Eventually it dawned on me that Michael purchased the North Pole buildings because I provided settings that brought them to life. Sure the hot tubbing elves were cute, but they’d be downright adorable when placed in the North Pole Woods, a funky artist’s retreat I envisioned in the upstairs hallway, close to Santa and Mrs. Claus’s tree-top vacation home. Michael would show me photos of new releases and I could hardly wait for December to arrive.
To be honest, there were few reasons to be excited about December during my marriage—which is perhaps why I embraced Michael’s North Pole obsession. December was a tough month. When Michael was sixteen, the youngest of his three older sisters committed suicide twelve days before Christmas. If buying collectibles helped him cope with his losses, of which his sister was only the first of many, well, I was all for it. I was happy to assemble the not-so-little villages if it brought him joy in a not-so-joyous month. Plus if I was busy decorating, baking, and running from party to party, then I might forget that we still didn’t have children, might forget that Santa had no reason to visit our home.
Like I said, December was a tough month.
The last time I set up the North Pole Villages was in December 2004. Katie was a month shy of her first birthday, and while she was a world-class crawler, she wasn’t yet walking. We figured it was safe to set up what we had belatedly realized was probably the world’s least child-friendly holiday décor. The following year a friend borrowed the buildings to create a display in the lobby of the hospital where she worked. By December 2006, I was separated with a newly diagnosed autistic child. Master planning the North Pole was the last thing on my mind.
It was only after I filed for divorce that I realized how attached I’d become to my quirky North Pole Villages. I wanted to keep the core set, which technically was mine because Michael had given it to me as a gift. I offered Michael the remainder, which I thought was generous. He refused. He wanted the entire set. He brought the issue up at every settlement conference, mentioned it in every email. When months passed and we couldn’t reach resolution, my attorney grew worried. “Please, for the love of God,” she begged. “Don’t make me go to court to argue about elves and Santa’s sleigh. I’ll never be able to face the judge again.”
I was hemorrhaging money as it was. I didn’t want to pay her to argue about anything. I lay awake at night searching for an answer. In the end, the solution was simple. I offered Michael the core set for the current market value and he happily agreed. It turned out he was right. Even reindeer barns appreciate.
Since then, I comb eBay each December and buy myself a single North Pole building, often at a steeply discounted price. When the building arrives I unpack it carefully, greeting a long-lost friend. Then I store the box away, waiting for the day Katie and I can master plan the North Pole together.
It’s coming. Maybe not next year or the year after, but I know it’s coming.
Until next time,