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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reframing the Holidays

The holidays over the last five years have been one of transition for me.  I do not take well to change and given I was the daughter of a teen mama, I have been blessed to have not much change in a long stretch of time where the holidays were concerned.  This blessing has made the inevitable transitions that families go through that much more emotionally devastating to me and occur at a later age than most, I'm sure.

Just like Frank Sinatra sang about wanting his old-fashioned Christmas and all that entailed, I am just another person in the circle of their life that longs for the holidays of their youth.  As I go into this middle-aged phase of my life, I also know that in all likelihood, I have less time ahead of me than behind me unless I pick up a few of my relatives longevity genes.  Christmas is just as important to me as it was as a kid because I still believe in that magic that comes with it.  Sometimes I feel like Linus in a world of Charlie Browns who are dead set on bringing down the Christmas mojo.  Then by mid-season, they get to me and I want it over with which is about where I was this time last week.  Usually, I rebound and hit my stride again and I think I'm about there now.  But knowing I am truly at that point in my life where I will never be able to have what I had for so long, I am faced with reframing the holidays.

So much emphasis has always been put on Christmas Day and I think a lot of that has to do with that childhood wonder that is buried deep inside us.  As I type this, I see in my peripheral vision a stack of gifts from my bestie waiting for Christmas Day and it builds that anticipation.  It's not about the gifts necessarily, it's about someone going to the trouble to show they were thinking of you.  That they want to show you how much you mean to them whether it's a gift or a Christmas card.  I so cherish the time of Christmas Day that I have with the Mr before we go to the obligatory family gathering.  We'll have already exchanged gifts with my mom the night before and it's just a nice time to sit back and be lazy.  He was always forced to hurry through his childhood Christmases because he had to go sing in the church choir for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services.  So I always make sure we can sleep in if he wants to and no hurrying through anything.

The holidays are getting more fun as the kids get older and all develop into their own personalities.  A few of them have really been cracking us up this holiday season so it's been a joy to see that and have them interact with us more.  I do look forward to that and I have a sneaking suspicion my mother relayed to her sister what I said when I flat out told her a few months ago how much I dread the holidays now because these past few gatherings have felt more relaxed.  Hey, whatever gets the job done.  I'm hoping it made some take stock about how their attitudes and/or stress levels when just entering the house can instantly send people into a funk.  That has been what I've been rising up against the past few years and what had me Googling "cabin for Christmas" on December 25th, 2015 at 11:53pm.  I remember the Mr thinking I was joking but when I found the place and told him I talked to the woman and we could book it, he knew my burnout over the situation was real.

If we learned anything in our Christmas adventure to Vermont last year, it's that Christmases spent with your beloved with nowhere to go except maybe snowshoeing your property can be some of the best Christmases ever too.   That maybe every other year we need that holiday to claim for us and wrap ourselves in traditions that are exclusively ours.  It can mean that seeing family after the holidays when you're usually in hibernation mode can count just as much because you can invite who you want and be in a more relaxed setting.  These plans can change year to year but the family knows we will not be home next Christmas and seem to have accepted it which takes an immense pressure off of my shoulders.  I know that I only have so many Christmases left with my Grandma but I said my goodbyes to her last year when they thought it would be her last.  I also know that people can live quite a few years after diagnosis and honestly, who knows how many Christmases *I* have left on this Earth.  We can't all assume we'll get to a ripe old age even if that's how it should go.  This holiday means enough to me that I want to continue to make it more magic than mayhem or morose depending on the mood.  If that means being holed up in a cabin in the woods eating homemade snickerdoodles after sledding with my honey in our Christmas jammies then so be it.

My heart is open to anything because I need it to be.  I can't go on wishing for holidays I can never have again but I can create ones that will feed our souls.   I cherish the memories of Christmas past and have finally accepted they are the past.  With the option to make our own Christmas how we want them, I feel a freedom in that and know that we don't have to give up the traditions that mean most to us like the gift exchange with my mom.  We proved that it doesn't necessarily have to fall on Christmas Eve to feel like it's Christmas Eve.  It's not an easy transition and I know everyone has to approach their transition differently.  Whether it's a middle-aged daughter or son taking over hosting for the mother who is no longer here or doesn't have it in her to host anymore.  The family who takes over Christmas dinner and visits a loved one in a home to share their holiday cheer.  The family who has to adjust to a family member not being there because they married or moved and holidays are being split now.  Transitions come in all forms and remember that if your family is going through a transition due to these issues, that not everyone will handle them the same.  It doesn't make them right or wrong...just different and it doesn't mean that's how it will be every year.

When did you go through your first major holiday transition?

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  1. It is cliche' but true that the only constant is change. Lots of things have changed in our lives and we can either try to resist, which is futile, or learn to embrace them. I think we're finally learning to embrace the changes - which does not mean we cannot reminisce about the past and how good it was at times too.

  2. It's all in the seasons right?

  3. This is our first year without our eldest son for Christmas (he'll be with his girlfriend's family). Change IS hard. I'm putting my big girl panties on and a smile on my face ... I hope that works! Right now it's a little sad. Unfortunately this year, there wasn't an alternative day to have a group celebration. I hope we figure it out a little better next year. Merry Christmas!

  4. My first major holiday transition was in 1993 when my mom passed from cancer. That first Christmas was so hard - she WAS Christmas to our family. Everything changed after that. It was never the same, but we made a new normal over the years. Then came major change number two in 2006 when I got married. And I tried to compromise and switch out holidays with the hubby's family - but after a very miserable, horrible, sad Christmas with them, I said NEVER again. I had to put my foot down right away. They just don't celebrate the way my family does and I just couldn't see myself spending future Christmases sitting by myself and watching them be a nuclear family. They just didn't want me there. I told hubby he was free to Christmas with his family and I would Christmas with mine, but you know what? He hated Christmas with his family more than I did!! So we have spent the last 10 Christmases with my family having a wonderful time. He tells me now he's so glad he married into a "normal" family! Ha. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

  5. Transition is very hard, but I love the fact that you are making new memories and you've found the perfect place for you and the Mr. to go to when you want. You created your own perfect nostalgic Christmas and that was the best thing you could have done for yourself given what was going on with the family at the time. I think your Grandma would be so pleased with your VT getaway and wouldn't probably liked to escape there a few times herself! lol Transition does require change, but change doesn't mean the next thing can't be special, and you have certainly created a very special place for you and the Mr. to give you back some of that magic.


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