lump of coal for christmasWhile I’m not a big fan of the holidays, I am a big fan of shopping.  Well, buying actually, but I do love the thought process that is part of getting the PERFECT gift for the people on your list.  I generally save my shopping to the last few days, but the mental strategy and story behind each present begins long before the leaves have changed colors.

I was making my list and checking it twice the other day when I first paused, and then came to a full stop at my Ex’s name on the list.  I was drawing a blank.  No clever or purposeful item was even glimmering in my frontal lobe.  Heaving a heavy sigh I was about to turn to my daughter and ask her, “What should I get Dad for Christmas?” but then stopped myself, as the nuances of gift giving to an Ex are so subtle that to involve the children with it can almost border the “who would you rather live with?” question.

I am one of the fortunate ones, a member of the “For the most part I get along with my ex-spouse” club.  Obviously there were and still are reasons that we are no longer married to each other, but come birthday and holiday season, we continue to recognize one another in the gift, or at least the well-crafted card department.  Moreover, as he will join us on Christmas morning for breakfast and stockings, having nary a lump of coal for him to unwrap seems a bit thoughtless.

The problem with gift giving to an Ex is that it is fraught with nuance and innuendo.  He was never an easy person to shop for in the best of circumstances, but throw in the added burden of years of bickering, contention, and litigation, coupled with three children who are old enough and intelligent enough to appreciate the truce we have achieved and who understand the meaning behind gifts, and even the most aggressive sales person at Brookstone will stop and scratch his or her head.

A few weeks ago my former husband and I spent 15 hours together in the car driving our son to a series of school interviews.  Logging miles along a ribbon of highway, we found ourselves frequently bumping up against that invisible wall of intimacy, the “remember whens” and “I was just thinking abouts” lingering in the space above the dashboard with the same subtly as the proverbial elephant in the room.  Despite the fact that we have both moved on and have happy and healthy relationships with other people, there was a sadness in the incomplete expression of shared memories.

That is how I feel about securing a gift for him for Christmas.  There is a sense of sadness that whatever I choose will be practical and pedestrian and purposely lack any emotional, historical or intimate connotation.  It will be a diluted gift of neutral purpose with no ambiguity or personality to bind either the giver or the receiver.  I guess that is the way it is supposed to be when you are divorced.  Neutral.  Peaceful.  Black & White.

But it seems contrary to the true spirit of the holiday….

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