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TRANSITIONS ARE ALWAYS DIFFICULT
5 November 2005
Holidays can be tricky.
Those are the times which are filled with family tradition and it's always a big adjustment when tradition shifts.
When I was growing up, our traditions were set in concrete. Christmas was always at our house, Easter always at my grandmother's house. I think we probably had Thanksgiving too, since I don't remember my grandmother ever cooking a turkey. Mother's Day was at my grandmother's (I think...it's been a very long time now!)
The food was generally the same, with perhaps variation in hors d'oeuvres or salad, but the main course pretty much the same.
I don't remember when exactly I started doing Christmas dinner. Probably when Jeri was 2 and we had Ned as well, because it was easier for the kids to have Christmas in their own home. I've been doing Christmas ever since. When my mother's husband was alive, they never could come to our house for Christmas because they spent it with his kids, but we would have a "supplementary Christmas" at some time before or after December 25.
We started another transition when Ned and Marta married. Now it was not just "our" family getting together, but we had a new family to consider. It was a minor transition, more involving who went where for which holiday. I still continued to have the Christmas dinner and we continued to go to Tahoe for our Thanksgiving dinner, as we had done for years, but now Ned and Marta were only with us on alternate years for Thanksgiving, and spent Christmas morning with Marta's family.
After Paul and David died, I found that I couldn't face the thought of Thanksgiving at Lake Tahoe again, so we took a year off. The family went back the following year, but I stayed behind and went to a restaurant with my mother instead.
It was probably the following year when we stopped going to Tahoe entirely. Walt's mother could no longer handle the altitude, so my mother took over cooking Thanksgiving dinner again. When Tom and Laurel married, they alternated holidays, one year with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas with her family, the next year Thanksgiving with her family and Christmas with us.
Jeri joins us whenever she can (it's an expensive commute from Boston for dinner).
We've settled into this pattern for a few years now, but we are facing another major upheaval in family tradition this year.
We are facing Thanksgiving and where to have it. My mother has offered her home again, as she does every year, but the difference now is that Walt's mother has moved to Santa Barbara and though she is still going strong, she becomes more frail each year. She has probably made her last long trip and we've agreed that she won't be coming to Northern California again.
But that leaves us with the dilemma: where do we hold the holidays? Who goes where?
My mother is still offering to cook dinner, and this is Tom and Laurel's year to have Thanksgiving with us, but Walt's brother and sister-in-law are going to Santa Barbara to be with their mother.
So does Walt give up the chance to spend the holiday with his siblings and his mother (who, at 92, obviously does not have too many holidays left), or does he come and spent the holiday with my mother and our kids? Not an easy decision.
And then there is Christmas. Our Christmas traditions have been pretty much the same since Jeri was 2, us holding the celebration in our house...the big change was just how many people come. We used to have 24-25 people here, with the addition of foreign students. Lately it's just been the family. Usually the whole family.
Tom and Laurel won't be with us for Christmas this year, and the Sykes family will probably all be in Santa Barbara, which would leave me cooking dinner for just Walt, my mother, Ned and Marta--and Jeri, if she is able to get home for Christmas.
If we go to Santa Barbara to all be together there, there is no place, really big enough for us all. Tom and Laurel's house is not big enough. Walt's sister's condo is not big enough. And it's not practical to all be together at the Senior Center where their mother lives (plus Ned works the next day and I have a show to review the next day ).
So is this going to be the year where we have a "normal" Christmas? Just a handful of people, the small turkey, one pie?
And if so, what do we do about Walt's mother? His sister? His brother and sister-in-law?
Ultimately, Walt conferred with his siblings and they decided that since their mother doesn't do well with the confusion of a lot of people around her any more, that the best thing is for Walt go spend the week end before Thanksgiving with her, and then he will be here to have dinner at my mother's house, with whichever of the kids and spouses can make it.
But we still don't have a plan for Christmas.
Transition years are difficult. This one is going to be a big one and I suspect will set how holidays will be for a few years until the next big transition.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The pyracantha berries are blooming in our back yard again.