Thursday, December 3, 2009

Family for Sale?

Wooo-Whooo it is time for Writer’s Workshop at Mama Kat’s.
Swing on by and check it out! For this week, I choose…
#4- Describe how you would celebrate the holidays
if it was totally up to you and money was not a factor.

Family for Sale?
The holidays bring up a lot of uneasiness and mixed emotions for me. When I was younger, we would spend Christmas Eve with my Mom’s family and Christmas Day with my Dad’s family. Unfortunately over the years the family gatherings slowly fell apart…until one day no one cared any more at all (or so it seems). I do not know if it is sadness, family tension, or just sheer apathy, but there has not been a family Christmas on either side in years.

To get where I am going, you must understand from where I come. For Christmas Eve, my mom’s entire family – grandparents, aunts and uncles (there are 7 siblings in my mom’s family, but you never knew exactly how many would show up), and my 22 cousins would gather for an evening that included torturing each other (in a family-friendly way), cookie decorating, gift opening, and oyster stew (eww!)…and eventually a giant burrito (don’t ask!).

At one time each family was to bring gifts for another family. This was to prevent anyone from going broke buying presents for 50+ people. Well, that fell apart the year my aunt decided I did not need anything…explain that to an 8 year old. (yes, and that was Crazy Aunt M of the Chili Brie fame). And Uncle Rocco would give each kid a silver dollar and tell them to “Stay on the straight and narrow.” (As if he had!)

Then people started to die…and move…and get married. This year, my mom tried to pull something together, but no one wanted to make a trip, one uncle has a lot of family turmoil, so he pretty much didn’t care either, Crazy Aunt M is missing, Aunt B (not of sweet potato pie fame) is probably shacking up with someone else’s husband (not her own of course!), and the cousins…who knows?

As for Christmas day, my dad’s family, which consisted of my great aunts and uncles, my grand parents, and my dad’s cousins, would gather at J and G’s house. My brother and I were often bored…we were the only kids at the time…the cousins closest in age to us are 12 years younger or 12 years older. It was fun running around in their big yard, but to a 5 and 7 year old that only lasts so long, and listening to adults gab on and on gets old quick when you have a house full of new toys! If only I had know to treasure these moments, but can you really know that at 7?

Many family deaths also occurred around this time of year on this side of the family. My last remaining great aunt took that on all too was never the same. When I look through her photo album, the captions are haunting. This is how she began to document her life, with the passing of her loved ones.

My disdain for the holidays is rooted in this dissection and dysfunction of the family in general. I have always, if just for once wanted to sit around with my entire family (what is left of it) at one table enjoying each other. And then we can decide…"Who are we kidding?” and go our own ways, but at least we’d know! So, after all of this, how would I spend the holidays if I could do anything I want, money no object…

Christmas Eve
I would gather the troops. I would fly in the cousins, aunts and uncles for a real Norwegian Christmas Eve. I’d have to rent a mansion (OK, a REALLY BIG HOUSE) to accommodate the ever-growing family (we might leave out Aunt M and Aunt B however, although they provide for good stories later!). There would be a gift for each person (probably PJ’s!), a whit eelephant gft exchange (becasue they rock at this family Christmas!), and (good) Oyster stew. The kids would play and run around…we all have kids that some of us have never even met. The big fancy table doesn’t suit this crowd, so we’d skip that, but we would all be together.

Christmas Day
This would be mostly a repeat of Christmas Eve, but with my dad’s family. It is a much smaller group, so I would for once in my life, have a big formal family dinner around a beautiful dining table. My brother and his family would be there – there would be peace for one day (there is a little riff…not to be discussed on this blog at all). The cousins would play and laugh and get to know each other better, as it should be.

Now the story continues…
My husband’s family is spread across the U.S. There are many divorces, etc., but they can all play nice and be in the same room – I have seen it happen before. So, to complete our Christmas I would offer the same hospitality to his side of the family.

So, my dreams, my wishes, are simple…but they are never going to happen. Some of the wounds too deep, the divides too great, and the sense of family lost. It saddens me, especially now that I have my own children. I really want my kids to have a connection to their family. They will not have the chance to grow up with memories of these big gatherings (no, they are not all good but they are mine!).

