We have a small family; there are just three of us--my husband, my daughter, and me. For the past twenty-five years we have lived hundreds of miles from the nearest extended family, so we've developed our own family holiday traditions. I cook exactly the same foods every year, serve them on exactly the same dishes, in a house decorated exactly the same way. My daughter has always been very vocal about the importance of maintaining those traditions. Nothing can change--ever.
But this year, everything will change.
A few months ago and five years into a PhD program in Egyptian Art and Archaeology, she decided she was finished with school. She no longer wanted to sacrifice for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (partly because there no longer IS a pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow). She wanted to grow up, be financially independent, and have a real life. I fully supported her decision because I understand how important it is to do what's right for you without worrying about disappointing others. Last spring, when she began her search for a full-time job, I warned her it might take a while. Little did I know how long that "while" would last.
Finally, in October, she got her first real full-time job. We're thrilled for her. It's an excellent job, for which she is perfectly suited and well-trained. No parent could ask for more. But it means big changes for our family holiday celebrations, at least this year. She lives in Chicago, and we've moved to California. As a new employee, she won't get enough time off to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas. My husband and I plan to fly to Chicago for Christmas, but for the first time ever, we'll be spending Thanksgiving apart.
Our daughter says she's going to treat the day as a day off from work and try to pretend it isn't a holiday. I don't know what we'll do. Most of the nice restaurants in town serve big Thanksgiving dinners, but I don't know whether we'll try that. I once ate Thanksgiving dinner in a Howard Johnson's in Poughkeepsie while I was in college, but that's not an experience I care to repeat. The only certainty at this point is that, one way or another, the holidays will be different this year.