Family embracing

It's Not a Soap Opera..... (But it felt like one...)


 


I wrote this before the horrible tragedy struck our family New Year's Eve day (see January 2nd's post).  I know it's a bit long... sorry.

 

It's the day after Christmas. My husband and I are alone in our home once again. There is a sense of relief and yet I'm sad that the family part of our holiday season is over. All I have left is the frantic race to eliminate the high calorie foods still hanging around so I can get back on my diet at the start of the new year. I think it's going to be okay. I'm a bit tired today. We had to leave the house before 5:00 am to take my daughter and her boyfriend to the airport. Luckily there is this thing called coffee. It's now just past noon and I'm wiped out. I could take a nap but run the risk of being awake all night if I do that, and I really hate not being able to sleep at night, so no thank you....

 

I got a great 'Mom' type of Christmas present this year. If you are interested, you can read about it here:

 

I Wish...... (Hey Santa! Are you listening?)

 

For me, it was the season of deep conversations. They happened with my daughter-in-law, my daughter's boyfriend, my mother-in-law, my husband's sister, my brother, my sister, my daughter and, of course, my husband. Poor guy.  He always seems to get at least one episode each week of "A Redhead's Deep Thoughts..." It certainly was the season for soul-baring inner angst.  I've definitely had an emotional pallet cleanse.  Whew.

 

It was also a very different gathering this Christmas.  We were informed in October that my nephew's girlfriend and her family were coming to stay and be a part of our family Christmas celebration. On the surface, that doesn't seem too odd.  Did I mention that TEN of them were coming? Yes... TEN, including the girlfriend, the mom, dad, the dad's best friend (huh?), the uncle and five children nine-years-old and under (no I'm not kidding). Ten people we'd never met or spoken with, including five children, were coming for Christmas. 

 

We weren't sure what to make of nine strangers (we'd met the girlfriend previously) wanting to come celebrate with us for Christmas. No one had an explanation. I have to admit that I pouted about it leading up to Christmas. I felt like my Christmas was being spoiled (yes, very selfish, I know). I mean, after all, we didn't know any of these people and were not sure why they decided this was the way to first meet our family. They also come from a different cultural background than our family, which truly doesn't matter to any of us, really, but I know I will worry that I may get tipsy and say something stupid, insensitive or ignorant because I'm not thinking clearly.  I really don't want to offend anyone. Our family tends to be painfully blunt at these gatherings, especially after some drinks, so....yeah... poop can happen, but I don't want it to happen to me.

 

You might think that a romantic Christmas engagement between the happy couple was forthcoming, and they were coming in anticipation of that.... you'd be wrong.

 

So, I did what I usually do: I vented about it. I called and texted my sister-in-law (the other aunt of the nephew) and bitched about it over the days prior to their arrival. Why are they coming? Who descends on literal strangers at Christmas with ten family members?  Are they checking us out? