Kelly J. Stigliano has been a speaker and writer for over 25 years. She and her husband, Jerry enjoy life in Orange Park, FL. A blended family, they have five grown children, and two granddaughters, none of whom live in Florida! To learn more about Kelly, log onto www.kellystigliano.com.
It’s time once again to pick a date to celebrate Christmas with my husband, Jerry’s family. With only four siblings in his household, it shouldn’t be too difficult. However, with passionate Italians, nothing is easy.
As time has passed, the nieces, nephews, and our kids are grown. When they were little, the adults in our generation dragged them to family holiday gatherings in Ohio in the dead of night. It had to be on Christmas Eve, going into Christmas morning. Even driving through blizzards, attendance was a priority and nobody was absent.
Now that those kids have kids of their own, they have different priorities for their families. Some of them want to celebrate the holiday with their in-laws. Some want to be at home with their own families. I respect them for standing their ground to build their own family traditions.
The planning is getting more difficult each year. Sometimes I long to disappear until January; taking a relaxing, family-free holiday on a cruise or on some sun-drenched island with smooth white beaches and turquoise waters teaming with exotic fish. But, no. Jerry says holidays are to spend with family, his family to be specific.
This year I see a thorny trend, displaying a power struggle in choosing a date.
Jerry’s peace-making brother, the social worker, Vince, just wants everyone to get along. After examining their calendar, Vince and his wife, Cheryl, offered two different weekends from which to choose, to have the party at their home. Unfortunately, the proposed options didn’t agree with everyone.
Vince has put forth a voter card, if you will, to decide on a date for this annual celebration, creating the e-mail thread of the century. Betty, the oldest sibling, presented a completely different date for the convenience of her clan. She and her immediate family travel six hours with four small grandchildren.
When they were children, Betty set precedent for getting her own way by beating up Jerry and Vince when they didn’t obey her. They concede to her wishes still. Although I’m certain that Jerry could take Betty now, they apparently are still afraid she will give them a thrashing. I think for Christmas gifts, I’ll have leather bracelets made for them that say, “W.W.B.D?” as a reminder to filter every decision through Betty’s thinking.
Debbie, the youngest, is married to a minister. They have their own special concerns shepherding a flock three hours away from the host family. They too presented a totally different date for this illustrious gathering. Between adult, youth, and children’s church functions and other social commitments, they felt their proposed date would be best for them.
Then there is our family. We travel 19 hours, breaking it into two days of driving. With airline costs and gifts in tow, flying isn’t an option. We actually liked one of the original dates presented by our hosts. The fear of Mr.-Everyone-Must-Get-Along giving in to popular demand threatens our plans to attend, although we could never share that information for fear of a trouncing by Betty.
So who should have their wish granted? Does the vote really help? Debbie sides with Betty out of loyalty—or fear. (Perhaps she already has a “W.W.B.D?” bracelet.)
Cheryl and I, the daughters-in-law, metaphorically huddle together against the powerful forces of The Family, with our fingers in our ears, rocking back and forth repeating a soothing mantra – something like “it’ll be over soon; it’ll be over soon.”
Are we all being stubborn insisting on our own way? Are we being obstinate simply because we’re tired of obeying Betty’s rules?
Several of the grown-up children have remained eerily silent through the whole e-mail campaign. Does the younger set see us as foolish old fogies? Are they silently disgusted at the seeming lack of concern for one another’s schedules? Are they thinking to themselves, Yep, hypocrites all, totally forgetting the meaning of this so-called ‘celebration’!
Our 27-year-old-son made an astute observation. “All this bickering is making it lose the magic.” Welcome to adulthood, my boy!
That nasty old thought is creeping into my mind again. Each fall I struggle to keep it at bay. Today it’s filtering through my well-fought-for worldview. “Just take a cruise,” it whispers. “Ditch them all. Go away and celebrate Christmas alone!”
I think that one year very soon, Vince and Jerry will call for Cheryl and me to bring them coffee or the video camera. They’ll call and call. Then the brothers will look at one another in dumbfounded awareness. “They’re gone,” they’ll gasp. “Yep, they’re gone. They’d always threatened to do this and this year they actually did it.”
Meanwhile, miles and miles away, sitting lazily on a beach chair in the sand under a palm tree, I will be saying, “Cheryl will you hand me the sunscreen?” She’ll hand it to me, and smile. “Do you want another iced tea?”
“Why yes, thank you. Merry Christmas, Cheryl.”
“Merry Christmas, Kelly.”
We’ll laugh and laugh as we watch our “W.W.B.D?” bracelets float softly off on the ocean waves.
© Kelly J. Stigliano