Instead, I will be HAPPY - VERY HAPPY -  to spend my Christmas with my kids, my husband, and my parents (and be very thankful they are here). Santa will leave a special treasure hunt, we’ll eat yummy food and if all goes well, enjoy a fire in the fire pit....mayeb I will figure out how to make pumpkin marshmallows ansd we can have s'mores (everything is better with a s'more)! I will cherish each moment.

Oh, wait…now, before I go, my Christmas wishes are not done…it is my story right?
I have three friends that I {heart} dearly, as I do their families. We used to all gather together to celebrate our own little Christmas. I miss this tradition so much. I miss our kids growing up together and just the general camaraderie that accompanied those celebrations. Two of us have moved away, and we have not all been together for 4 years. I would gather us all up to enjoy a little Christmas cheer.

Or, maybe, I’d just scrap it all…grab the kids, my hubby, and a nanny and head for Maui!


P.S. Since it is a money-no-object kind of dream…
I would have killer shoes and the best outfits for each and every celebration!

P.S.S.-My computer is at the techy hospital...
please leave a comment and I will get back at ya asap!

P.S.S.S.-In spite fo the craziness, my parents
always did a wondefufl job of making the holidays
special for my brother and I.
Love Ya Mom and Dad!


  1. I vote Maui. Oh, I don't get a vote??

  2. I know what you mean about family and Christmas. My mom has 9 siblings, my dad 7, but they live all over the planet, and we haven't been all together with either side since my wedding thirteen years ago.
    I am lucky that I have two brothers and two sisters and we rent a cabin for Christmas week every year and go.

  3. Or, you could sneak away and come eat with my crazy family! My in-laws don't celebrate ANYTHING, my dad's family is either dead/in jail/very far away, my mom's family is small and scattered across the country...

    But if you come, you must wear those shoes because I want to borrow them!

  4. great old photos

  5. As hard as Family is they do give you some great memories :)

  6. OOooh! MAUI! MAUI!!

    I am so there! :) Nice workshop.

  7. The last couple days brought out a longing for the way things use to be. I can remember holidays, birthdays, and just about every weekend being together. Then *poof* it all went away for many of the same reasons you listed.

    I too wish for my girls to have that closeness to their family, but I doubt it will ever happen. SO I say lets meet in Maui!

  8. Anonymous7:46 PM

    this makes me a little sad.. but i know what you mean. My dad's side of the family sort of fell apart... and my mom's side is very small... It's hard to make new traditions when the old ones don't seem so far in the past.

  9. I didn't even THINK of MAUI! what a fantastic Christmas that would be. Thanks for sharing your story and your dream.

  10. It's kind of funny (and sad)...our "bah humbugs" have their roots in the same soil!

    I know what you mean about getting together just to see that it won't work. However...maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing. Maybe you should take the memories that you have (for whatever they're worth) and cherish them as they are. Why mess with a good thing, right? And make this Christmas and every Christmas hereafter about YOUR and hubs and kiddos. Make sure that history has no reason to repeat itself!!!

    That's the best advice I've got...from one grinch to another. I'll try to take it myself!!!

  11. I agree with Istillfab, it is a little sad. But on the other hand I am the trouble maker who seems to cause all the discontent at holidays and I always wish I wasn't such an idiot and if I am going to keep being an idiot stop attending family events. :o)

    oh well. I am happy you have friends and by extention their families.

  12. That would be an awesome dream Christmas, but I think your real Christmas sounds awesome!

  13. Now is the time to create your own traditions - your children will love you for it xxx

  14. Interesting post. I agree you can never go wrong with a Maui trip.

  15. Holly, thanks for sharing this...what a wonderful reminder that despite how imperfect our memories of Christmas past might be (and mine are pretty rough too) it's up to us NOW to create a pleasant, love-filled, fun experience for our children and start NEW traditions.
    I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas!
    Kelli @ SustainingCreativity

  16. It's a shame you can't have the perfect Christmas with your extended family. You are making such wonderful memories for your own children, though. Focus on that and enjoy you holidays to the fullest!

