TITLE: A Christmas Adjustment
By Karen Petty
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Weaving my way through the arriving guests, I found my way to my mom’s kitchen counter. The festive notes of holiday music filled the air, as I placed my prepared dishes in the nearest available spot. Children darted by as they laughed and squealed. Armloads of gifts trailed past me as I hung my coat on a nearby peg. This would be a Christmas celebration like any other… warm and low key.
A new face drew my attention in the bustling room. My new sister-in-law to be stood, responding politely to any greeting extended to her. There was a measure of nervousness in her features. Why wouldn’t there be? My brother’s messy divorce has just been finalized the month before. She was the new kid in town.
My internal discomfort was outweighed by my desire to ease hers. So, I approached. Our pleasantries had scarcely begun when my brother swooped in and gave her a quick kiss as he walked by. My emotions lurched. I hadn’t seen him kiss another woman in over 23 years.
I wondered why I had a reaction at all. At my age, I’ve seen marriages come and go. But react, I did. Hopefully, I hid it well. I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. I try to still my thoughts. His ex-wife has been my friend since before they had even met. In fact, my heart is strongly linked to hers. How does one no longer become family? I don’t want to know.
The evening smoothes. Plates are filled. Numerous conversations take over the room. We then move on to the reading of the Christmas story. As I try to focus on Christ’s birth, I can see my brother and his soon-to-be wife sitting on the outskirts of the group. I go back and forth in my mind with wanting her to feel welcome while also feeling frustrated that my previous sister-in-law, my good friend is not sitting by his side. How could he let her go? I have to let that thought go.
I attempt to will myself to think of something else as the celebration goes on. Our Christmas game made me laugh and I needed to. Watching my children play with their cousins and unwrap gifts was a great distraction. I crossed the room and set a carefully wrapped bottle of perfume on an empty chair. She had stepped out of the room for a moment. Leaving it there allowed me to not have to say anything to her.
She seems kind. She must be if my brother has chosen her. I will reach out to her. But I am just not there yet. I’m not ready. When will it feel normal? Will it just kick in at some point? No warm fuzzies tonight. Just an absence and a strange sense of loss.
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