A Christmas Story- of Sorts

My hand is shaking as I dial the numbers, balancing the little spiral-bound directory on my knee. Jane picked up on the second ring, “Hi Tracy…!” I jumped a little, always startled when caller ID betrays me. I was born at the wrong time. “…How are you!?” Jane is always cheerful, despite having seven kids and an array of stray pets brought home by her veterinarian husband.

“Hi Jane” I choke out, the tears clogging my throat and getting stuck somewhere in my mangled greeting.

“Are you okay? No, I know you’re not okay, I’ll be right there.”

Gratitude wells within. Grateful for someone cheery who talks a lot and doesn’t need me to fill in the yawning gaps. My life is full of yawning gaps. Everywhere I step, the ground is thin, fragile like a crust of ice on snow that’s frozen overnight. Looks are deceiving. Looks don’t mean anything.

“I’m coming to get your kids- I’ll be there in five minutes.”

My eyes sting from the running make-up, and I swipe at them angrily with the back of wrist. Setting the phone down near the pile of dishes on the counter, I go in search of the boots and coats and gloves for the kids. They won’t be where they’re supposed to be. They never are.

It’s three days before Christmas. The tree is up and sparkling, presents from grandma and the cardboard shipping boxes they came in litter the living room. The vacuum is parked in the middle of the dining room, the cord forlorn and tangled behind it, and still plugged in. In the sink is the scalded sugar from the toffee I was trying to make. There are so many people I want to do things for, to thank- and baking is the only thing I can do this year.

But I can’t even do that. Not really. Pretending everything is fine isn’t going so well. For days at a time, I do fine. I coast along on the thin ice, thinking I’ve got it under control. Then with a petrifying crack, the ice gives way, and I am plunged again into the icy water of what Divorce means.

In the basket under the buffet (named Phoebe- in happier days, all my furniture was given names) I find two Ugg boots, and one snow-boot liner. Heading down the hall to retrieve the kids’ coats, still holding all the boots, I call for them to come down from their rooms. Stupid tears. Stop, please.

All three of them were in their rooms. All I ask is that Lego don’t end up in my bed or in the kitchen. I ask it over and over. And when I stepped on yet another damn brick and gouged the bottom of my foot, in the kitchen, while burning the sugar for the toffee to thank all the good people who’ve done kind things for us this year… I yelled. A lot. I may have even said some words mama’s shouldn’t say.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, I called again, a little less patiently (is that possible?) for them to come down. Now.

Three little faces appear over the railing, and make their way down the curving staircase. That staircase is one of the things I fell in love with when deciding this was the home where I would spend the rest of my life. That, and the gleaming oak floors. And the lilacs in the backyard. And the handmade island from Vermont in the kitchen. And the front porch with two Adirondack chairs and a swing. And and and… I could go on forever. Welcome to my castle of broken dreams.

“Guys, get your coats and boots on please. Jane will be here in a minute to pick you up.” They shove each other and joke, despite my teary face, and my daughter tells me she’s wet her pants and needs a dry pull-up. Of course. Add “potty training in the middle of a divorce” the list of bad ideas I keep in my nightstand.

Jane rings the doorbell, and the kids rush outside, eager to go play somewhere else. I stand at the door, the cold air whipping around my ankles, while my kids bounce down the walk. Jane waves over her shoulder and I close the door.


The tears can really come now. In the hallway, I lean against the wall as the sobs rack my body, but even that is too hard, and I slide down prostrate on my gleaming beautiful floors, my face pressed to wood and tears pooling under my cheek. My arms and legs shake with sorrow and fatigue. I am so weary, so tired of trying to hold everything together. The holes in the ice are getting bigger and closer, and even my best efforts are not enough.

I begin to plead to my God for help. For forgiveness. For strength. Before these words can even form on my tongue, I am told to be at peace. This startles me- enough that I pause and look up from my sopping sweatshirt sleeves.

But… I’m confused. I haven’t even asked yet…

No matter child. You are heard, and you are loved. Go to the temple.

But… I don’t want to clean up and get dressed. I want to lay here on the floor, sopping up my tears in an old sweatshirt. And I want to tell you what I want.

Go to the temple.

But… I have a kitchen full of burnt sugar and I don’t know when I’ll be kid-free again, and there are so many chores I need to do.

Go to the temple.

I sit up and lean against the thick cream wall. Really? Got to the temple? Pulling myself to my feet, my temple bag is right where I left it- near the backdoor, under a parka and a tablecloth. I can pull on a skirt and a sweater as easily as I can finish vacuuming or scouring failed toffee. Swollen eyes are hardly a liability at the temple anyway. No one will notice.

