A story about moments of grace

I grew up nestled together with my family of four on a puffin shaped lake in Michigan. My mom stayed at home and my dad managed his business in town. Lazy summers were spent on the water, and in winter we built snow forts, went ice skating or cozied up inside reading and watching movies.

In lots of ways, my childhood was enchanting, but like many families, there were tiny fissures happening beneath the surface. During my junior year of high school, my parents decided to separate and ultimately divorced as amicably as two people can.

In the years that followed, my mom and dad moved to opposite sides of the country. My older brother graduated from the Naval Academy and left on three deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. It felt as though my insulated family of four had fractured in all directions.

While my story isn't particularly unique or tragic, I was truly heartbroken. It's no small thing to feel your family's foundation shaken to its core and live into a decision you didn't make.

The aftershocks from the divorce reverberated into holidays, my wedding day and the years when my children were born. While there was still plenty of love and laughter, the puzzle pieces of my family never fit together in the same way again.

For many years, my husband and I juggled Christmases amongst three sets of our children's doting grandparents, rotating our time and trying to keep things as equitable as possible. We avoided dual invites and shared celebrations, until this past year, when we decided to ask all our loved ones to join us in Florida for the holidays.

I know for some families, this sounds less like a dream and more like a nightmare. Reconciliation isn't always possible or healthy, and keeping everyone in their separate corners is what makes the holidays bearable. But in our case, time has done its work, and for the first time in more than 20 years, my parents were both in attendance around the Christmas table.

Now into their 70s and 80s, my mom and dad brought their significant others, stories about their health, and their humility and grace for one another. We took walks along the water, dined at restaurants and worshiped together during a candlelight Christmas Eve service.

Was it awkward? Perhaps at times. Was it anything like the Christmases from my youth? I hope for my children it was. I hope years from now they will appreciate the experience for what it was: moments laced with forgiveness and redemption alongside a family gathering together with a shared love for the two of them.

- Jade Cook of Hinsdale is a contributing columnists. Readers can email her at [email protected].