After much soul searching, my family and I have made a life changing decision. We are staying home for Christmas. Most of you are probably saying, "Duh... who doesn't stay home for Christmas?" And the answer is me... and my entire family. Its My Big Fat Greek Wedding, without the Greek and making it Christmas dinner instead of a wedding.
I lived in Iowa in the same town as my grandparents, aunts and uncles (save one set) and cousins until I was 14, when we moved to Kansas City. Despite the move, we still traveled to Iowa for Christmas every single year. This year would make the 16th time. Our Christmas dinners consist of roughly 30 or so people crammed into my Grandma's house. Its loud, crowded, HECTIC, and lovely. I told my husband prior to our engagement that Christmas is the one holiday that I was non-negotiable on. I go to Iowa, I spend it with my ENTIRE family... period. Take it or leave it. So even after betrothal and marriage, we still went to Iowa. Now I have children, and I am changing my life long family tradition.
I dream of a Christmas for my kids like I had, before I moved to Kansas. I want them to wake up and run to the tree and see an unbelievable pile of gifts waiting for them. I know, Christmas is about Jesus's birth yada yada yada, but its also about creating memories that last a lifetime. And I remember the tree, and us in our pjs, and tearing into gifts and then playing with them until passing out. In Iowa, we open gifts Christmas morning, but its after we all shower and we hurry through it, pack up the toys into our car and start setting up for the Christmas feast. Its no one's fault, and its not a bad way to do it with adult kids, but this year my son Will is going to know about Santa for the first time. And I want him to think Santa came here, to his home. My Mom and I were struggling about how to get his gifts to Iowa because they're large, and don't tell her... but Tabbi is getting a bicycle. I want her to come down to the family room and see the bike with a big red bow and not open a picture of it in Iowa because it couldn't fit in the car. Some dream of a white Christmas, but I dream of the right Christmas and for the first time, I am going to make it happen.
That being said, deciding to stay home this year could be one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. Christmas to me isn't Christmas without my Grandma, my Aunts and Uncles, my cousins and now my cousins' children. We will have Christmas dinner here, and I already wonder how loud that quiet will feel. I will miss Grandma's insistence on doing the dishes after dinner, and the giant cookie tray that she makes and refills 100 times during that day. My Uncle George camps out in the recliner and makes these super funny, while slightly off color remarks that make you laugh and cringe at the same time. Heidi, my cousin, dresses her girls in these gorgeous Christmas gowns, and its like watching a holiday fashion show when they come in. And we do a family gift exchange where every adult brings a gift for under $30 and we do it "white elephant" style. So, you could end up with a Dooney and Bourke handbag or a farting Santa Claus (depending if you get my cousin Tim's purchase or my brother Mike's).
What's worse, is I feel like I have made my parents and brother choose a side and that feels horrible. Who is anyone kidding, my parents picked their grandchildren, and rightfully so. My brother is still figuring out the logistics before he commits to anything. So, I run the risk of my first Christmas without him in 30 years (because I'll be 30 by then). But, I guess the way to look at it is that we are starting a new family Christmas this year... complete with mass on Christmas Eve (but skipping dinner at Great Aunt Rosemary's) and opening gifts in footie pajamas, but missing out on the prime rib. We will go to Iowa on the 26th, so I will miss the crowd by 24 hours, and the idea of that still breaks my heart... but I hope to fill that break with the smiles and awe that will fill Will and Tabbi's faces when they see that Santa has come... to their home.