Monday, December 15, 2008

The One About My Favorite Christmas Memory

My favorite Tasha over at Sohobutterfly is having another one of those great bloggy contests.

The rules are simple - blog about your favorite Christmas memory and leave a link to your blog post in her comments section. It should be easy - and fun. But it's not. Well it's not for me. At least not right now. I've been dragging my feet on trying to write this post.

For some reason, I'm just not in the Christmas spirit this year. I know I have a lot to be thankful for, and I love my family. I insanely enjoy buying presents for people (and yup, I love receiving them as well!) and having a few days off from work this year is greatly appreciated. It's my first Christmas as a wife and I have a great new family to celebrate with. But for some reason I have zero interest in putting up any Christmas decorations (never mind a tree, which I usually LOVE. I LOVE Christmas tree ornaments), don't want to hear Christmas music and having to think about my favorite Christmas memory is painful.

The first thing that comes to mind when someone says "Christmas memory" is how much I hate Christmas. Don't take that the wrong way, I guess I don't hate the holiday. I do hate the commercialism (as much as I enjoy the buying and receiving of said commercial gifts) - but what is really hard for me, thinking back on Christmas memories is having to divide the time between my mom and dad.

I know more often than not "kids" from my generation have parents who are not together. It's not uncommon to have to split time between family houses, but what I think is uncommon is how it has been done in my family. And before you say "but you're so lucky to have 2 Christmases!" keep reading and then decide if you still think I'm "lucky."

My parents got divorced when I was in 5th grade (how old are 5th graders?) - my mom moved out just a few days shy of my birthday (which is in April) so my first "divided" Christmas was when I was in the 6th grade (although let's not rehash the memory of my mom leaving our house on Christmas day when I was in 5th grade to go "visit friends" - meaning the man she had been seeing behind my father's back - but please don't judge my mom, she's great. It's just these are my memories of Christmas...).

Here is how a "typical" Christmas was for me and my brother growing up:
  • Christmas eve day with dad
  • Christmas eve dinner/night with mom
  • Back to dad's to sleep
  • Christmas morning with dad
  • Christmas afternoon with mom
  • Christmas dinner/night with dad
Rinse and repeat the following year - only alternate "mom" and "dad" so neither parent got to "monopolize" Christmas morning with their kids. Ugh. Is now the appropriate time to mention I am now 31 years old and my parents STILL have this expectation of this is how Christmas will function in my family?

Instead of hearing "We're so happy you'll be home for Christmas" or "We really appreciate you making the effort to drive and see us every year for the holidays" I'm more likely to hear "But you had Christmas dinner with your mom last year, it's my turn! I already planned the meal!" or "But you spent 5 hours with dad yesterday and only 3 with me and it's not fair that I don't get to spend as much time with you!"

Just thinking about the stress tenses up my already tense muscles and makes me want to curl into a ball and cry. Both parents INSIST they don't want to add extra stress to our lives, but both parents play the "holiday blame game" and don't seem to understand that it's the only time off my brother and I have as well. And instead of being nice and relaxing for us, we're traveling and then spending time between the dueling parents. Not. relaxing. at. all.

So this year my mom springs on us that she's going to be in Mexico for Christmas. What the? And man - I could go on and on for hours and pages about the complexity this brings into the family - but maybe I'll save some of it for another post. Here are some bullets (which may not make sense to you, but I'll want to refer to them if I decide to write a follow-up post)
  • I decided not to go home for Thanksgiving. SH and I decided we were going to spend it with his family (since we usually do holidays with mine and we wanted to try and be "fair")
  • We ended up going home the weekend after Christmas to celebrate "Thanksmas" with my mom (our combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas since my brother was home and it would be an opportunity to all get together)
  • Yes! One Christmas down, things will be less complex.....
  • The last few years SH and I have driven 10 hours out, and 10 hours back to pick up my elderly grandmother to bring her home for Christmas. After the holidays my dad would bring her home. But, due to my dad's surgery over the summer he can't make the long trip - and Eric and I cannot do both ways, we just can't
  • Ohhhh! Why doesn't the whole family drive out to my Grandmom's apartment and spend Christmas out there?
  • Nope, brother doesn't want to
  • Elderly grandmother (91 years old to be exact) will spend her first Christmas alone, ever. Not only is it Christmas for her, but it would also be her wedding anniversary with my Grandad, if he were still alive (they were married on Christmas day as it was the only day he could get off from work.) Not only that, but Grandad's birthday is right after Christmas. She'll be having to spend all of these milestone days alone. For the first time. Ever.
So in one way, it seems like things will be kind of nice because we won't be running back and forth between mom and dad since mom won't be home. But in another way I'm completely and utterly devastated my grandmother will be alone. I have even considered going out there on my own to spend the day with her. It's just not going to work.

