by Susan Sey
So I hosted Thanksgiving this year, although I don't know if "hosted" is the right word. We didn't have anybody over but ourselves. My family gathered in Michigan where my parents live, my husband's family gathered in California where his brother and his family are based. But we stayed home. All by ourselves.
I'll have been married ten years this coming summer, and it's taken us the full ten to get the hang of this sharing the holidays business. It's no easy thing. You want to respect each other's family traditions while making the space to create your own traditions. Throw in kids, pets, in-laws, limited vacation time and several hundred miles and you've got a real quandry.
At first we simply switched sides every year. If his family got Christmas, my family got Thanksgiving. The next year we flip-flopped. But we live twelve hours from my folks, and six from his. Then we had a baby. Then we had two. When #2 was born I called a halt to holiday travel. I said, "We love you but we are not leaving this house for the holidays anymore. You are all welcome to come here, I will love having you. But I will not take this show on the road."
I stuck to my guns on it, too, and people understood. They weren't happy but they got it. Babies aren't easy-going travelling companions, and they require a lot of stuff. A lot of routine. A lot of tending. All easier done where all the equipment is near at hand.
Then my husband's parents had their 40th wedding anniversary, and all they wanted for a present was a Christmas with everybody together. So we packed up the kiddoes, got on a plane and spent the holidays in California. And it was wonderful.
The baby was a year old, on her feet and tremendously cute. Her cousins fawned over her and we had a lovely time. I thought, "Goodness, why was I so dead set on never doing this again?"
And since we'd just done one Christmas in California, it was only fair to do the next one in Michigan. So we loaded up the old station wagon and hit the road. We made it to Chicago before my oldest's notoriously touchy stomach decided to act up. I sat backwards in the front seat holding a well-used barf bowl all the way to Detroit, and I remembered why travelling with kids can be problematic.
I thought to myself, "Next year is an At Home Year." And thus my current philosophy was born. One year for his family--they get to pick whether they want Thanksgiving or Christmas & we show up wherever they say with smiles on our faces. The next year for my family, same deal. But the third year? The third year we stay home. Anybody who wants to join us is welcome but we are not budging.
This--as you may have guessed--is an At Home Year.
We've had an incredibly good time. A nice, leisurely dinner on Thanksgiving. A brisk hike along a deer-tracked foot path afterwards. Pie and tea in front of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. We laid around like slugs the day after, and the day after that we hosted a Post-Thanksgiving Left-Overs Potluck for other folks who were sans family for the holiday. We all got together, shared food and conversation, and enjoyed being home.
And part of that enjoyment is from just being here, where we live, cementing friendships with people we like. But another part of it is knowing that next year, we'll go to our family and be with them. We'll demonstrate our love for them by taking this travelling circus on the road, and sharing their traditions, their homes, their food. And we'll be delighted to do it.
What about you? How do you share the holidays? Have you ever spent a holiday alone? What are your traditions? Your family's traditions? What did you take from your childhood, and what did you leave behind? How do you balance your family's traditions with your spouse's/partner's?