  17. My perfect Christmas would just leave out all the angst and stress about who goes to who's house; and who should cook versus who should clean . . . That would be where the "money is no object" part would thrill me: hello, caterer! Come on in, Maid Brigade!"

    I'm back at the blogging, Holly -- come visit when you have the time!

    Liz @

  18. I agree with Polly!! Now you have the opportunity to create something it totally fit with you and your family. If your extended family wants to participate - good for them...if not, their loss!


  19. FYI - I don't hold my grudge against the holidays just becasue of the family situation. If we did all get together, it would probably just reinforce the idea that we shouldn't all be together! So I have started many of our (our meaning the kids, hubby and me - whovere else may come along can join in or go sit outside!) traditions...we have spaghetti on Xmas eve, light a fire, decorate sugar cookies, each kid gets a gift, we read the Night before Xmas, watch the Polar Express. In the am we have scones - after our Treasure Hunt of course. I sound like a bigger Grinch than I really am in this post. I am SO VERY THANKFUL for what I do have!

  20. I thought if you were going to follow me (twice), I should at least follow you once! Your post made me a bit sad for you, although I never had that kind of huge Christmas. My dad had one brother who never was home for Christmas, he spent it with his wife's family. I have 2 cousins that I've only met a few times because of that. My mom was an only child. We did have the 4 of us, and both sets of grandparents at our house every year. It was wonderful. As my sister and I married, we kept going to mom's and the grandparents came until we were well into our 30's. My parents moved to Florida about 15 years ago and my sis and I took turns having the parents and both our families until 2007. My daughter graduated from college and moved to Florida. Everything got messed up. Our years and years of traditional family Christmas went right out the window. My son can't leave town, he works here. He also has 2 children under the age of 3. My sister still has one in junior high and her 3 older ones can't afford to go anywhere but home for the holiday. My parents don't really want to drive 1000 miles in the winter and my daughter works for Disney...on Christmas Day. So...we head to Florida and spend a couple of weeks in a hotel with a $10 Walgreen's tree and my daughter and parents. I'll be having Christmas here for my son and grandsons next weekend and I won't get to see my nieces and nephew. It isn't perfect and I miss tradition...but, as our kids grow up you have to make choices and I won't leave my 25 year old daughter alone on Christmas. Besides, we spent Christmas Day at the pool last year and dinner was in a restaurant with no clean-up. It isn't all that bad!

  21. I wasn't aware of your family history. But the positive side of it is that your children won't experience it because you are creating positive memories for them.

    I think your Christmas traditions are great ideas that your kids will cherish when they are parents.

    I can't say that I share your love of oyster stew, although it is my dad's favorite food.

    We always have spaghetti and sweet sausage for Christmas Eve dinner, and cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning.

  22. That was a great one. I loved the pictures. Especially the mother/daughter outfits. You and your mom are so pretty!
    PS I vote Maui!

  23. Anonymous9:30 PM

    I like how you put the shoes in there! I digg 'em. The photos are terrific. There's something about old photos that draw me in. I don't have many fond memories of Christmas either.

  24. What killer shoes, they'd destroy me, but it would be totally worth it. ;)

  25. I think that would be nice. Why does money have to get in the way all the time? Think how many burrito's you could get if money were no object~!?

  26. Aw, what a cute post. I loved it!

  27. your christmas plans, both real and imagined sound GREAT!

  28. Holly, thank you so much for sharing your history, your hurts, your hopes and wishes. This was a touching and thought provoking read. I think many of us can relate to the way the big-family-gathering has deteriorated over the years. Your eloquence and big-heartedness really radiated here.

  29. So nice to know dysfunction doesnt discriminate. After my grandmother's passing 2 years ago, our family is on a downward decline. But I am determined to give my girls great christmas memories whatever it takes. Thanks for the HONEST blogging. There is a lot of sugar-coating in blogworld!! I am a new follower, will be back!


Thanks for stopping by and joining the conversation! I sure hope you come back for more!