((Part Three of the Colleen Series – Follows Sundays))
Colleen stared at the dancing flames of the fire, her Party at Holly’s-tipped fingers loosely cradling a half-full glass of Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau. She laughed a deep, throaty laugh when she looked down at her hand holding the glass and realized the color of her nails almost matched the wine.
Her laugh woke Ingrid, who scrambled to her feet, looked expectantly at her owner, and ambled over to see if she could cadge another bite of turkey. While she wasn’t exactly a wine connoisseur, the large dog was the consummate optimist, certain that a nibble of something tasty would soon be forthcoming. After sniffing around and smelling nothing delicious, she accepted a few moments of chin-scritching before settling down near the fire once again.
It was Thanksgiving. For the first time since she’d become a mother, Colleen had spent the day without her daughters. Every time she thought she’d adjusted to her new life as a divorcee, these “firsts” popped up and she had to navigate new territory and unfamiliar emotions.
With each first, she found a way to either make it her new norm or make a game out of it.
All the weekends without the girls had given her time to nourish herself and indulge in some sacred solitude. The previous month, she’d finally turned a corner of her office into a space to paint – something she hadn’t done since college.
This first holiday alone, she handled by making an adventure out of it. Gretchen, a girlfriend from college, had offered her parents’ cabin in the Smoky Mountains. Jumping at the opportunity, Collen had packed herself and Ingrid into the car along with her acrylics and a couple of canvases. By late Saturday evening, woman and dog were ensconced in their cozy retreat.
On Tuesday, Gretchen had also arrived at her own cabin. Another divorcee, she and several of the members of her book club were sharing the close by cabin. Much like Colleen, all the women were well educated and fun loving, and each had also found the silver lining in spending the holiday without family.
Though she couldn’t imagine life in the cabin becoming her new norm, Colleen squeezed every drop out of her adventure. Being busy kept her from missing the girls too terribly much.
Her days quickly fell into a pattern: Colleen took long walks with Ingrid. Religiously, she wrote “morning pages” over strong cups of coffee. She set up her easel and painted a little each day. She fixed elaborate brunches just for herself and created beautiful charcuterie boards in the evenings to share with her friends, both new and old.
Thanksgiving dinner was an adventure in itself. Each woman had created a favorite dish from holidays past and crowded into Colleen’s cabin to share them, along with copious amounts of wine and a beautifully roasted turkey.
Of course, all were happy to fuss over Ingrid, and the dog basked in all the attention.
It had been a good day, a highlight in a year that had seen Colleen surprising herself over and over. Looking back, she realized she’d faced each ‘first’ with some sort of grace.
She couldn’t say the same for her daughters, who had been unhappy when they realized the entire holiday would be spent without their mother. Their disappointment only grew upon learning that, instead, they’d be spending it all with her: their father’s new girlfriend.
So far today, Colleen had received three phone calls and more than a dozen texts:
“She wears the most hideous clothes.”
“Are you really in a cabin the mountains? Is there snow, yet?”
“Seriously, Ma. I think she’s closer to my age than dad’s”
“She doesn’t like dark meat, so there are no turkey legs! And she put MARSHMALLOWS on the sweet potatoes!”
“Can we go to the mountains for Christmas?”
“She BOUGHT a pie instead of making it! Who BUYS pie on Thanksgiving? I miss your pecan pie….”
“Are you sure you’re okay, mom?”
“Does Ingrid need leftovers from here? There’s a lot ‘cause her turkey breast was dry!”
“Maybe you should look into getting a boyfriend, mom!”
Colleen had responded to every ding or ring from her phone in the same cheery manner. She’d advised the girls to give their father’s new flame a chance, and cautioned them not be so judgmental. She’d also assured them that she was fine, and ignored their prodding into her own love life.
Off the phone, she firmly turned her mind to other things each time her ex-husband’s new girlfriend dared to intrude upon her thoughts. She had yet to officially meet the young woman, but she’d caught a glimpse of her by accident at the grocery store. The other woman was a classic beauty: late twenties, leggy, blonde, and with a flat belly that had never been faced with childbearing, and the resultant stretchmarks.
Her ex-husband’s choices had nothing to do with Colleen beyond how they affected the girls, so anytime she pondered a catty reply to one of the girls’ texts, she stopped herself. The best thing she could do for her daughters was find some way to connect with their father’s girlfriend, especially if their relationship continued to go in the direction of marriage.
After all, no one would gain by painting the woman as the “evil stepmother.”
For a moment, Colleen wondered if she was playing ‘chicken’ when it came to love. Though she’d dated since the divorce, she was keeping all her relationships casual. Was she making a mistake? Was her heart closed to the possibility of love?
No, she concluded. She was just enjoying rediscovering herself, and that took glorious amounts of solitude.
Solitude that, at least over Thanksgiving, Colleen could find in a cozy cabin, a cuddly dog, a crackling fire, and an excellent glass of wine.
About the Author: Debra Smouse
Debra Smouse is a self-admitted Tarnished Southern Belle, life coach,and author of Clearing Soul Clutter: Creating Your Vision. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. She resides in Dayton, Ohio where she practices the art of living with the Man of Her Dreams. She’s the Editor in Chief here at Modern Creative Life. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.