Leaving Marla at the subway, I walked quickly through a drizzle to pick up the kids. I arrived about ten minutes behind schedule.
The kids were excited to see me. Lucy was there too, for an after school meeting. When she saw me, she rolled her eyes and sighed loudly. She took me by the arm and led me to one side, telling the kids to stay put.
She gave me a quick, familiar lecture on the importance of being on time. I nodded, listened, agreed. That ritual completed, I returned to the kids and took them home.
That night, Lucy was picking us up to go to her mother’s house for Christmas. Last year had been the first Christmas since our break up. Per our tradition, we spent the holiday with her family at her mother’s house. It had been awkward, but we bit the bullet for the kids’ sake. There had only been one fight—between Lucy and her mom, about her mom being too familiar with me about details concerning our divorce—but fights between Lucy and her mom were also a family tradition.
Lucy and I had a good Thanksgiving this year. She’s been very civil with me lately. I hoped for the best.
Mind you, this holiday had enough landmines to blow us all sky high.
My ex wife and I would be there, with our three kids. My ex mother in law, a lesbian, had invited an ex girlfriend to join us for dinner on Christmas Eve. My ex father in law would be there, at the home of his first ex, and bringing along his second ex wife (he has three from which to chose). My ex brother in law was bringing his ex boyfriend.
To add a dollop of optimism to the occasion, my ex sister in law would be there with her fiancé.
So many exes. Another ex-mas with Lucy’s family.
After school, I fed the kids and cleaned up, packing a few things to see us through the weekend. I poured a stiff drink to fortify my nerves.
Lucy arrived around bedtime, and we packed the kids into the car. I sat in the back between Lillie and Collie; Jason rode up front. We talked about Christmas until the kids drifted off to sleep. I talked with Lucy to keep her company as she drove, catching a few moments of sleep myself.
After few hours, we parked in front of Lucy’s mother’s house. Her mother was asleep and everyone else was arriving the next day, on Christmas Eve.
Lucy roused the boys, and I carried Lillie inside. We undressed the kids and tucked them into bed. We unpacked the car. I took Lucy’s bag upstairs to the room we used to share. I carried mine into the study off the dining room, where I would sleep on a futon.
We repaired to our separate quarters to put on pajamas. Lucy came downstairs to have a drink and watch television with me in the study. We talked and began to unwind.
This was going well. We were being nice to each other. It felt very familiar. Fingers crossed for the weekend.