When we moved to SmallTown we decided to only travel every other year. It was not a decision we made lightly. We love our families and miss not being there for all the celebrations.
The first year we decided to stay home for two reasons. First we owned two houses. ’nuff said. Second, we didn’t want to set the precedent that we’d be traveling every year. And I guess we also figured that if we were going to make this place home we should experience the holidays here too.
That was Christmas 2005. Now on even years we travel and odd years we stay home.
Dan’s family is huge. The celebration is always Christmas Eve at his parents’ house. The immediate family (about 30 or so) get together in the afternoon to exchange gifts and visit. In the evening my mother-in-law’s family gathers there. Last year there were about 70 there at once. It has been over a hundred in the past. Needless to say the party goes on whether the four of us are there or not.
My family is tiny. My mom, her husband, my sister, her husband and two kids. Ten of us in all. If we don’t go, it doesn’t happen. So on those odd years, my family comes here.
I’ll come out and complain for just a moment. Folks don’t like to travel this far (4 hours) to see us. Apparently they haven’t figured out that the trip is just as long for us. The road goes both ways.
I feel strongly about my children feeling like our church is a comfortable place for them. Like a second home. I can only hope that this makes it easier to stay involved in things like youth group as they get older. Shouldn’t that include knowing what Christmas Eve candle light service is like? The feeling of the gold cross being brought in on Easter morning?
Someday I hope my kids think of those moments in their church with fond memories. Every Easter I get goosebumps as I close my eyes and remember the Easter processionals that my nephew carried in the cross. I smile when I think of the times we would sneak off at church after youth group and hang out in the kitchen eating “funeral pickles” out of big 5 gallon pails in the frig. I want my kids to feel that kind of belonging at our church.
My friend was taken off guard last month when I told her we weren’t traveling for Thanksgiving or Christmas. My family will come a weekend before Christmas but otherwise we’ll celebrate with just the four of us. She told me of the elaborate plans that they have so all their family could be together. They all live within 60 miles of each other so it works pretty well. I remember those days fondly. Then she gave me a look and said that she thinks time is short and she plans to spend every holiday possible with her parents while she can. Ouch.
My dad died 13 years ago last month. I get a little prickly when people want to explain to me how precious time is and how we may not have forever with family members. It’s true. My dad thought he had more than 53 years, I’m sure. I certainly thought he’d be here longer than that. I also wanted to ask her how she’d feel about changing that afternoon with her mom & dad to at least three days with her mom & a step-dad (who could be as different from her father as night and day). But that was the defensive reaction in me. Luckily I’ve squashed that before, so I smiled and nodded and waited for the subject to change. Because you see, she just doesn’t understand. She can’t. And I’m glad she doesn’t have to know what the transition is like. That while life goes on, nothing is really ever the same. I love my mom dearly and we do some things together through the year and talk at least a couple times a week. So I don’t feel as if I’ve cut off my family.
We are simply trying to show our kids that our little family is just as important as the extended family. I do realize that by setting this example, someday my kids may make similar decisions. That is why we always are open about telling everyone that they are ALWAYS welcome to come here and celebrate holidays with us. I can only hope that means that if my kids decide not to come to me at Christmas, they will still open their arms and welcome me to their home for the holidays.