Next week is Thanksgiving. I’m starting the lists. As you know, don’t come between me and my lists. My husband, daughter, her husband and I are heading north to join my parents for the holiday. I start the food shopping on Monday with some early food prep to follow. The holidays are so filled with tradition that at times there is little room for maneuvering. I know my daughter and my father will refuse to change the family stuffing. One year we did and there was basically a revolt. My mother will be sure to make turkey stock from the carcass and we’ll smell that bird for days. All the fixings will be the ones we hold dear. There is comfort in knowing it will be the same. Somehow having the "must be this way" syndrome is a blanket of security.
But, Christmas this year is going to be a new experience for us. I’m actually a little nervous. After 30 years of marriage, two children, and the many family traditions we’ve created, my husband and I are going to be alone for the holiday. This has never happened before. Our older daughter is married and is starting her own routines. Our younger daughter is a physician and has to work. The children aren’t children any more.
So, do we keep the traditions because that’s what you’re supposed to do? Do we begin new ones? Do we still hang stockings with care? Do we read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to each other, pretending that we can hear my father reading to me and my husband reading it every year to our children? What would the holiday mean this year?
For the last few weeks my husband, an inveterate reader of anything related to travel, has begun to suggest where we spend Christmas. Maybe we should explore a new city, he keeps saying. We could go anywhere he repeats. Every few hours he has a new idea. I won’t list them, but they all involve suitcases, plane tickets, and hours in the air. He began a policy in his office many years ago of giving everyone the week off from Christmas to New Year’s. So, he has ideas galore of where we can be for the week. It’s been like playing at the roulette table. The ball spins and somehow that’s where we’ll be.
Until two days ago. Over dinner he said, “Maybe we should stay home. There are so many things we’ve not had a chance to enjoy.” He began his list of what he’d like to do, including perfecting his homemade pasta that is already pretty darn good.
I smiled. This was sounding good. I immediately had images of the fires in our fireplaces, the stack of books that keep calling to me, and walks with our dogs in the hopefully snowy woods.
“But,” he continued. “No, turkey, no stuffing, and no squash. I’m planning the meal and it will be something totally different.”
Fine, I thought. Then I became nostalgic. Now we open a new chapter and create new traditions. The familiar ones won't disappear. They will be part of the family whenever we want them, just not this year.