For the last thirty-six Christmases, I've celebrated with family, friends or both. My house was always the hub of chaos during the Holidays. Our family hosted get-togethers that rivaled those of the Kennedy Clan. Kids, grandkids, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, friends of friends, girlfriends and boyfriends of friends of friends - our house was FULL!
Those were always my favorite memories, too. Wonderful smells coming from the kitchen. My mother never skimped on a holiday meal, of course. Big, steaming pots and casseroles, desserts, appetizers, whatever you call the prequel to appetizers, side dishes, salads, candy...you name it. Pop & beer were always stored in the back porch, where it frequently got so cold the cans would freeze and burst. Yep..just wasn't Christmas without a foamy Pepsi can bubbling over.
When my parents divorced, our family events became a bit smaller, but still happened. Fewer people, but still lots of people and food. We included more friends in our gatherings, too. Then, mom died and we had one last Christmas with the whole family before we finally decided it was more work than it was worth. We had small get-togethers then, usually just us siblings and our immediate families. It was fifteen years before our entire extended family got together again.
That was a fun year. I'd been working that year on special presents for my aunts & cousins. I'd dug through old pictures and scanned & printed them off, creating unique calendars for each of them. The kitchen was full of those mouthwatering smells again. We played games and visited. The kids played and left chaos in their wake -- just how a family get-together is supposed to work. We've since tried very hard to keep those traditions going.
When my husband and I got married, we discovered quickly the need to alternate the big holidays. His family is much like mine used to be: huge gatherings with all the kids, their spouses and children. Hoards of food, lots of noise and so much wrapping paper in garbage bags afterward that Greenpeace has our family on their Most Wanted list. As time has gone on, though, I've grown less tolerant of the noise and the chaos that comes with eleven grandchildren (seven of which are under the age of 12). It's no secret that I'm not fond of children, nor should it come as a surprise that I prefer peace and quiet. Combine the chaos with religious judgement and completely different parenting styles for our children and I spend most of the holiday in petulant silence. Sometimes the migraine I fake to get away from the noise isn't so fake, after all. As time has gone on, Hubby and I have developed a holiday tradition of our own: fighting about whether I have to attend his family's Christmas celebration. I always end up going, though in order to keep the peace. (Whenever he goes to see his family without me, he's bombarded with questions about what's wrong with our marriage since I'm not there.)
This year, I was granted a pardon.
Long story short, Hubby screwed up. He trusted his mother with something in confidence (which she didn't keep so confident) and quite honestly, I'm tired of pretending to be someone I'm not and since the valve between my opinion and my mouth is permanently disabled, it's bound to get ugly. I was still prepared to go...that whole keeping-the-peace thing, you know...but he told me the other night that I don't have to go with him this year.
What does that mean for me? I'm Home Alone this Christmas. Our family is going to my cousin's house on Christmas Eve, then we'll be dropping the kids off at their dad's before heading home. Hubby will get up bright and early Christmas morning and head to his parents'. I will be staying home. By myself. Just me (and three cats) (and a dog) (and whoever's on Twitter) (and Facebook).
I will be making a big pot of my mom's homemade tomato soup. And I'll spend the weekend sleeping in and staying up late, watching movies, reading books, soaking in a bubble bath and doing whatever the hell else I feel like doing.
I may even sing "White Christmas" a'la Kevin McCallister. You never know.