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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)

TITLE: Cards on the Table
By Robyn Burke


Single parenting sucks. I don’t normally use the slang of my children, but I can’t think of any other word to describe how I feel these days. As justified as I believe I am for divorcing my children’s father, it still carries pain, shame and guilt. Compounding this is the fact that my 15 year old son Nolan, has chosen to live with his dad while 12 year old Cara remains with me. Single parents and children divided makes for some funny math.

At the table, I move a stack of mail, car keys and overdue library books. A box of unopened Christmas cards remains. The cards, bought at last year’s clearance sale, are generic and secular. I am not sure how to sign them so there they sit.

After dinner Cara spreads her books out on the table and studies. I spread out my address book, list and the Christmas cards and reflect.

In years passed the cards would bare four names: Cara, Nolan, their dad’s and mine. I stare at what I have written on the card:“Love Kate & Cara”. It feels wrong somehow. I have two children. How can I not sign Nolan’s name? But adding it would feel like a sham. I procrastinate by making tea for me, hot cider for Cara. We talk and then get ready for bed. The cards remain on the table.

A week goes by and the unsigned cards nag at me. I decide it will be easier to not send any and move them to storage.

Christmas has come again and I am looking for the box with the nativity figures when I re-discover the unsent, unsigned cards from the previous year. I bring them out to the kitchen and unceremoniously dump them on the table right next to the pile of this year’s Christmas cards. I bought them last week and they feature a stable, angels and a bright star. I have started addressing envelopes. This past summer Cara went to live with her dad so the only name that should go on the card would be mine. I stare at what I have written:“Love & blessings, Kate.” It looks sad and depressing. I ball the card up and toss it in the trash. I make hot chocolate with a generous splash of Bailey’s Irish Cream and watch TV until bedtime. The cards remain on the table.

Each night when I come home the cards mock me until finally I add them to the box of donations going to Goodwill.

Another year. Another Christmas. I am engaged to Mr. Wonderful! We are busy with wedding plans. Christmas cards are an unnecessary distraction. Instead, we spend evenings at the table addressing elegant wedding invitations and making eyes at each other. Will and Joey accompany their dad, Nolan visits often and Cara moves back. The table is a noisy, happy place. We sip champagne and sparkling cider and laugh.

I make numerous trips to the post office and hum Christmas tunes. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Christmas rolls around again. Our house is full. In addition to my husband and two stepsons, both my children are living with us. We pose for a family snapshot and have it made into glossy Christmas cards. We gather each evening at the table and sign ALL our names on the cards. A bold question mark is added representing the new little someone growing inside me. We indulge in eggnog and seal the envelopes shut.

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This article has been read 553 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Anita van der Elst11/13/08
Thanks for letting us see the cards on this MC's table. You've described one more dilema single parents face & you've done it well.

My favorite line is the one about single parents & children divided making funny math.

I'm glad this story has a happy ending & an upcoming blessed event!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge11/15/08
There are many people that can relate to this well told story. I hope you get it published somewhere for Christmas 2009.
Dianne Janak11/18/08
This was really moving to me and poignant... so many things about broken families that no one realizes unless a writer like you takes the time to tell it.. Thanks for this.. and happy for you now!
Helen Murray11/20/08
What a way to tell a beautiful story. Love this one.