A New Kind of Family

| December 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

Thanksgiving dinner is over and Hanukkah and Christmas are yet to be. It is very different now. As a child holidays included grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. A big crowd and a wonderful memory. Then as a young married, holidays were my family, my parents, my in-laws, and my sister and brother’s families, and everyone pitched in.

It is very different now. My husband has passed, my parents are gone, my brother lives far away and my sister is no longer with her husband, plus her son lives with his family in Oregon. One of my sons has passed and his widow and daughter live in New Jersey. So, we have a new kind of family now and it’s just fine. In fact, many people I know have moved here from somewhere else and they do not have the traditional family nearby. So, they do what I did, they formed a new kind of family.

Going around the table at Thanksgiving, there were my son and his family, my other son’s child, a wonderful 20-year-old grandson who goes to college here, and who I rarely see, then my sister, her caregiver who is from the Philippines, her caregiver’s boyfriend, my ex-sister in law who is still my girlfriend and a single guy I know whose wife just left him. This is my new family and it felt just fine.

Holidays can be depressing if we let them. Memories of days gone by might over exaggerate how wonderful those days were. For me, the key is to treasure those memories and concentrate on creating some new ones. Cooking my old standards for new people tasting them for the first time, has a nice feeling to it. The people who have been around me for a long time just assume Thanksgiving dishes will be wonderful and my Hanukkah latkes will be delicious. They have no idea what a pain in the neck it is to grate potatoes. But new people are amazed and grateful. That might be worth the pain of grating, although to be honest, I switched to a food processor long ago despite my mother’s admonishment to me when she first saw me pressing a button rather than grating a potato and half of my knuckle into a bowl. She swore by knuckle blood I guess!

Another thing that changes the dynamics of a holiday dinner is when there are no more children around. I am almost at that juncture. Two of my four grandkids are teenagers, one is 20 and the only child left is six, so I am counting the years. No more wonderful toys to give them, just gift cards, that’s all they want and tearing the wrapping paper off a gift card just isn’t the same.

But this year, we will return for a moment to those days of yore… well sort of. My brother is coming in from Florida. My nephew and his wife and new baby will travel here from Oregon. My sister has not seen her new grandson yet and what a holiday present this will be for her. My brother has no family in Florida and he is excited to spend holidays with us. It will be a reunion for those of us who are still here. It will be a bittersweet reunion thinking of family who are no longer with us, but then again, family isn’t just numbers.

It is a good feeling to know that my table is not big enough to seat everyone for this upcoming holiday dinner. That means there are more of us to feast together. It’s not the presents, it’s not the food, it’s who sits around the table or nearby chairs. Sometimes it is the family we grew up with, and sometimes it is the family we chose to make.

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