I’m going home to be with my Dad and sister. It’s Christmas time. This is my second Christmas without my then husband. And my first Christmas in twenty-two years without our girls. I should be sad to go, and somehow, I’m not. I’m in a really strange place. I’ve been petrified to be alone. As long as I was surrounded by people, I’d feel safe.

We’d pile into our truck – the girls, singing most of the trip, a truckful of gifts, and our two dogs. Our old adopted one cried and scratched my legs the whole time and passed out as soon as we reached the top of my dad’s driveway. Our younger dog would hop out and chase us down the rest of the drive.

The house lights streaked through the tree branches, and my dad, followed by classical music that trailed from the house, would open the garage door to greet us and grab our stuff. With the scent of pine and his Manhattan breath hugs, Christmas was on!

This time, there’s no dogs to let out at the top of the drive. Now, my car has no passengers and there are a few gifts in the backseat.  I honk the horn wildly anyway – a favorite ritual. The house is dark and quiet.

I walk into the dining room and look down to the sunken living room where the woodburning stove’s fire used to cast light on the decorated Christmas tree in the corner.

I’m floating. I don’t know why, but I’m not afraid. This shell of a house; the one my dad keeps for us just so we know it’s always safe to return. I always have somewhere to go.

I pause and look out the windows to the sacred land and trees. It’s alive in me, like yesterday. Love pours out of the kitchen, my dad at the counter with his cocktail, dogs sprawled on the floor, girls giggling. A cacophony of different laughs surrounds the overflowing table. We make pseudo seats on the wood divider for the dilly-dalliers.

My belly bursts at the seams, and I lie under the tree and wonder what’s in the wrapped gifts for me?

I’m getting a different gift this year. Unwrapped from what’s it’s supposed to look like.

Unwrap that. Rip it. Tear it. Crazy. Keep unwrapping. A shiny object, the perfect adornment. That will be it. I’ll be happy. Unwrap it. Peel it off. Tear it off. Rip it like scar tissue. The scorn, embarrassment, destruction – don’t stop ripping or the regret will seep in. Get to the bare box. Take the lid off. Look inside. There’s nothing. Nothing. All that ripping for nothing.

A wake-up call. Peace. I am alone and safe.

My gold lives in the empty boxes. Creation lives there. She calls to me. I trust the Tabula Rasa. The blank slate. Begin again. See it better. Retreat from how it used to be.

Who says it’s true? Who says I can’t be true to myself and have it all?

I stand up and the empty house becomes even more alive and my cells know it too. I hear the violinist solo from some classical symphony I’ve heard before and begin to twirl around the house.

I twirl so fast I fall and break out into my alone laughter. My possibility lives in the void. I am unwrapping a marriage. I can stand on the legs of trust and find faith beyond the foiled paper and bows. I know our restructured family is repairing and regrouping as equals and will rise to be an even more whole and beautiful unit.

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Who says it’s supposed to be that way?  Like exquisite music, there’s either a slow or fast tempo or a repetitive bridge.
Then, the cymbals clash and the triangle clangs, and silence sets in.
I’m alone and fuller.

The best gift that keeps on giving is knowing that I am the conductor of my one precious life.

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