Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Different Every Year

The year I graduated college I moved to California.  The year after my parents moved to Florida and my brother stayed in CT.  We were totally spread out.  It was the first of my 'different' Christmas celebrations.  I celebrated in Florida with my parents and Grampa and a friend who was working in FL and couldn't get home for Christmas.  It felt SO weird.  So weird to celebrate Christmas in a home different than the one you grew up in.  So different to wake up and jump in the pool (it was a drunken declaration!)  So different to not be sharing it with my brother who couldn't fly down.

Flash forward a five years to the first year I HOSTED Christmas.  This was weird too!  It was in my apartment.  My parents bought an air mattress and slept in my living room!  I had a shrub instead of a Christmas tree.  A SHRUB from a friend's yard.  It was hysterical.  It was funny.  It was so weird.  I didn't know what to serve.  I didn't know how to do anything.  I didn't know how stockings were 'done'.  I didn't even OWN stockings!  I had to buy them!  I forced traditions which are very funny memories like when I forced my parents and Grampa to decorate a gingerbread house.  The living room was a mess.  My parents and Grampa TOTALLY got into it.  They were eating the candy and licking the frosting and laughing about how silly and fun it was.  And then the whole roof slid right off!  Then my Grampa just started eating it!  So funny.

Flash forward 5 more years.  My parents are getting older and travel for them is more difficult.  I'm married.  We try hard to balance the family obligations- family of parents, siblings, travel, etc.   The 'traditions' I forced at my parents are now softened to where we decorate chocolate or sugar cookies cut out into people (we like sugar cookies so much more) on Christmas eve.  I've adopted some of my in-laws traditions - like their stocking tradition and Christmas eve meal.  I've tried to make something different for Christmas food but it just feels like so much work.  I've adopted my family's Christmas night meal.  I'm trying to figure out how to balance everything.  I continue to struggle at finding the 'right' balance.

Flash forward some more years to this year.  This year is another kind of different.  This year we have two children. One of them really 'gets' Christmas and it's so very exciting. We will have no overnight guests.  We have Christmas eve and some of Christmas morning on our own.  On Christmas eve we will decorate cookies to leave for Santa.  We might make a craft.  The children will open a single gift that we have selected (a book).  Only yesterday we decided what we'll eat on Christmas eve (tomorrow) and tinkered with possibly ordering Chinese food (shock!) but decided that does not go with Prosecco.  We have guests graciously driving in on Christmas day.  We will not see my parents at Christmas time (actually it's been two years since I've seen my Dad and last year my mom arrived on New Years Eve).  We are scaling back our 'festivities' and focusing on relaxing and having fun.  We are not trying to exercise our culinary skills this holiday.  We are buying, not making cinnamon buns.  We are buying snacks, not hand making them.  We are cooking a ham (which was a gift), not making homemade meatball-lasagna (with homemade sauce, homemade meatballs and homemade noodles).  We are taking it easy.  We are trying to balance all of our wants and obligations.  

I often think about traditions.  It never occurred to me that many 'traditions' are the result of trials and errors.  For example, my family's tradition of lasagna on Christmas is brilliant in that it involves almost zero 'work' that day.  It can all be prepared weeks ahead of time. While I have the biggest desires to be someone who makes a well prepared and 'fancy' meal for Christmas, this year and the upcoming ones will not be the years that happens.  We're in survival mode, people.  We are just getting through these young years.  My goal is to enjoy them as much as I can.  We can order pizza or Chinese food for all I care.  I want to relax with family and enjoy these days.  Culinary feats may perhaps be in my future.  Or not.  But this year we're focusing on enjoying it.  I hope you are too!

Merry Christmas!

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