It occurs to me as Christmas nears how much more at peace I am about it this year. Creating our own baby families wreaks a special kind of havoc on those pesky days known as the holidays. Navigating the traditions of multiple families is slightly harrowing and very emotional, especially when you decide to move away from your own family, thereby decreasing the chance of seeing them.
Before B and I married, we discussed how we would handle the holidays. We knew that we were moving away from my family so there would be holiday travel involved. Hell, even if we weren’t moving, his family was moving away. Thus even if we had stayed we would no longer be in a state that housed both of our immediate families. On paper it seemed simple. Each year we’d split Thanksgiving and Christmas, spending one with my family, the other with his.
Putting it in practice, however, has been painful.
The first year:
We had just married the month before, at the beginning of November. No one traveled at Thanksgiving, so we stayed in AZ, spending an especially sunny and warm holiday with his parents. We hadn’t planned on going to Texas that year for Christmas as we were financially exhausted from the wedding. However, the closer Christmas loomed, the more panicky I felt. I absolutely could not be away from my family. I was in tears when I would think about it. This first marriage milestone was especially painful. B and I spoke about it. We discussed me going by myself. I hadn’t found a job yet so I was free from those particular restrictions. On the other hand, B was working a temporary job that would not allow him time off. However, that job ended at the beginning of December and we decided to make the long drive the week of Christmas. I was utterly grateful for this. I treasured being able to see my family and be reunited with friends.
The second year:
We both were to fly to New Mexico where my family normally gathers. It has been a tradition for the past ten years to gather at my Aunt D’s house. D’s kids, my Aunt T and her kids, my dad and his kids (my sister and me) all gather for a rambunctious four days of revelry, laughter, and merriment. B’s job reneged on his vacation request. I went by myself.
Since we (I) spent Thanksgiving with my family, Christmas was reserved for Arizona. But once again the nearer Christmas drew, the more panicky and upset I became. I cried. I grew increasingly distressed. I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing my dad or my sister; of missing out on staying at my sister’s on Christmas Eve; of missing out on my dad’s Christmas breakfast; of not toasting with my family with our traditional Christmas morning mimosas. I contemplated finding some way to go down there but I knew my efforts were futile, not to mention it would betray our arrangement.
So I decided to come to terms with this absence by introducing my family traditions to B’s family. We stayed over at his parents’ house on Christmas Eve. We brought orange juice and champagne. And a holiday first—I cooked Christmas dinner. Yes, I felt a poignancy on the day of, acutely aware that I was absent from my family, and yet I discovered a well of joy in merging our family traditions and creating some new ones.
B and I flew to New Mexico to spend Thanksgiving with my family. For Christmas we will remain in the desert. Yes, I feel a little sad that I can’t bring my family to me (and believe me, I tried) or go to them, but I feel at peace with it. I am looking forward to arriving at B’s parents’ house on Saturday afternoon with present, pies, and recipes. I will be making dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I couldn’t decide on one menu so I crafted two. Friday will be spent baking pies and prep for the holiday meals. We will forgo the mimosas. (It’s just not the same in this case. B’s family doesn’t really drink, and well, my family definitely enjoys their wine, tequila, and holiday mimosas.)
Not to mention the few traditions B and I have created as our own baby family. We hang stockings and stuff the sh*t out of them. We observe Solstice and Christmas. We open presents on one, stockings on the other. We don’t put up a tree, but we do have a Christmas branch with care bear ornaments and a dancing penguin. We host his parents, brother, his wife, C., and our nieces the week before Christmas so we can celebrate with them before they leave town to spend the holidays with C.’s family. Last year we made a gingerbread house with the girls; this year we baked Christmas cookies.