Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving for Dummies

I set out to be thankful all day today, being that it's Thanksgiving Day. I wondered what it would be like to spend an entire day in a state of thankfulness. Could I do it? How would I know if I was succeeding?

Grumbling or complaining, whether out loud or in my head, would definitely constitute a lack of gratitude. Being irritated with someone, likewise, wouldn't cut it on a day of pure thankfulness. Those were the two biggies in my mind, and I wondered whether I could go a whole day without either of them.

Turns out I couldn't. I may have spent the first three hours of the day in a state of thankfulness, but the first internal grumbling came when I couldn't find anything suitable to wear for me or my 18 month old son. Later I became irritated with son for making so many whining sounds that I could't decipher. The biggest trouble, however, came when my parents stated that my brother and his family were thinking they'd like to come to Oregon for Christmas.

I love and like my brother and his family, that wasn't the issue. The trouble is that Andy and I had the holidays all figured out until this little turn of events. Last year we spent Thanksgiving at the two homes of Andy's family and we spent Christmas with my family in Arizona. This year, we were spending Thanksgiving with my parents (who were planning to go to Arizona or Florida for Christmas) and spending Christmas Eve with Andy's dad's family and Christmas Day with Andy's mom's family. It was perfect. Squeezing two Christmas family celebrations into one day wasn't even a remote possibility since my parents would be out of town. Everyone would be happy, including us.

I emailed my brother tonight to ask what the percentage of certaintity was that they would be coming to Oregon for Christmas. I was diplomatic, of course; hiding the fact that I was feeling exactly like Charlie Brown in the Thanksgiving special I was watching who said, "Holidays are depressing." But I was keenly aware that inside my little heart I was not feeling thankful about divvying up Christmas between three loving groups of relatives whom I might not be able to please.

These are the kinds of things they don't teach you in school. Where was the "Handling the Holidays Without Ticking Off Extended Family" course? And those authors of the Boundaries books - Boundaries, Boundaries in Marriage, Boundaries With Kids, Boundaries With Pets (not really)- why haven't they written Boundaries With Holidays? (Probably because they're setting boundaries with Boundary books!)

The day at least ended with a tone of thanksgiving. While I was irritated with my son for pouring salt all over the floor, two minutes later I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I saw the huge smile on his face as he bounced through the kitchen in Andy's arms. My daughter and I ended the day by making a "thanksgiving chain" where we wrote something, or someone, we were thankful for on strips of construction paper and then looped and stapled them together to form a long chain. She said "Jesus" before I thought of him and she decided that "whipped cream" was worthy of it's own chain link (not merely to be lumped in with "food").

If any of you have any advice or words of wisdom for me on how to make the whole fam damily happy at Christmas, including our immediate family, please comment. And no, "fam damily" is not a typo, it's a term of endearment one of my mothers-in-law taught me. :-)


Erinn said...

With both of our families here in town I can relate, at least a little, to your situation. I'm getting better at creating and protecting our own family traditions and then adding extended family. I also try hard not to have more than one family on the docket for the day. Rushing between two usually means I can't relax and enjoy either!

P.S. I love your thanksgiving chain idea... we might use it!

Aj Schwanz said...

I had to laugh reading this, because you seem to me to be one of the *LEAST* grumbling people I know. If you ever travelled around with me for a day, *then* you'd know what grumbling is. :)

I wish I could answer your holiday question with some wonderful words of wisdom, but I have none (my family's really small). What I've learned is that it's important for me to have time with my immediate family (my boys): after that, the rest is icing. So I try to do what works for the three of us, keeps us in the spirit of Christmas, and then I become the Bad Guy who says No (or I make my hubby do it with me). It's not always fun, but it seems to work (sometimes). :)

I love your writings, Marta - thanks for sharing!