This is a huge deal for me. Huge. Let’s just say that the addition wasn’t specifically built to accommodate our having yule celebrations at our address, but it was certainly one of the contributing reasons we refinanced ourselves up to here and have endured what seems like an endless transition period.
For as long as I’ve been alive, I can’t recall a Christmas that hasn’t involved getting dressed up and going somewhere. Well, there wasn’t always the “dressed up” part – my parents weren’t the “dressed up” type – but it ALWAYS involved going somewhere. No one ever came to us, ever. There would be the Christmas morning, opening presents routine, then all the new toys and books would have to be abandoned so we could all pile in the car and make the rounds to the various grandparents.
This didn’t change after I moved out, either. Every December 25th, for my entire life, has involved driving to see someone, even after Husband and I were married. His family has a tradition of sharing the two big end-of-year holidays between his mother and her sister-in-law: if Thanksgiving is at Auntie El’s house, then Christmas is at Mum’s, then they switch for the next year (and they pass the same plum pudding between the holidays. I’m here to tell you that brandy can preserve ANYTHING! But I digress…)
The addition is built and – mostly – put together. We went to IKEA a couple of weeks ago and bought a gorgeous table with two leaves that can seat 12 people without cramping anyone’s style. My kitchen is fully functional and I have absolutely no doubt that my culinary skills are up to the task of cooking for the masses. So what’s the problem?
The shifting of traditions and the bruised expectations that come with it.
While agonizing over who to invite to our Christmas celebrations over a couple of slices at our local Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago, Husband and I stopped ourselves short and looked at the children. Really, the main reason we want to have Christmas at our house is so that the girls can have the memories of their own house filled with family and friends on that big day; so they can remember NOT having to leave their new books and toys behind to get in the car and drive to someone else’s house for the better part of the day; so we can all be together and in intimately familiar surroundings without having to watch the clock or worry about who’s offended that we didn’t chose to spend a certain portion of it with them. Feeling proud of ourselves that we’d made that grounding realization before the whole mess spun out of control, we put down the pizza and asked the girls to compile a list of people they want to have with them for Christmas celebrations.
We four, of course.
Uncle Corkie (Daddy’s twin)
Auntie (Mommy’s sister)
Grandmom and Grandad (Daddy’s parents)
Nana and Grampa (Mommy’s adopted mom and step-dad – more on that later)
Uncle Naked (don’t ask) and Auntie Bobbie
Gramma C and Grampa B (Mommy’s adopted grandparents)
(then they mentioned that they wanted the Bowyer and WeedWoman families to visit in the afternoon, “after they’re done spending time with their other families,” which was beautiful. The girls love these people as family – there’s never been any question that they were ever anything less.)
That’s it. That’s the girls’ dream team for Christmas day.
My in-laws really are lovely people. They are kind and smart and worldly. They are polite and know how to behave in public. They are not going to be happy about any of this. First of all, Auntie El and Uncle Tee and their grown son, daughter and son-in-law don’t appear on the list. While I’m going to make an executive Mommy-decision and invite them anyway, I have to say that, were I making a dream-team, I’d probably leave that part of the family off, too. We only see them for major holidays, weddings and funerals. They are perfectly nice people; we’re just not close. Uncle Tee is Mum’s brother, though, and there is a sort of obligation they feel – drilled into them by their own mother – to gather together on “important” dates, even though they’d all probably rather be somewhere else. Still, Aunt and Uncle don’t DETRACT from the environment, so I don’t have any issue with inviting them beyond the fact that they’d bring my dinner guest number up to 19, and even WITH the addition, I’m not sure I’d have the space.
The second issue is that I’m adopted. Not LEGALLY, though I suppose it would be an easy enough thing to do at this point. I was taken in as a teenager by Uncle Naked’s (don’t ask) family. They wrapped themselves protectively around me and propped me up and kept me whole and alive through some things I still can’t remember with any reliable clarity. They ARE my family – far more than anyone related to me by mere blood. My mother-in-law, though? She just doesn’t get it. She can’t get through that I belong to these people – and that they belong to me. She can’t reconcile the fact that my husband (HER son!), our children and I are far better off without my biological parents anywhere NEAR the picture. She refuses to see my adopted family as anything more than “just friends,” and it’s not right to spend Christmas with “just friends.” Christmas is for FAMILY, and she gives off the distinct feeling of disapproval when she realizes that, yet again and for as long as I’ve known her, we’re leaving their place to go and visit my adopted family.
What all this is leading up to is that I’m worried that combining our families for Christmas, particularly if Uncle Tee and Auntie El don’t accept our invitation, will leave my in-laws feeling like strangers in a strange land (which is highly likely, as Aunt and Uncle’s daughter was married this past year and it’s likely that their holiday traditions will change as a result). I don’t know if my in-laws will accept the presence of my people in a gracious and open way.
Now, don’t get me wrong: part of me doesn’t give a flying you-know-what if they can be gracious or not. We’re talking about MY house. MY family. MY children and MY husband (their SON!). If they want to come and be lovely, they’re more than welcomed. If they want to be all uppity and tongue-clicky and disapproving, they can just stay the hell home. The other part of me, though, the part that recognizes that my in-laws are aging and very likely frustrated (and probably frightened) about the evolution of tradition, wants to be as accommodating as I possibly can. I’m just not sure that I can be accommodating enough without sacrificing something that I – and my children – desperately want: a Christmas in our house with people who love and care for us.
“The most wonderful time of the year,” my ass.