Five years ago, there was no tree, no stockings, and no cheesy Christmas card. I remember the pictures we took that season. I forced every smile.
To be honest, our marriage had crumbled. Sure, every friend and family member who was happily anchored offered sound advice:
“Never go to bed angry.”
“Always say I love you.”
And my personal favorite, “You’ll always have each other.”
But a miscarriage ruined everything. I wanted to keep trying. My husband wanted to finish his PhD. And it seemed we were in pursuit of different children.
I never quite understood how anyone could be depressed at Christmastime…until I became that person.
The climax to my husband and I’s struggles that year, however, came after Christmas Day. We were visiting my family in Virginia. What better way to numb yourself than with a trip to a strip mall?
Only it was Pet Adoption Day at the local PetSmart. And, well, I took the bait.
Could a dog save our marriage? Truthfully, we already shared a small Yorkshire terrier, but that isn’t the kind of larger, family-friendly dog that steals your heart at an adoption event. I persuaded my husband to take a peek.
A few kennels into our browse, I spotted him. We both did. I saw a glimmer in my husband’s eye.
And just like that, Ethan walked into our hearts.
But then we took him home, and our marriage was still the same. As it turns out, a dog – no matter how adorable – can’t fix the broken places. In the two days that followed, there were more tears and regret than both of us ever knew was possible.
To our relief, another owner was eager to adopt Ethan upon his return to the SPCA.
Looking back, I can see how maturity and compromise finally resolved earlier conflicts in my marriage. Eventually, I learned how to support my husband in his degree pursuit. When our financial feet were firmly beneath us again, he opened himself to being a father – just as he had promised. It was no longer fair to view the man I married as the Scrooge of my dreams.
If anything stole Christmas five years ago, it was my pride – my impatience with the curveball that life had thrown.
And now, when I see my husband protect our tree from toddler invaders, I have to smile. Ethan would have been on their team.
One Year Ago: A Holiday Fast