It is Christmas Eve, my favorite day of the year. It is when the anticipation is met by the soothing smells of baking and cinnamon, the sound of wrapping paper being unrolled and carefully folded, the momentary loveliness of empty stockings.
It is the day I reserve to buying piles of magazines and mints and dollar bin gifts to fill those stockings.
It is the night that, for years growing up, I reverently lit candle after candle as an acolyte in our church's 11 p.m. service.
It is the night -- wow, eight years ago -- that I got engaged in the light of the Christmas tree as much younger acolytes began to light up the sanctuary in the still and silent church.
Last year, my parents kindly offered to skip the service, to interrupt the Christmas Eve rituals we've had as long as I can remember, if only briefly. Last year, I can't believe I was laughing and having moments of centeredness and peace, but I did. And I refused to let my divorce or anyone else take any part of my favorite day, this most precious moment of my year. So we went.
We've come much farther in this year than I could have dreamed, well beyond sugar plums and mistletoe. We are in a new place. I have a great job. Lil E is in a wonderful school. We are happy.
There was a chance last week, in my mad dash to finalize my divorce, that we might appear in court on Christmas Eve to raise our right hands, sign the papers and it would all these months and months later, come to an end. The full circleness of it would have been just as I like things to be -- neatly tied up with a red satin bow.
I envisioned it all and the beautiful chaos of the universe overwhelmed me. It gave me peace, it made me grieve.
But because most of life does not end up in a tidy package, there were complications and more unsurprising hold-ups and it became clear that the divorce will not be finalized by the end of the year after all.
I cried. And then I breathed. I want it over, but I also craved that calm that comes from all the pieces fitting together. Really, though, none of that matters this week, and especially today. As my parents reminded me quietly, at least now we could have our holidays the way we have our holidays. Without the worry of court, without any more emotion that we'd already invited, without any interruption to our Christmas Eve.
And so, once again, it is here. Nothing has changed. Everything is completely different. This is Christmas.