along with my resentment and a glass of Pinot Noir, I swore that next year would be better. This was my only consolation; that, and the fact that the dogs would be sleeping for the next 12 hours from a whopping dose of tryptophan!
As strange as it feels to be poised on the brink of this holiday season, on my own for the first time in over a decade, nothing can compare to the gut-wrenching loneliness I felt when I was trapped in the bottomless pit of my failing marriage. It’s no fun facing a string of emotionally loaded holidays with a man who fills the chambers of the fun gun with gloom and doom. And that final year the gun was fully loaded; Christmas was equally wretched and by New Year’s Eve, I was armed and ready with an Ambien, which put me in a gratefully comatose state, hours before the ball dropped over Times Square.
So this year, I get to order up a new set of traditions, far from prefab turkey dinners and chemically induced hibernation and when the ball drops at midnight on December 31, I will be ready to embrace a new season on my own. I may be down, but I’m not out and as far as I’m concerned, there’s nowhere to go but up from here.