Friday, November 15, 2013

Creating New Traditions

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.


Jannine Gallant said...

You're lucky you've managed this long, having your daughter home for all the holidays. Even in college, I didn't go home for Thanksgiving--too expensive to fly and too long a drive. I went to my roommate's house because it was close. This will be our first Christmas not spending the holiday with extended family since my girls were born. They both have jobs over Christmas break, so we can't travel. My grandma just physically can't manage the trip, so my mom will be with her and my brother. I'll admit, it's going to be strange Christmas morning with just us. I imagine it's just a precursor or bigger changes to come.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, I didn't go home for Thanksgiving during college, either. It sounds like your family is in for a big change this year too. I tell myself it was inevitable, but changes in family traditions are always a challenge at first. I'm sending my daughter a shopping list for Christmas dinner, and I'll be cooking it in her apartment. Hope everything turns out the same. LOL

Margo Hoornstra said...

Late commenting. Spent the day, beginning at 6 AM, with my youngest grandkids. My first Thanksgiving away from home, my husband was in the Army and we lived in Texas, our families in Michigan. We survived. Hosted a few of his friends who couldn't go home either. You don't stop one tradition as much as start a new one.

Alison Henderson said...

One thing I know, Margo - I don't want Thanksgiving dinner for two to become a new tradition. I'm considering this year an anomaly until life settles down for all of us. Next year, one way or another, I'm sure we'll celebrate together again somewhere. If she ever gets married and has to split holidays with her inlaws, we'll work on establishing new traditions.

Alicia Dean said...

Yes, it is difficult when traditions change. And having your only child so far away at the holidays must be very hard. I am luck to have all three of my grown children nearby. Our traditions have changed too, though. My mother is in a nursing home. My siblings don't always come for Thanksgiving, which is now held at my house each year. I miss having the whole big family together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I've talked to my kids about spending Thanksgiving helping a food kitchen feed the needy, but so far, we haven't done that. I feel it would be a great way to experience what giving thanks is really all about. Maybe this year.