Have you let go of a dear holiday tradition after divorce?
Not really a blog post, just a little holiday story. What holiday tradition is dearest to your heart? For me, that is an easy one.
Creating home is important to me. My first words were “home builder.” Some of you know that I grew up visiting my grandmother in Nogales, Arizona. Her yard was literally next to Mexico, and there was a shanty town on the other side of the chain link fence. Shacks made from pallets and cardboard with no running water dotted the hill.
When I visited, I would sit for hours, designing houses and then outfitting them with carefully chosen items from the Sears Catalog. I dreamed someday of growing up and building houses for people in need.
I did end up building houses, but not in Mexico. I married a home builder and moved 1700 miles away to Washington state. On our first anniversary, my parents gave us what they thought was a fitting gift: a Christmas village.
One would argue that a gift that is packed in five storage bins and takes up lots of space isn’t a great thing to give a couple that lives in a 600 square foot guest house, but…
Soon, X and I built a house for ourselves and unpacked Hansenville for the first time the day after Thanksgiving. A tradition was born. Through the years we would joke about getting building permits and calling electricians… Every year I would buy some addition like a bridge, or fences.
Each time we built a house for ourselves, the placement of the village was incorporated into the plans- usually in the form of some built in bookcases flanking a fireplace.
One year, in a new home, I was eager to get the bookcases installed so the village could go up the day before Thanksgiving, since we would be hosting a crowd. I glanced out the window that Monday night to see X standing by a bonfire. I went outside to ask how the shelves were coming. “Oh, great, they’ll be done soon,” was the answer. It wasn’t until weeks later that I found out that bonfire was the shelves. For some reason, the lacquer X had used to finish them wasn’t drying properly. He chucked them and started again from scratch, installing them Wednesday afternoon in the nick of time.
These were the lengths we would go to for that village. And one another, at that point.
When the divorce was almost over, my dad came to visit. Out of the then 26 year accumulation of my marriage, the only things I couldn’t bear to have around were the five bins full of village buildings, snow and accessories. Dad took them back to Phoenix, where they remained until this year, the 30th anniversary of the founding of Hansenville. My forever husband and I brought them back to Santa Fe a few weeks ago.
As I was putting it up last night, it was emotional. I thought of all the places the village had been, the different people who had admired it over the years and the fun it has brought. Since my house is much smaller now, I didn’t have room for all eight buildings; but I could squeeze five in: the church, of course; the green grocer; the bookstore and the bake shoppe. It was a hard decision to fill the final spot, but in the end, the Old Mill Inn won out.
Soon, it was finished. It glows just as prettily as ever, the lights shining through the familiar windows. The little people still have their same smiles and the trees still have their same dusting of snow.
“Rillville, I’ll call it now,” and everyone laughed.
For a while, that name seemed to fit. But, I soon realized that these little buildings and the memories they hold belong to my children as much as to me. So, Hansenville lives on, and although I’m no longer the mayor, I’ll be the chief custodian for some time to come.
Today is National Roof Over Your Head Day- in that spirit, for the first quarter of 2019, royalties from my book, Love It Go will benefit the Santa Fe Youth Shelter, helping kids that don’t have that place of love and safety.
Thank you for allowing me the little indulgence of sharing about my village. I’m wishing you peace and joy in your homes this holiday season and always. If there is a holiday tradition once dear to you that you haven't observed since your divorce, you might want to give it a try again. It can definitely be bittersweet, but you don't have to give up something that means so much.
To make a donation now to Santa Fe Youth Shelter, please visit: https://www.youthshelters.org/