Oh, the mighty holidays. Good times. Except when they aren't.
The Twitter is getting all wired up for the holidays. Thanksgiving tomorrow, er.. later today (Good morning to you, insomnia, I love writing posts at 3:30 AM).. and also beginning to prep for Christmas. I was reminded earlier today that I need to make sure there are music CDs in my car because we are about to begin that infernal Christmas music.
Holidays can all strike us in different ways. I admit, I am mixed both in my expectations and in my memories...
I'm not a big holiday person. My mother wasn't - mostly they were a reason for her to get anxious, not relaxed. And that anxiety, in hindsight, was palpable. We did not have a very large extended family - although most everyone was fairly close. My mother had a brother with two children, and my father was an only child. And the holidays were the few times we'd see my cousins or my grandparents - so that was nice.
As a kid, Thanksgiving was always extra special for me, because my birthday followed quite quickly afterward, so we'd often celebrate it, too, while at my grandparents. My grandmother's moist cake, with vanilla ice cream melted into the crevices of her nice china that we ate on. We may have often eaten out for Thanksgiving but we just as often returned home for cake.
While I mentioned my mother's anxiety above, really it was quite minor compared to many's stress that raises during the holidays. I'm not sure why we put such pressure on ourselves to make a single day so perfect. But often we do - worrying about whether the turkey will come out right, and on time. Will we have enough pie? (Always a key question for me, so with my ex, we often brought the pies form Marie Callendar's ourselves) The important things.
Initially, I had no particular plans for celebrating tomorrow, and frankly, I was perfectly fine with that. I am perfectly content to spend a holiday or two by myself, and have done so frequently. But on Sunday, our new priest to be invited me to join him and his partner as they had way too much turkey not to share. This was not my first holiday spent with a priest, or even a gay priest and his partner. I went home after Sunday services with our current priest to have Christmas dinner with him and his partner last year.
But if I hadn't, I would have been fine. I have spent many holidays alone and was perfectly content. (Have I said that already? Is it possible I might protesting too much? Nah...)
This evening, while taking a hot bath, though, I remembered one of the hardest parts of my separation from my ex-wife: losing her family, too. If we were together still, there is no question we would all be gathering at the home of her sister's daughter where I spent many of the holidays that she and I shared together. My ex is one of six siblings, and her oldest sister, ALONE, had six children, so HER extended family was quite large, as those kids, too, had long since started having children. There would easily be between 15-45 of us at every holiday. And it was quite a crew.
The ex had mixed feelings about her family, but I always enjoyed the affairs. Playing basketball out front while waiting for the meal to finish. Laughing inside about the same dramas that happened year after year. Don't let Melissa make the gravy, because if she does, it will take forever. The karaoke machine one year - I had fun belting out hits, although in hindsight that was a Christmas. Watching out for my mother-in-law who was an alcoholic and would manage to find it no matter how hard you kept it from her. At some level we wanted her to enjoy herself, but when she'd get drunk enough to hit on the grand-kids' generation, well.... My, she was quite the flirt even in her 80s. Every posed picture like a sex kitten.
Her oldest sister is a big woman - tall, broad, hugs you like a bear. She's goofy, and silly and very loud, and very passionate. Don't get her riled up - although she was often amusing when she was. Very early on in joining the family for celebrations, one of her daughters told me how grateful they were I was in my ex's life because I had brought her back into the family, and back into the holiday gatherings.
I always loved the big meals. Her family, so huge, was so different from mine. And never having to be responsible for preparing a meal except once there, or preparing a house for guests, was a tremendous relief that allowed me to simply enjoy the gatherings.
As I stepped out of the bath this evening, wrapped myself in a towel, I thought of them all gathering tomorrow, and wished I was there. In some ways, it'd probably be safe, because I imagine my ex has faded back into the woodwork again. She enjoyed herself while she was there - for the most part - but was never particularly excited about going. Shooting hoops with the nephews and nieces and great nephews and nieces. Hurrying the gravy along so that we don't have to wait an extra hour to eat. Making sure that Mom's drink was more coke than Jack. (Oh, how she loved her boyfriend Jack!) Trying not to fill ourselves before the main meal came out. I do realize, in hindsight, this is what holidays are about: family.
I do miss that family. It was hard to leave them behind, too. In this spirit of Thanksgiving, though, I am grateful that I was able to be a part of that family, and of all the families I've been fortunate to be a part of for a holiday or more.
May you and yours enjoy the day and the meal and the fellowship. Stop, pause, and remember this is a day to be grateful for the blessings we have, and that family and friends are such a huge part of our blessings. Relax and remember it is just one meal on one day and know that it doesn't have to be perfect. No-one will starve... it will be just fine.
And take a moment, too, to remember our poor Canadian friends (since I have so many readers from there) who have already had their flash-in-the pan for the holiday and will sadly be going to work tomorrow. Raise a glass for them and try not to make them feel TOO bad on Twitter... ;)