Thursday, October 10, 2013

Make Your Own Gift: Finding Holiday Happiness When The Rest of the Year Has Sucked

As published in the December 2013 Central PA Hibu publications

Life is much more manageable when thought of as a scavenger hunt as opposed to a surprise party.- Jimmy Buffett    

I don’t mean to bring the mood down, but the holidays aren’t as much fun as when I was a kid.  Frankly, I don’t look forward to them at all.   I really dislike the month of December.  I’m fortunate to have all of my family nearby so that I don’t have to travel a long way, but there’s still lots of preparation for meals, presents to buy, parties to plan for and attend, the Christmas cards, all of these things that have deadlines (anyone who knows me knows that I’m not great at that).  There are several birthdays in December (including my own) that need considered, and business obligations that need tended to before the end of the fiscal year.  These are the things that are the constants year after year, no matter what else is going on.   Its only when December and the holidays come around that you start thinking about things that have happened over the past 11 months.  I lost my last 2 grandparents this summer- my grandfather, whose birthday is in December, passed away in early June, and of course, Grandma Jo left in August.  For me, that’s when it starts to hit home.  Both Mom and Dad are without parents for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time.   When my stepson passed away 6 years ago, that first Thanksgiving without him was the toughest for my husband’s family.  So my brain starts getting into those planning stages, not only to cope with the stress, but also with the grief that holidays can bring.  You can’t exactly take it off your schedule so that you won’t have to deal.  So where can I find my comfort this year?  Obviously with family, the only people in the world who can understand my feelings, because they share them with me.  But my crew and my husband’s crew are quite different in their own ways.  My inlaws are the Sicilian-Korean-Catholic New Yorkers.  Every Christmas Eve has been pretty much the same since the family came to this country in the 1920’s.  Fish dinner that includes all of my father-in-law’s Mediterranean tradition with my mother-in-law’s unique Asian touch, relatives coming from out of town crammed into their tiny dining room elbow to elbow, just like it used to be in my husband’s Bronx childhood.  Wine and conversation deep into the night, games, laughter, eating until you are ready to burst.  That’s every single Christmas Eve, and there’s a comfort that comes with that consistency.  But on the other side of the mountain, literally and figuratively, this is will be the first holiday for the Perry County side that will be missing an entire generation at the table.  We’re a small (but rowdy) crew as it is, so the loss of two will be felt more than ever this year.  My sister and I already started talking with Mom about it, and we’ve pretty much decided that we’re going to let my young niece and nephew decide how we’re going to do it this year.  Maybe we’ll have pancakes and bacon for Thanksgiving dinner instead of turkey, followed by a Wii Sports Championship Tournament.  Why not? Sounds like fun.  Let’s keep it exciting, bring some carefree kid-ness back into it.  Take a break from licking our emotional wounds, make some popcorn garland and decorate the pine tree in the backyard for the deer that come through in the early evening.  We may enjoy it so much that we can create new family traditions that my niece and nephew can pass to their kids.  Even the Sicilian traditions with their “old country” roots had to start somewhere.  Despite the fact that both sides of my family are very different, we all find comfort together because we share the same human experience.  We should embrace the  new and the old, finding our own happy place within it all.  And it’s not going to be gift wrapped under the tree.  Sometimes you have to go make it yourself.