Celebrating an Early Christmas A divorce settlement prompts one Vermont family to mark the Christmas holiday a bit early. This year, they will open presents on Sunday, Dec. 17. Commentator Caleb Daniloff lives in Middlebury, Vt.
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Celebrating an Early Christmas

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Celebrating an Early Christmas

Celebrating an Early Christmas

Celebrating an Early Christmas

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A divorce settlement prompts one Vermont family to mark the Christmas holiday a bit early. This year, they will open presents on Sunday, Dec. 17. Commentator Caleb Daniloff lives in Middlebury, Vt.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Even as Americans are getting on planes and thawing turkeys for Thanksgiving, it's hard not to notice that Christmas is coming up and soon. It's coming up even sooner for commentator Caleb Daniloff and his family. They celebrate Christmas early every year because his stepdaughter spends Christmas with her father on December 25th.

That means that even if you have 32 more shopping days left, Caleb Daniloff has to get all his presents wrapped in the next 25.

CALEB DANILOFF: Ten years ago, my wife moved Christmas. She was getting a divorce and had a three-year-old daughter. That's where the idea was born, in the ashes of a failed marriage. It was a delicate time when Chris and her daughter's father split up. Chris agreed to Shay continuing to spend Christmas Eve and morning with her father in Massachusetts, about three hours away.

Chris told Shay she'd struck a deal with Santa to stop by ahead of time so they could still wake up to stockings and presents together. Ever since, it's been M&M pancakes and ginger snaps the Sunday before. This year, we'll celebrate Christmas on the 17.

While the rest of town is in grocery shopping or watching football or heading for the stores, Chris and I are reading directions for toys and folding empty stockings. Chris is sliding a turkey in the oven and flipping through recipe books while I'm installing flower on the floor. The next morning, we confused the recycling guys by putting out wrapping paper, flattened boxes and gift cards days before Christmas.

And while Shay will look forward to a second Christmas with her dad and cousins, Chris and I will enter a holiday nether world. At work the Monday after, no one will ask what we got each other, or whether we had company. I'll pass through the mall on my way from work, pass the (unintelligible), vitamin and video game stores, lingerie displays and jewelry counters, once again reminded that freedom from the group is paid for with a certain loneliness.

I'll stand still watching the blur of shoppers, the sweating of presents, the last minute sales pitches. But I'll split from the machinery, blissfully at rest. This year, Chris and I will be operating eight days ahead of society, a community of two, living in the future with the post-Christmas blues. We'll spend much of the 25th in the car, driving three hours to Massachusetts to pick up Shay and then three hours back home. The roads and highways will be mostly deserted. We'll pass houses with electric window candles and crowded driveways; smoke billowing from chimneys.

Christmas on the road can make you feel like the only person in the world. I'll stare down the blank highway, at the darkened fast food joints and lonely gas stations and realize one of the greatest gifts Chris, Shay and I share every holiday season is the understanding that our lives are not set in stone. Divorce gave us a new set of eyes, even an event as immutable as Christmas can be pried from its foundation. I'll switch off the radio and take in the sound of the asphalt rushing beneath us, the trees racing outside. The three of us alone together.

SIEGEL: Caleb Daniloff lives in Middlebury, Vermont.

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