Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tradition Isn't Everything

There are some lucky people who get to celebrate Christmas the same way every year. For a long time, I was one of them. As a kid, I knew that Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandma Wrye's house with my aunts, uncles and cousins and the annual visit from Santa (who in reality was the town's podiatrist). Christmas was spent waking with my brother in the middle of the night, grabbing our flashlights and then scampering to the living room to see what Santa brought us (our Santa didn't wrap--Smart Santa). We would then crawl back into bed for a few hours before waking at the crack of dawn to actually play with our loot. Later we would pack up and head to my Grandma and Grandpa Clark's house to play with more aunts, uncles and cousins.

That was the constant schedule until my parent's divorced. The schedule stayed about the same except that we unwrapped gifts at Dad's house on Christmas Eve before going to my Grandma Wrye's and with my mom on Christmas before hitting that side of the family. Not too shabby a deal as our Christmas expanded by one.

And then Mom died. That pretty much threw a wrench into any type of Christmas plans that I would ever have again. My brother and other family members tried to keep it the same, but it almost seemed like a weird attempt to recapture a time that was clearly past us. Since then, my Christmas celebrations have varied almost every year. Naturally there was the addition of Chef into the mix, and of course the niece and nephew. Christmas morphed into a three day orgy of presents and shuttling between Indiana, Illinois and all lands in between.

This year and last, Christmas has been more low key in that I have toned down my expectations, travel time and grasp of tradition. I have tried to free myself from doing the things I thought I had to to capture the spirit. But in letting go, I have enjoyed myself more. Five years ago I drove through 23 inches of snow and ice, leaving Chef in our first holiday season together, to be with my family at Christmas. I don't love my family any less, but as I was driving home today from Indiana I realized that if the snow were to hit again, I would probably forgo the treacherous drive. I would probably not leave Chef at home willingly. I have learned that change isn't all that bad in the face of tradition. It can actually be quite freeing. And this holiday was definitely a relaxing one that I will never forget.

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