was the last time my daughter and I spent Christmas apart. Per court-ordered visitation established during my divorce, my daughter was required to spend every xmas break for two weeks, one week during spring break, and 10 weeks during summer with her father. For seven years, we spent the xmas holiday separated by 1400 miles. I didn’t celebrate the holiday – no decorations, no tree, no gifts or elaborate dinners. I didn’t celebrate with friends or family. Instead I would lie in bed watching movie marathons, wish the day away, and return to work the next day. But 2007 was the last time either of us endured being apart during the holidays. Shortly after she returned home to me in January 2008, she told me, in painful spurts of broken words, her father had hurt her. Months of social workers, police investigation, and court time led to the revocation of his visitation and parental rights. And since then, we started building our own set xmas traditions even in the years that followed which were wrought with financial hardship. The fight to gain sole custody, to keep her safe from her father who had four times my income, plunged us into financial ruin. One Christmas found us in a new apartment, less than $20 in the bank, a string of multicolor fairy lights taped to the wall over two from my mom and neighbor — also a single mother — for my daughter. But it was no matter because what we were celebrating was being together and that all started with the last xmas we spent apart. Something in her, during that last trip to see her father in 2007, broke free and gave her the courage to tell me and the world her father was a silent monster. Ten years ago, I learned we don’t have to be strong, but we can be brave.