When I was little my brother and I were the only kids in the family. My dad insisted that we stay home and if everyone wanted to see us the could come over. Christmas Eve my Dad's parents came to visit and bring presents. Yeah! Grandpa would bring Grandma home (she didn't like crowds) and come back. My mom's parents and brother would arrive to spend the night. They would all play cards until the wee hours of the morning. We would set out a highball and cookies for Santa and try and sleep. And at the break of dawn we would wake the newly sleeping relatives up. In the afternoon we might walk across the street to the neighbors and there were lots of naps. It was a day filled with wonder and joy and was my favorite holiday for years to come.
When I was older I would search for the perfect presents, wrap everything all pretty, bake tons of cookies and have fun.
Then I grew up. I long for the days of family coming together, playing and laughing. I can't tell you a single present I received but I can tell you who was there. OK, I do remember the easy bake oven. That's because I thought it was such a girlie thing and my macho uncle helped me bake my first cake.
Now, my parents (bless them for causing no stress) let me pick a time we can celebrate (as long as it's before they migrate South on the 26th). We had Christmas Eve breakfast. It was yummy and relaxed. I spent the afternoon making a vegetarian lasagna for SIL1 and scalloped sweet potatoes for my girlfriends open house. The Christmas Eve open house is casual, a buffet of luscious simple food and no pressure. Christmas day I was given special privilege to show up at my brother's before noon so I could see my niece and nephew and deliver presents before going to my in-laws. My brother took Christmas as his holiday (I have Thanksgiving and Mom has Easter) yet, he wants it to be a quiet family day without extended family. My parents sit at home waiting until the appointed time.
Then it's off to my in-laws. I feel bad for MIL and FIL - they want that warm fuzzy holiday with all of their kids and it's just not warm and fuzzy. My hubby has hardly any relationship with his siblings. It's not that they fight or anything - they're just not close. BIL's kids are constantly text messaging or on their lap top (even through dinner). Then BIL and his family took off into the other room to watch the Celtics game. We saw them briefly when they gave out presents. Several years ago we decided that we would not exchange presents - the cousins just wanted to get together. This has worked beautifully. We were just shuffling gift cards around that none of us could really afford to buy. For what ever reason SIL1 decided she was buying gift cards this year. BIL gave us the heads up. I said I could not afford it and I would not be doing the same. SIL2 said she could not afford it either, And I knew this would happen SIL2 felt bad that SIL1 was buying her kids gift cards so she gave each of the kids presents(cash). So here I sat as all the cousins (our kids) received presents and I had nothing to hand out. And I didn't care. I hope that SIL1 and SIL2 explain that we decided not to exchange gifts and that we don't have the money but then again who cares. MIL was on my side in this one. FIL was beside him self with the electronics not being turned off and their dog making it impossible for his cat to use the litter box. Or maybe it was how he was informed that basketball would be watched at his house on Christmas whether he liked it or not (OK, not in so blunt of terms but you get the idea).
And the joy of the holidays that I remember as a kid are a beautiful memory that will never be recaptured. And maybe they shouldn't.