Anyway yeah, so there's that. Then we're doing Christmas with SH's family this coming weekend. His parents told us they wanted a "really scaled back" Christmas because of the economy...which is fine...until we find out that they paid $1,000 to have his sister and her family fly out here from Colorado. Whatever. And until I got a somewhat nasty email from his cousin yesterday saying everyone had already decided what they were bringing to the family Christmas party this weekend and I hadn't contributed yet so what was I going to bring. WTF? Nobody told me what was going on. I'm more than happy to bring something, but kindly let me know before sending an email like that. K, thanks?

So yeah, I'm not in the Christmas spirit. But I do have some nice memories. I really do. Christmas is not all evil family issues. Take for example the following:
  • My brother and I sitting at the top of the stairs at 5am swearing to each other we heard Santa on the roof, yelling downstairs to our parents every 10 minutes asking "if it's time yet" to go down and open our gifts
  • Getting my pink huffy bike
  • Getting my first Cabbage Patch Kid, Monty Larry. Sure he had red hair (I wanted a girl with brown hair) but I loved him like no other
Plus, we had a really nice tradition with my dad. He has a nativity set that my grandmother made years and years ago. Each one of us (me, my dad and my brother) would take one of the wisemen and bring him somewhere far far away in the house. Every night we would each move our own wiseman a little bit closer to the nativity set, so that they all "arrived" together on Christmas Eve.

The other favorite Christmas memories I have involve volunteering. When I was in high school I was in my church's youth group and every year we had a Christmas party for homeless kids. I actually wrote my college essay on one such party (man, I wish I had a copy of that now). We would raise money, ask for donations from stores and go shopping for toys and clothes for these under-privileged children. They would come to our church for a nice warm meal and we'd have a rent-a-santa there to hand out gifts to the kids. It was my favorite day of the year.

After I graduated college and was in the work force on my own, I contacted a local shelter and asked them to have their families write Christmas "wish lists." When I got the lists I posted items on stars on a big window outside of my office. Each star would say something like "Warm Sweatshirt, Size M, Woman Age 32" or "Little girl baby doll, Girl Age 7" and people in the office would pick stars, get the gifts and return the gifts wrapped to me. When all of the gifts were bought I dropped them off at the shelter and imagined the joy the families had on Christmas morning when they were able to unwrap their presents.

Every year I participate in "toys for tots" or similar gift drives and donate a little bit of money to a local organization. I hope to be able to adopt another family again in the future and continue to spread Christmas joy.


  1. Thanks for participating, Sarah! It must have been hard, growing up and having to keep that schedule... I'm glad Christmas still holds some warm memories for you!

  2. >And instead of being nice and relaxing for >us, we're traveling and then spending time >between the dueling parents. Not. relaxing. >at. all.
    Amen. This has always been very difficult.

    >Nope, brother doesn't want to
    It makes me sad to have you say this. If you want to blame me for not having the time to pick her up, that's fair and deserved. After talking to Dad it was apparent he really wanted to have a simple xmas at home after what's been a difficult year and I know that was a tough decision for him, but I can understand why.

    Sorry christmas is getting you down this year.

  3. Divorced Christmases suck. I had a similar situation, but add in flying 1000 miles each way, and stops at 4 sets of grandparents. Christmas used to last about a week as a kid, which yay presents and all, but dude that's a lot for a little kid.
    I'm sorry it hasn't gotten better for you as an adult :-(

  4. Hi! Hi! Hi! Thank you for all your sweet comments on my blog. :)

    I'm really glad that you wrote this because as a parent I need to remember that my kids are not objects to fight over. It's a good reminder for me, especially this time of year.

    I hope that your holiday gets a bit better.

  5. you have every right to not revel in wonderful x-mas memories. I struggle every year since i pretty much have none to speak of as you understand without me leaving ugly details. Its hard for me to. you are not alone and don't belittle your feelings just because other people had it woirse or better. I feel your pain about your grandma mine breaks my heart too at times. you're a wonderful person and deserve to have "your" own time as husband and wife. its amazing to me how people become so selfish at this time of giving when it comes to their plans ect.. what about us being adults and haveing plans ourselves right? anyways if you want to vent i'm here and if yo ureally want to feel better about your family come get an earful of these wack jobs ha-ha... love you friends. merry christmas