That last Christmas together was hard. Everyone pretending everything was OK, and yet only his mother and our son didn't know.My husband and I had agreed to separate two months before Christmas, after over 20 years. Neither liking what the relationship had become, but neither wanting to give up until it was too hard to stay together.
My family and our daughter knew almost immediately. She was older and not surprised. Probably sad and disappointed but she stayed strong for us both. My husband told his Dad, but for various reasons hadn't yet told his Mum. We'd agreed to tell our son once we knew where his Dad was staying, when the impact on him would be clearer.
So that Christmas, then, unfolded just like the previous Christmases over 15 years. Unwrapping presents together in the morning excitement, tree brightly decorated, cards hung up, fire giving a warm glow to the living room.
In the afternoon, grandparents were brought to join the family gathering. Kisses and wishes and hugs exchanged, contributions for the meal delivered, stories of watch night and neighbours met, told and retold.
The table was set beautifully, sparkly and colourful. Our tablecloth - a large piece of teal blue curtain material, bought as a bargain probably those 15 years ago, and covering the extended table admirably. Only used for special occasions, because it was a huge thing to wash! Candles lit and flickering, matching napkins, glasses shining, polished cutlery for each course. For me, an attractively set dinner table sits like a jewel in the dining room, full of promise - of spending an enjoyable time with people you like, with food you've planned for weeks and cooked over preceeding days, which tastes great. So dressing the table is part of any shared meal, especially our Christmas experience.
And the table looked beautiful, and the meal was grand.
Was it my imagination that there were more compliments? Was there no obvious point scoring (even if disguised as a joke)? Did my father in law gave me a direct answer to a direct question about his brother's health? Was everyone trying just a little harder, or just aware that this was an ending?
No one watching would have noticed, but most of us knew that this was the last time this Christmas spell would be woven.
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