So, I finally celebrated Christmas this past weekend. One of the repercussions of divorce was not having my kids over the holidays. There were moments when it was a bit more emotionally difficult than I expected, but they had a great time with their dad, and I made the most of having time to myself.
On the plus side, I had three extra weeks to prepare, I hit all the post-holiday sales, and my adult children were able to spend two full nights because they weren’t committed to any other celebrations. Altogether, we were a house party of 10 for 48 hours, and it was wonderful.
One of the traditions that I started 24 years ago was that of opening one gift on Christmas Eve. The gift is always pajamas because I want them to look nice for pictures the following morning. Except one year, the kids were acting like little know-it-alls, so, instead of gifting them with the expected PJs, I wrapped up boxes of socks. I’ll never forget the shocked looks on their faces when they opened the socks, or their excitement when they went to bed and discovered the new pajamas were tucked underneath their pillows. Since then, they have dutifully acted surprised every year when they open their Christmas Eve gift.
This year, “Christmas Eve” fell on Friday, Jan. 13. Because I had waited so long to go shopping, I wasn’t actually able to find Christmas pajamas. However, I did manage to procure 10 matching Hanukkah robes! They were definitely surprised this year. And because they are all good sports, they happily wore them for a family photo shoot.
For years, we lived as a family of seven. And then, the older kids went off to college, and the divorce happened, and my family of seven dwindled down to three. So, I don’t cook as much as I used to, and I never shop in bulk. But for a three day house party with 10 people, I made a huge menu, filled two shopping carts, and cooked up a storm. I tried to make all of their favorite foods, and even though I say I hate cooking, I enjoyed every minute of it. I even enjoyed getting up after only three hours of sleep to make biscuits with gravy, spinach quiche, and monkey bread.
I think what impressed me the most was how remarkably well everyone got along. I expect my own five children to enjoy one another, but the fiancé, the girlfriend, and the “just a friend” fit in really well, too. And of course Australian Sam was with us, and at this point, counts as one of my own. The sheer amount of laughter ringing throughout the house did my heart a great deal of good. They laughed and laughed, and when I wasn’t laughing with them, I was in the next room, quietly shedding happy tears. It’s hard to be the mom of several little kids, and sometimes it feels like the work will never end.
But boy does that hard work pay off when they grow up and come back home for the holidays. Even when the holidays are three weeks off schedule.

Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.