It was christmas eve, and I was still reeling from the finality of my divorce two weeks earlier after twenty-three years of marriage. As my teenage daughter, Lisa, and I settled into a rented apartment, I was determined to salvage some kind of meaningful celebration from the rubble of the previous year.
Christmas had always been big at our house. Lots of decorations. Two fully decorated trees. Lisa and I usually spent several Saturdays before the holidays decorating our home and baking dozens of fancy cookies for our annual open house. Christmas Eve was reserved for our own family celebration, and Christmas Day we often spent with relatives.
Obviously this would be a very different Christmas. There was no tree. Finances were tight. There would be no open house, so it was hard to get excited about baking cookies.
I strung Christmas lights around the house plants, turned on Christmas music, brought out the eggnog, and read aloud the Christmas story. Then we opened our few gifts. By seven o'clock, we were done. The whole evening lay ahead of us.
I suggested Lisa and I go to a movie so at least we would be with other people. The theater was only a block away. A short walk later, we settled into the plush seats to watch some forgettable movie, only to realize we were the only two people in the entire theater. Sitting in that dark, empty place on Christmas Eveeven with Lisawas the loneliest moment of my life.1