I wish I could say that every Christmas Eve, my family gathers around the big Christmas tree to sing carols and drink eggnog. We don’t do anything worthy of the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. In fact, my children and grandchildren seldom figure into my Christmas plans.
When my adult children married and inherited in-laws and other family relations, our holiday issues became algebraically more complicated. Instead of adding stress, my husband and I chose to not put any stress on the kids regarding holiday plans. Because of this laissez faire attitude toward family togetherness on Christmas, our kids have chosen to simplify their lives by either doing their own family Christmases, or joining their in-law families. We seldom see our kids or grands at Christmas.
My husband and I have shared a few quiet holidays and although they are rewarding, it’s not the same as being surrounded by family. I come from a very big family. Our holidays were akin to spending hours in Grand Central Station–with all the brothers and sisters coming and going, dragging their kids and pets with them. On my eighteenth Christmas, my mother announced to the gathered hoard that she was no longer hostessing a family Christmas and the next year, she and my father would be out of the country for the holidays. They did and we were all on our own.
The next year, we didn’t pack up our kids and make a trek across the state to spend time with my folks. Instead, we woke up with our babies, oohed and ahhed over Santa’s presents and had our first nuclear family Christmas. I came to appreciate the gift my parents gave us by removing the expectation from our holidays. It allowed us to make our own holiday traditions.
I’ve decided that we need some new holiday traditions in my house. I’ve accepted that I’m not going to get all my kids and grands gathered for a big family feast. If you drew a triangle in the middle of the US, my three kids and their families reside at the three points of that triangle. Far, far apart. And I don’t like making choices.
So this year, instead of sadly facing a day with just my DH and myself, we’re trying something different. We’re volunteering for the USO. Over the Christmas holidays, we’ll be serving young servicemen and women who are far, far away from their families for the holiday season.
I may not be cooking up a meal for my kids and grands, but whatever goodies I bake will be going to someone who craves some home cooking. Maybe by spending time with folks who are parted from loved ones this holiday season, I can treasure my own quiet evening with DH. If I spend a little time ‘giving back’ my own season won’t seem so sad and lonely. So, wish me luck. Or maybe, wish the USO some luck!