Go to the temple.

I pull my hair back into an unglamorous ponytail, and glance in the mirror. Ugh. My jean skirt and brown sweater hardly can be called Sunday Best, but for now, today, it is my best. It is the best I can do and offer. It is the Divorcees mite. I pull on my coat, shove some fresh tissues in my pocket, and lift the parka and tablecloth off my bag.

Okay. I will.

(Painting by James Christiansen)


  1. Ugly Mahana says:


  2. This is such a touching reminder that our needs are known before we ask–thank you for sharing so bravely.

  3. Thank you for letting me in on such sacred moments of both anguish and healing.

  4. Thanks.

    There have been some powerful Christmas posts this year. This is one of them.

  5. Oh, Tracy. Bless you.

    I’m so sorry for all your pain. So sorry.

    But thank you again for another powerful post.

  6. tracy, all sorts of people you don’t even know are praying for you. besides, with your hair, there can be so such word as “unglamorous”. love to you.

  7. “Add “potty training in the middle of a divorce” the list of bad ideas I keep in my nightstand.”

    This made me laugh because, for me, potty training my son during the divorce was a GREAT idea: I just put underwear on him every time he went to visit Dad. If I get to clean up the emotional messes (for years to come, I am sure), then he can at least clean up the pee and feces.

    Ah Tracy–this is such a wonderful piece. It is interesting to me how you can write this NOW and not years removed from the experience. I am so impressed with you, not least because your floors are clean enough for you to prostrate on–I can’t ask for help from my friends because I don’t want them to see my floors.

  8. Thank you, Tracy. This is inspiring.

  9. God is amazing. Thank you, Tracy.

  10. God bless all the Janes in this world for the way they heed the spirit. Thank you, Tracy, for sharing such a special experience.

  11. ESO’s right — how you can write this now, without the perspective of years, is amazing. God bless.

  12. Wow… I am speechless. Beautiful.

  13. You show so much courage in sharing yourself so deeply, Tracy. Thank you. God bless you in your hardships.

  14. Something like this happened to me once. I was in the middle of some hellacious emotional thing and yelling at the kids and etc., and out of nowhere I got this impression that I should go to the temple. My reaction was “Why on earth would I do that?” But it was very clearly the thing to do, so I made arrangements for my kids, and I went. Nothing monumental happened, but it was the best thing I could have done. I think it was God saying, “You need to take a break, sister. No, a real break. From EVERYTHING.”

    I hope your visit did you as much good. God bless you.

  15. RJ, that’s it exactly. Nothing monumental happened. Nothing at all… and I suspected that would be the case. But I listened, and I heard, and I did, and I think that was the point.

    Thank you for the kind words, all. I’ve been debating over sharing what’s going on in my life, but I am a writer and I cannot turn that part of my mind on and off. I worry about lack of clarity, and I know writing about something you are in the thick of is a risky gambit, often resulting in disaster. I appreciate that some of you think I’ve done so well. Thank you.

  16. Jane is a hero. It warms my heart that there are people like that near you in your life. Beings of light indeed. My prayers are with you.

  17. StillConfused says:

    It seems when we get all worked up, it is easy to lose our cool over something as insignificant as a lego. Going to the temple or any other form of meditation helps to calm us down so we are able to handle life better. Then we are able to focus on our lives and make them into the great things that they should be.

  18. Tracy: Thank you for sharing. Unfortunately great stories are sometimes inspired by our heart-wrenching pains. Take heart. Obviously you have wonderful friends.

  19. nice post

  20. All I can think of is to say, “Thank you”, and offer this bit on the atonement:

    Alma 7:11-12: ” And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
    And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

    You are being watched over.

  21. God bless you and Jane.

  22. It feels terribly inadequate to keep saying the same thing over and over again when I read one of your posts, but “Thank you” sums it up so well.

    You bring me to tears regularly, and that is a wonderful gift. Thank you so much for being willing to give it.

  23. So many of us root for you from afar, Tracy. What a debt we owe to Jane, who does the real work up close. Bless her.

    Thank you for this inspiring post.

  24. I just wanted to say you put into words what I am living right now. One of my friends sent your blog to me. Thank you for sharing. It is helping me get up and breath, and go to the temple. All I want to do is to lay on the floor and sob. I only get my kids until Christmas morning at 9am then I am on my own for the weekend. I have no family near at all. I do have great friends though.

  25. <3 <3 <3

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