Not everyone will be having a great time this Christmas and I’d like to dedicate today’s post to all of those who will be ‘single’ again this Christmas against their wishes.
While the majority of us are crossing off ‘To Do’s’ on our list, busy cleaning the house to perfection and shopping on an Apocalypse scale. Some of our friends will be facing their first Christmas alone, I can think of a few off the top of my head and my heart goes out to them. Having been in that sorrowful situation I can tell you hand on heart It’s not nice, in fact it stinks. You couldn’t care less for the turkey, the presents, the Christmas Crackers, the alcohol can work to take the edge off your unhappiness but you’d rather just go back to bed and have done with it to be honest.
I’ve had a few unhappy Christmases, one of which I would like to share as a reminder to keep an eye out for others this festive season who may not be as happy as we are.
I can’t remember which year it was exactly but Tommy and Megan were quite young, maybe 5 and 3 making it around 1993. My relationship with my ex was its usual rocky, unstable self and after years of experience I had decided to just get on with Christmas for me and the children. Even if he didn’t want to participate in the present giving and being together I couldn’t see why we should forego that pleasure too.
The children were understandably excited, we had put our real fir tree up and decorated it with ornaments and chocolates like every other tree in the village. We had made our own cards which they had coloured in and sent them off to be with our family in Britain and I had some presents upstairs hidden at the back of the wardrobe that would only make an appearance after the children had gone to sleep on Christmas Eve. I’d got Him a present, a beautiful jumper from his favourite shop knowing full well I wouldn’t be receiving anything again this year. I was used to it.
‘I Don’t Do Presents Just Because It’s Christmas! I hate it, it’s all so bloody commercial.’ I’ll buy you a present when I WANT to not because you expect one.’
I never did get the presents promised, so I just went on with My festive preparations regardless of Him. I was going to give our kids an idea of what a real family could be like and should be like.
We baked cakes, a chocolate log where I let the children clean the mixing bowl with their fingers and we put a CD on of Santa songs so I could teach them some English and they could learn to fill their little hearts with joy. We joined in the church run up to Christmas, the nativity play at the Scuola Materna, where my Tommy played the vital role of a leaf as he would never sit still and we had a generally happy run up to the Biggest day of the year, without Him.
He worked in the wine bar of the family hotel every night. He stayed there till the early hours of the morning, drinking far too much every single night. So it was better staying away from him. He was moody and could snap at the slightest thing.
Like I said, we stayed away and I secretly prayed that he would wake up and see the light. I prayed he would understand that his family was more important to him than his wine bar. I prayed that he would shut the wine bar at a recognised time of 2am rather than stay until the sun rose. I prayed that my husband would try to recognise that I loved him that I was worried for his health, for our future. I wanted him back in my life as a husband not this frightening dictator who had taken over all of our lives.
On Christmas Eve I told the children the nativity story for the umpteenth time. We went over Father Christmas again, his sleigh, his reindeers and at last I could see they were done for today and anxious to sleep. I kissed them, tucked them in and went downstairs excited to get on with my preparations. I worked diligently, wrapping, and sticking labels to each package. I filled their stockings with toys and knick knacks even if they weren’t custom in Italy until the Befana, I was determined to keep some of my British traditions alive. I listened to my Santa songs and sipped an Irish Whiskey brought back from a recent trip to the UK. It was delicious and tasted of chocolate so I had some more. By the time 10pm came around I was quite tipsy, happy and ready for Christmas.
He came up to the house. He needed a quick change before going back down to the hotel to work in the bar. He went upstairs and I could hear him rumbling around. I poured another whiskey, after all it was Christmas. He came down stairs quickly and had a strange look in his eyes.
‘Yeah, it’s the whisky I bought back from the UK, it’s delicious. Want to try some.’ I said with a smile on my face, trying my best to make him happy.
‘You’re slurring, you’re drunk.’
‘Nooo. I’ve only had a couple, it’s Christmas Eve. I’m just enjoying myself.’
‘You’re having an affair! I know as somebody told me.’
‘What?’ (I wasn’t having an affair but in the very long absences of my husband I had grown friendly with the chef of the hotel, but nobody knew about it…I was sure. In my dreams I hoped it would become something more significant. That I could too be finally loved as I loved in return. That I could live a normal life with my children and not have to run around Him pleasing his every notion in order to keep a quiet life. I wanted a man by my side who would like to spend time with me not fill his every waking hour with work, paragliding, skiing, hangliding, swimming, tennis, rollerblading, cycling…you name it, he did it leaving no time at all for us. I’d only ‘seen’ the chef a couple of times, was that an affair?)
I watched him as the anger exploded in his face turning him into an ugly demon. I argued with him, I tried to reason with him. I confessed I was unhappy, that he didn’t care for his family and I was lonely – vino veritas, they call it – wine tells the truth.
I watched unable to stop him as he lifted the Christmas Tree from its place and threw it across the lounge knocking over whatever was in its path. I watched as he pushed the fridge over in the kitchen and cleared the surface of a few mugs and plates with his arm until it all came crashing to the floor. I watched in horror as he made his way over to the television in the corner. He picked it up, holding it in one arm and opened the door onto the balcony with the other. I heard the TV crash down three floors to the terrace below.
He returned to the room, his breathing was fast and his face was red, he was yelling at me, the children were at the top of the stairs screaming, confused. I made my way up to them and he left the house, thankfully.
I soothed my children and put them to bed again, I cleared up the wrecked house he’d left in the wake of his anger and I poured myself another whiskey as the tears fell down my cheeks.
The next time the chef asked me to meet him, I didn’t think twice.
If YOU are having an unhappy Christmas for whatever reason, be sure I am with you. I have everything crossed for you that 2011 will bring much happiness and fill your heart with joy. It DOES get better, I promise and one day happiness will return,
Happy Christmas everyone
Love Mari xxx