Thus far, my family holidays have been fairly routine. Neither my sister nor I are married yet. None of our cousins are married yet. No one is in a serious relationship. Therefore, our holidays are always spent together. It’s pleasantly predictable. And, not to mention, expected by the family.
Even without any significant others present, our holidays are still large. We usually have Christmas Eve dinner with about 30 people. Aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, nieces, nephews and my Grandfather. We always celebrate at my mom and dad’s house. We eat. We drink. We have a massive dance party. We open so many presents it looks like Christmas threw up in my parents’ living room.
Part of me wonders what will happen in the future. When I get married. When my sister gets married. When my cousins get married. Holidays will no longer be the same. Our family will be fragmented with a multitude of other obligations.
Personally, I am looking forward to learning the traditions of my unknown future husband’s family. And I’m looking forward to introducing said unknown future husband to the traditions of my family (mainly because my family has some really nutty traditions). What will it be like to divide holidays? Or to go to multiple parties in one day?
This issue is an old one. Almost every family unit out there deals with this conundrum at some point as their group evolves. The reason I am pondering this issue now is because I’m planning to skip Thanksgiving with my family this year.
I very cautiously broached the subject with my mom a couple of weeks ago. She said to do what I wanted, though she’s not very happy about it. She also said that she considers Thanksgiving to be a family holiday. Suffice it to say that my planned activity for this Thanksgiving is not family-related.
I have missed holidays with my family before. Well…once. I went to Australia to visit one of my best friends who was studying abroad there during graduate school. Sure it was strange being away from home over Christmas—it was especially strange to be in warm weather for Christmas. But it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. And it was totally worth it.
My upcoming adventure leading me astray from the glutenous excess that is my annual familial Thanksgiving (don’t get me wrong, I love every bit of it) is the infamous Plaza lighting ceremony in Kansas City. I have always wanted to stand in the crowd and watch the Plaza Christmas lights turn on. It’s a big Thanksgiving tradition here. Thousands of people mill around in the streets, freeze their butts off, listen to Christmas music and watch the lights turn on and herald the real beginning of the Christmas holiday season. A friend and I are planning on going. Neither of us has seen it before.
Because my family Thanksgiving dinner is held at about 6pm every year, I have only ever seen the lighting ceremony on television. I just want to see them once in person. And then I won’t ever need to again. Really. I promise.
I find myself making more and more promises as the holiday inches closer. I have also promised to still help my mom clean the house, to do a lot of cooking for the holiday even though I won’t be there—I am the resident deviled egg expert after all—I make dozens of those things every Thanksgiving, peeling egg shells until my fingers bleed. I will probably also be picking up the backyard after the dogs. Joy of joys.
You may be wondering whether missing a family holiday in order to freeze your tail off and watch some Christmas light-switch being flicked by a few local celebrities is worth it. It may not be exactly bucket-list worthy like going to Sydney. But it’s something I really want to witness. It’s one thing that truly defines Kansas City. It’s been a tradition here for 83 years and it’s an experience that I want to be a part of at least once.
You don’t have to tell me about the importance of family. I know all about that. My family is perhaps the most important thing in my life. When I think of my family, I think of constancy and how I know that they will never forsake me. At this point in my existence, I don’t expect or anticipate that sort of steadfastness from others. Yes I have friends who are very dear to me, who are dependable. But friends, while more constant than boyfriends, still can come and go. Family is for always.
While I love and would do absolutely anything for my family, sometimes they need to relinquish their hold a bit. They need to be a little flexible and to let me try some new things, even if it means missing a holiday now and again. Missing two holidays in 28 years is not so bad really. At least, I don’t think so.
I know my family is also thinking ahead to the holidays of the future. Of what things will be like when I am married with multiple family holiday obligations. They want us to be together as much as possible because some day, we won’t all be able to get together anymore. They’ll have to share me with mystery husband’s mystery family. And they’ll have to share my sister with her mystery husband’s mystery family too. And so on down the line for all of my cousins, nieces and nephews. Such is life, no matter how bitter-sweet.
No matter what looms in the future, we have dozens of pictures and tiny lingering memories that forever memorialize our past family gatherings. Whether they be holidays, birthdays, graduations, game nights or slumber parties, they always have a paramount place in my life and my heart. And no matter what I am doing or where I go, I will have those memories and keepsakes to carry with me, to conjure when I want or need.
Even though I am taking Thanksgiving Day and making it my own this year, the rest of the weekend will be dedicated to my family. My sister will be in town from DC and I’m sure we’ll have our sisters’ lunch at Cactus Grill. It’s something we try to do every time she is here because it is a place we both love. There will be a game night in there somewhere with cousins, aunts and uncles too.
And of course, in just a little over a month there is always Christmas when practically every relation will be home. I’ve promised to have a slumber party for all my cousins and with my sister then. I’m not sure how we’ll fit 11 people in my apartment. But, we’re family. We’ll manage. Just like we’ll figure out how to navigate the future, when our family will spread across the country and grow first with husbands (or wives) and then with children of our own, creating an all new generation and the opportunity to create even more memories and celebrations as we stride ever forward together.