There are few conversations more ritualized for me than explaining my plans for the winter holidays. The unlikely receiver of these plans, however, is…family. Every year, I get texts and phone calls from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousin, siblings, and parents asking what I’ll be doing over winter break. The answer is never the same, and that’s a happy byproduct of living with four immediate and extended families!
Christmas is easily the most travel heavy time of my life. Back when I was in middle school, before and after my mom passed, I couldn’t explain my schedule without taking several breaths in between. I would typically start with my stepdad’s family before christmas, which is a few hour car ride away. From there, I’d spend Christmas Eve at my Dad’s house (with my stepmom and two sisters), and they would host my second set of parents and extended family for dinner. I would leave with my second family to wake up in my childhood home with my brother on Christmas morning, but we wouldn’t be up for too long before my dad, stepmom, and sisters would join us for gifts and breakfast. A few hours later, I would drive to the south side of Chicago for my mom’s family christmas (without my Dad) until being dropped off back at my Dad’s house around 11pm. We, my Dad’s family and I, would catch an early morning flight to Virginia to spend a few days with my stepmom’s family.
Obviously, the holidays have always been a bit hectic for me. These days, the craziness has slowed down a bit. I don’t see my stepdad’s family, and my Dad’s family leaves for Virginia a few days before Christmas. However, seeing my mom’s family is still an integral part of my Christmas plans. Whichever adult draws the short straw after presents on Christmas morning has the honor of driving me to the airport around 11am so that I can fly back to Chicago and join my mom’s family for Christmas evening, just like always.
It would be outlandish for me to say that stability is a central theme of my holidays. However, maintaining the longest standing tradition that I’ve had both for the holidays and with my mom’s family is one of the most important aspects of the season. I’ve had to stand my ground when other parents and family members have questioned why I make such short trips and fly home on Christmas. Keeping traditions alive is important, especially when they involve a parent who has passed.