Like a lot of families in New Jersey, my parents changed their status from residents to snow birds. These mythical creatures spend most months residing in a warmer climate and summers in the Garden State. As an only child, I mourn their departure. Since my husband is an English immigrant, his family remains in the land of Shakespeare, The Beatles and Prince George. Essentially, the weekend before Halloween
we are left abandoned, we are left alone with our beautiful and overly energetic two children.
With the big trifecta (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s) arriving at our doors at warp speed, we don’t have the Norman Rockwell image of a large family surrounding a perfectly cooked turkey. Both my husband and I do not come from large immediate families, and we were both raised with physical distance separating us from our extended families. We don’t have uncles, aunts, cousins, godparents, and grandparents bombarding our home like is projected in films like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Right before any of the Big Three Holidays, we always have the same conversations with friends and coworkers. “Where are you going for _______ (fill in one of the Big Three Holidays)?” We don’t have the grandparents nearby to hug our children just like we don’t have our parents to help out or cook those favorite meals. And while I would love to have my mom sitting across from me as we sip café con leche and we eat her home made banana bread, the honest truth is that there are wonderful possibilities for my husband, my kids and myself.
Every moment is an opportunity for me to spend time with my children without limitations. While most homes will be serving turkey at the dinner table on Thanksgiving, we have enjoyed meals at various restaurants, including Thai one year. One Christmas, we made individual pizzas that were cut into fun holiday shapes and everyone could select their own toppings that they preferred. New Year’s Eve, we threw our party at lunchtime so the kids could participate. We are not bound to someone else’s schedule, routine or requests.
That doesn’t mean traditions are gone but rather redefined by us. In fact, we are creating our own such as wearing fun Christmas pajamas and having our Santa Claus photo taken on a Harley Davidson. We also enjoy home made pie on Thanksgiving (except the home it was made in was a farm that we order from and it was delicious!).
The bittersweet morale of this story is that when you have a small family that is an island you do not have the constraint of commitments to attending a plethora events, so we have chosen to maximize that time with activities that are fun and silly which bonds our family together. Trust me, I am not knocking those that have family commitments. I still want to have a coffee with my mom in her kitchen, but that is not an option.
Instead of lamenting this loss, we are celebrating the opportunities it affords us to try new things. We have decided to redefine holidays to embrace the unique, unusual, and offbeaten track. The focus during the holidays should be on creating warm memories that will be cherished, no matter how large or small the family is!