It started with celebrating my mom's birthday, which we were originally going to do on Thursday (her actual birthday). They were coming over, and I was getting pizza and we'd have birthday and then family Christmas at our house by the tree. Then I'd give them the presents for my sister's family and they'd deliver them as they go up north to their house to celebrate the actual holiday.
But, then this monster storm approached, and I thought maybe we should last-minute switch to Wednesday night so my mom and stepdad didn't have to drive Friday, when a flash freeze and snow and wind was supposed to whip across the Northeast, especially the Great Lakes region. So we did that, and while it was a little more harried getting everything together, it was a lovely evening.
Thursday we got notice that we had a SNOW DAY on Friday, at noon no less! Snow days are the best. It's a truly free day -- unscheduled, no sub plans required, no appointments scheduled -- just pure freedom. And to know ahead of time! Literally you heard whoops and people running out into the hall when the email and text came through (not gonna lie, it was during my lunch and I was one of those people running out in the hall, cheering and hugging anyone who was nearby and generally causing a very distracting ruckus). It did pretty much kill any hope of getting anything remotely resembling work done, since it was officially "the day before break." The energy level was bananas after the kids found out, and frankly the adults were all crazed as well. I did manage to get students to play actual board games, which was nice ("Can we go on our computers or phones?" "NO! You can INTERACT with REAL LIVE HUMANS, and HAVE FUN without a SCREEN! BWAHAHAHA"). We'd already had our celebration during English, since it's the only time my group is all together, undiluted. We had donuts and hot chocolate and a Spongebob holiday special. I had to do it Thursday because the holiday hoe down was supposed to be Friday during English, so that turned out to be great timing. (My students are sad they rescheduled the hoe down for the Tuesday we get back, they were downright protesting having to square dance with each other.)
Friday was sweet, sweet pajama time. And a fair amount of stress over the winds. If you've seen the news out of Buffalo, it was absolutely apocalyptic there, only an hour west of us. We had high winds (sustained 50 mph, gusts up to 70) and a sudden drop in temperature that turned the roads into sheets of ice, but the blowing snow didn't accumulate hardly at all. I hate the wind. It is insanely stressful. Just pure chaos shrieking in the chimney and literally bowing in the windows. I actually hit the floor at one point because I was certain the windows in our living room were going to blow in. They didn't, but it did not make for a restful sleep later!
Bryce made a request to change our routine for Christmas. In the past, I've been pretty tied to the following routine:
1) open one present on Christmas Eve
2) have stockings with coffee but before breakfast
3) breakfast is pancakes and bacon and a citrus salad
4) then we open presents, one at a time, and take time to write down what we got from who so thank you notes are easily done.
Well, what happens every year is that our family is all over the country, so we end up doing tons of phone calls and zooms, and everyone else is done with presents far before we are, so we feel like we are constantly in a state of interruption and stress and feel the weight of calls we should be making and then we get irritated.
So, Bryce wisely suggested we do our Christmas on Saturday. Have a leisurely Christmas on the Eve, and then do our calls on Sunday without feeling stressed on either day. BRILLIANT. I don't know why we didn't do this before! (Well, I do... I hate change and can be a little, um, rigid...) It was glorious. We saved stockings for Christmas Day and presents that people wanted us to open with them, and I decided to scrap the citrus salad and sleep in a bit more.
It's funny, because for a while towards the end of our family building journey, we preferred to go away for Christmas, to do it in Vermont where it was something different and less painful. That was in the house that we thought we'd be pregnant in, that we thought we'd bring a baby home to. The thought of coming down the stairs to a tree with presents and having no children, no extra stockings, none of that was too painful.
Then, when we moved to our new house, we didn't want to go to Vermont for Christmas anymore. After, sure. But we wanted to celebrate the holiday our way, in our new house that fit our new life. Just us and the cats.
This may seem strange. Why don't we get together with family on Christmas? Isn't it sad and lonely, just us two? Wouldn't it be in a way easier than all those phone calls and zooms?
No. We enjoy celebrating around the holiday with people who are here, and having zooms or phone calls with those who aren't. To have a big family Christmas is pretty impossible, given that our family is so spread out and there would be no way to see everyone (both our parents are divorced, so there are 4 parental locations, not 2). It would also be a reminder of the family Christmas we wanted to have ourselves but don't. My extended family is even more spread out than my parents/inlaw situation, so there's no big family holiday with tons of little kids running around. Bryce does have a stepbrother with a young son, 4 or 5 (who we've met once). I think my mother-in-law would love for us to have a big family holiday all together, which is probably more of a fantasy thing than a reality thing, as the situation is complicated. And, frankly, I don't think we could do a tiny child's Christmas. We are well-adjusted(ish) in part because of the boundaries we set, the situations we simply do not put ourselves in. Grief is funny because there's no expiration date, and while sometimes it can sneak attack you unexpectedly, it's also good to know what you know will be triggering. No thank you, not for us. I am glad that they can have new traditions with a small human though. I'm also kind of glad I don't have to witness it too much.
I love our quiet Christmas. I love our traditions and that we can mix it up if we want to. I love that we have established that we are a family, and we can connect with the greater family while preserving our own celebration and sanity. I hope the same for you -- balanced holidays and extra care for your hearts.
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