We always loved the holidays, especially those huge family gatherings at our in-laws house with 30 or more guests and my mother-in-law flitting back and forth, making sure everyone had what they needed and felt at home. When my in-laws passed, our gatherings became smaller. Some of the sibs went to their in-laws instead of dividing the time between two families. Without my mother-in-law, we weren’t inviting their neighbors and former colleagues, either. It seemed strange to have, maybe, 15 at the gathering.
My side of the family was different. For some years, everyone came back for Christmas Eve dinner but eventually, with all the sibs living in different states and our parents getting older, we had very small gatherings. My parents and brother were always invited in the gatherings my in-laws had but declined. So, we had our separate Thanksgiving dinner on another day, usually Friday or Saturday.
My husband and I are the elders for our family. We have realized this in many ways, especially since my parents have needed full-time care. We are the ones who are called when someone is sick. We were called when our niece’s house was broken into. We are the go-to-for-advice-elders whenever we are needed. Being the elders, we’ve also realized that our favorite music isn’t cool anymore, and I would never, ever think of buying clothes for our daughter unless I’m prepared for an awkwardly polite thank you and a request for the receipt. Baby boomers aren’t used to this.
Anyway, though I generally enjoy this honor and enjoy hosting the gatherings (can I channel my mother-in-law’s energy?), I was tired this year and not looking forward to the work of cooking and cleaning for the group. So, the brilliant person I am thought we’d just have our side of the family join the great grands at their assisted living facility and eat in the dining room. Perfect! We’re all together and no work.
Dad was worried about the cost. Knowing he would fret and fret about it, I finally told my brother I would just make dinner and bring it up there. We could ask to use some space in the dining room. Okay, besides the fact that NOT cooking was the whole point of going there, the next challenge was space. All the guest dining rooms had been reserved long ago. I finally gave up and told them just to come to our house.
Everyone who is here will be coming. My brother, who always comes to town, and all our kids and grandkids. Total: 12 people for dinner. I went into a frumpy panic (the kind you have when you’re too tired and irritated to panic fully) for a couple of hours. Then my daughter and I made pumpkin pies from scratch.
Hallelujah! I’d forgotten how much homemade pies are a part of our holiday tradition. Now, I’m dancing around (okay, frumpy dancing) and getting the last minute things ready. The family will arrive in two hours.
Today I am thankful for my brother, who comes out when he can and when he does, takes Mom and Dad out shopping, brings them to the family gathering, and even took my mom to the storage unit so she can get her stuff (okay, mixed feelings about that one). I am grateful for family gatherings and holidays that seem to pop up when we least expect them. I’m even grateful to the chaotic mess that is our house the day after the holiday.
And oddly enough, I’m grateful we don’t have a dishwasher. This means me and hubby get some good long quality time together.
(since this was written, we have gotten a dishwasher. We'll have to find quality time another way.)