Monday, November 27, 2017

A Time for Family and Friends by Betsy Ashton

We've officially arrived at THE HOLIDAYS. Be you Hindu or Buddhist, Christian or Jew, Muslim or agnostic, nearly everyone gets together over THE HOLIDAYS with family and friends, share a meal or a drink, exchange presents, enjoy the season.

Alas, for too many, the season is fraught with arguments over politics. I heard from so many friends that their families didn't check their politics at the door, thus leading to loud arguments and one actual fist fight. I frankly am burned out on politics and can't wait to wave goodbye to 2017.

Another alas comes in when stress mounts and people allow themselves to be overwhelmed. I used to be one of them. I was a Martha Stewart wannabe. I decorated my home to the nth degree, wrapped more presents than anyone needed, baked and cooked more food than we needed, all to collapse the day after Christmas into a puddle of cleaning, self-pity, and exhaustion. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't turn my home and family into the Brady Bunch decorated by the indomitable Martha.

My family wanted a quiet day, a gift or two, a decent meal, and people who weren't stressed. They finally got it.

I turned in my Martha card and took out membership in the Martha Stewart Never-Be club. I set aside three days to decorate my house. What's not in place at the end of those three days goes back in the garage, Maybe next year. Maybe not. I like the way the house looks and smells. I like to cook, but I don't overload the table. Usually, holiday meals are my husband and me, and maybe a couple of friends. Gone are the days of 25 people sitting down to eat in my house.

How did I manage this? Well, it was easy: My husband and I moved 500 miles away from most of the family. We make the drive to New York for an annual "Between the Holidays" luncheon at a restaurant equally convenient for the locals up there. Terry and I host. We enjoy good conversation, good food, and no clean up afterwards.

The grands are part of this "Between" party. We deliver gifts and enjoy watching them open just ours. If we were there on Christmas Day, we'd have about five minutes before they would be carted off to other family members. We're selfish. We like a day alone without competition.

When we get back from New York, we are home for at least eight weeks. No travel, no appointments, no nothing but what my husband and I want to do.

I hope you all enjoy your holidays in your own way. If you like political arguments, this is one year when there is plenty of opinions to go around. If you like peace and quiet, may you find it.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. See you in 2018.


Diane Burton said...

A perfect post, Betsy. Why is it we have to get old(er) to realize what's important? I would rush around trying to get everything done, buying those last minute gifts, getting all the decorations up, cleaning like crazy, and so. Unfortunately, Hubs was the recipient of my meltdowns before Christmas. No more. The first must-do to go was making cookies. As the grandkids get older, I might get back to that one with their help. Or not. Last year, they helped decorate by putting my nutcracker collection up on the top of the kitchen cabinets. We let them stand on the counters. A real treat. LOL Your solution for a family get-together sounds great. Enjoy the holidays!

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds peaceful, Betsy. I will admit to being a Christmas decorator. It's the only holiday I decorate for, but my mother-in-law left us about 30 Snow Village houses plus people, cars, trees, etc. etc. to create beautiful scenes. I lose my mind and put them all up. It takes two full days when you count all the light stringing, extension cords, "snow," etc. etc. that goes into the perfect arrangement. No one really cares but me, but I love how the house looks when I finish. I don't do all the holiday baking since I feel no one needs a bunch of candy and cookies laying around, but looking at those cheerful villages is calorie free. You can't beat that!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Way to go, Betsy. No one should grow to resent or get tired of a holiday...that is just so wrong. We don't travel during the holidays, either; our reunions happen in warm weather when kids aren't in school. When we moved away from family/friends to a warm climate, lots of adjustments were required. Thanksgiving and Christmas are very quiet for us. As for politics, I look forward to conversations which lessen the divide between factions. This holiday, maybe we can find inroads into that path back to unity. (I know: ho, ho, ho...but I'm worried about hunkering down as a strategy.)

Brenda whiteside said...

You've really nailed it, Betsy. When we lived in MN, far from family, I have to say our life was a bit more stress free. But now that we're close enough to have some time with them, I try to go with the flow. With split families, more little ones added, and just enough distance that it requires an overnight stay, we do a couple of gatherings to celebrate. Unfortunately, the strain of the current political situation is not going to go away when 2017 melts into 2018. We may as well heave a sigh and try to find a way through it.

Alison Henderson said...

OG and I have only one child and have lived at least 500 miles from any family for more than 30 years, so we're used to less frantic holidays. That doesn't mean I don't get my Martha Stewart on, but I get it all out of my system Thanksgiving weekend. That leaves the entire month of December cheerful and relatively stress-free!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Since we have the kids and grandkids all near, holidays have never been quiet for us, which can get a little overwhelming at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My Martha Stewart wanna be phase was short lived, and ended a long time ago. I now ascribe to the less is more kind of celebrations which are much more enjoyable. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours too, Betsy.

Leah St. James said...

So true, so true. I remember being stressed out like that when my kids were in school. I wasn't the Martha wanna-be, I was "Perfect PTA Mom wanna-be." I was the class mother, the library volunteer, the newsletter editor, plus the kids were in Sunday School and choir, sports and scouting. And I was working outside the home. All of their activities amped up around "the holidays" (how many parties does one kid need??) to the point where I started resenting it all. Not exactly the message of the season. I can't say I took myself out of it, but THEY did grow out of it! Now I keep things simple, and it's so much better. I cook a "big" (by our standards) dinner on Christmas Eve and make a ham and cheese strata for Christmas Day breakfast. Aside from that, "Mom" is off the clock.