A while back, when we all used to all try to get together for Christmas, one person announced that his family wouldn’t be attending any more because they were “starting their own tradition”. At the time, I thought “what a jerk — you can’t even drive a couple of miles and spend an hour or two with the rest of us?” I actually pretty much still think that, but his statement did get me thinking. You can start a tradition? Very cool. I hadn’t realized that. Now, a few years later, I’ve come to embrace his philosophy.
This time of year is rough for a lot of people. Sometimes it has to do with things either not being the “way they used to be” or not being the way they “should be”. If a lot of energy is put into wanting a holiday to play out exactly the same way each year, or to match some mythical standard of a perfect Christmas of our youth, it’s a set-up for disappointment. First of all the math doesn’t work. Over the years there will be people added and people subtracted from the equation. Then there’s the issue of morphing, evolving families. Kids grow up and have in-laws. People can’t be in two places at one time, even when both sets of parents live in the same town. Add in a divorce here, separation there and you’ve got a recipe for unhappiness — unless your “traditions” have some flexibility.
Since our daughter Emily married Kyle a little before Christmas last year, the tradition landscape has changed at our house. Kyle’s family lives 1200 miles away, so it’s probably going to be different every year. E & K were flying to the east coast a couple of evenings ago, so Emily invited us to have Christmas at their house in Rochester during the day before their flight left. I know that families do this kind of thing all the time, but this was a first for us — and you know what? It was pretty nice.
The day even included a miracle. When I was dispatched to the grocery store for a missing hot pepper, I saw something I thought I’d never see. Driving in front of me down Civic Center Drive in Rochester was a copy of the first NEW car I ever owned — a Dodge Omni! We bought one of the first ones the year they came out — 1978. I had only owned old beaters before that and this little $2,500 beauty was a dream come true.After a few years, the car turned out to be a piece of crap, but it was my first new-car feeling and I still remember the day we bought it. I hadn’t seen one on the road for at least a dozen years and thought I’d never see one again — until this December 23rd miracle.
Still reeling from the Omni sighting, I took an icicle-viewing walk with Lauren through Emily’s neighborhood. We had seen some impressive stalactites on the way into town and wanted to capture some of them with our cameras.
Then Kyle came home from work at noon and it was time for the Christmas lunch. Sandy had brought a delicious tomatillo chicken soup and Emily made tacos al pastor that were equally tasty.
We opened gifts. Peet enjoyed his very much. I think he’s solidly on board with celebrating Christmas.
Soon it was time to take the “Datermarks” to the airport. It made me very happy that they would be able to spend Christmas with Kyle’s family. Kyle’s parents and brothers have hardly seen him since he and Emily moved to Minnesota six months ago. It’s tough (and will continue to be) for them to have Kyle so far away and I hope they can at least have a lot of holiday family gatherings during the years they live in Minnesota as well as a few other visits now and then.
So we still have Lauren and Peet. Who could ask for more than that?
On Christmas Eve the three of us (Peet had a little down time) went to see True Grit and then had a very nice dinner at a Thai restaurant. This afternoon we’re doing the second go-round of a tradition we started last year — going bowling with the Powells, who are our neighbors and good friends (and happen to be Jewish). Now that’s one Christmas tradition I’d like to see continue.
So that’s how we’re celebrating this year. It’s very nice and I’m extremely thankful for it. One of the things I like most about Christmas is that it’s different every year.
Whatever you’re doing today, I hope your day is merry and bright. I hope your traditions are happy, light-hearted and flexible — and don’t be afraid to start a new one.