For the first time in my 34 years, I did not spend Christmas with my parents in Chicago.
While we are trying to raise a Jewish family, we still kept up the Christmas visit with my parents for the last number of years. It’s an awfully secular celebration in my family, anyways, so it didn’t feel like much of a conflict of interests. Or, at least, I really didn’t want it to feel like one.
Last year, though, it felt like it was. Mixed messages, fuzzy details with the kids. Everyone celebrates holidays and defines their identities in their own way, but all of a sudden, this really wasn’t working for us. Maybe it was the age, maybe it was not communicating effectively with my family. But regardless, it wasn’t working. And between the weird conflict over Santa Claus, and the complete chaos and messy family dynamics of large, divorced families at the holidays, I was sobbing last Christmas Eve with the realization that we needed to take a break.
I knew that it was the right decision to take a year off, but it still took me nine months to tell my parents we weren’t coming. What can I say? It’s complicated, and I was chicken-shit. Thankfully, everyone handled it well, and it did not seem to create the additional drama I had feared.
Still, it was bittersweet and a little melancholy to be in our quiet house, with no sign of Christmas or any of my dozens of relatives. It was the right decision, but that doesn’t mean it was without a touch of sadness. (That said, I did very much enjoy my first Christmas Day movie.)
Without the travel, we’ve also spent a little too much unstructured free time together at this point. Today was an extremely welcome change of scenery, with a day trip to Maine to play with our beloved Maria and family. Take bunch of friendly, outgoing kids and a couple of laid-back moms, add about eight inches of snow and a few pans of fresh cinnamon rolls, and you have an almost-redeemed winter vacation.
I am not going to win any awards for “making the most of our time together” this vacation. Not much to write home about, as they say. Personally, I’m glad to have my first non-Christmas quietly behind me. It was one of those shifts in the family dynamic that needed to happen, and I think we’ve all survived. It’s hardly a life-long boycott – we’ll probably go back again next year. But I’m glad we took the break.