*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
We were still newlyweds, but that didn't mean we were a happily married couple.
I'll never forget the Christmas my husband didn't come home.
We woke up together on Christmas morning, and we exchanged presents we had placed beneath the tree the previous evening. After hastily swapping gifts, we each set out for the homes of our respective families. We had agreed to spend Christmas apart.
The reason we spent Christmas apart was simple. I didn't like his family, and he didn't like mine. His family wasn't all bad, but I preferred the company of my own. The feeling was mutual.
We thought agreeing to spend the holidays apart was a mature decision that benefitted both of us. Instead of making only one of us happy, we had discovered a way we could both be happy.
That's why I headed to my parents' house late Christmas morning, and my husband drove to his parents' and step-parents' homes early that same afternoon.
Our arrangement meant we would meet up at home on Christmas evening. However, only one of us came home.
My husband didn't come home on Christmas night, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried as midnight grew closer. I was afraid something had happened to him.
Although we didn't have a particular time we'd both agreed to be home, and he certainly didn't have a curfew, when the 25th of December ended and the 26th of December began, I was in a full panic.
He didn't call, and he didn't have a cellphone.
I had no way of reaching him. I certainly didn't feel comfortable calling his mother long past midnight. I reasoned he wouldn't be there that late, and she was certain to be asleep.
Waking up my mother-in-law to ask if she knew her son's whereabouts seemed wrong. So I didn't do it. Instead, I just sat up and waited for him with my heart in my throat.
By the time he finally came home, the first streaks of early morning sunlight were crossing the sky.
My husband stumbled through the door of our apartment, clearly drunk. He seemed surprised that I was still awake.
I asked where he had been, but he just mumbled. I knew better than to engage in a spirited debate when he had clearly been drinking all night. Given the way he staggered across the floor, I felt surprised he had made it home safely.
Celebrating Christmas apart had been my idea. It didn't seem right to complain, even if I felt he had taken our arrangement way beyond my original intentions. Sometimes, you get what you ask for.
I never found out where he had been all night.
We remained married for four-and-a-half years that spanned five Christmases in total. Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a married couple were the only holidays we spent together. After that, we always celebrated apart. We were both happier that way, and isn't happiness what holidays are all about?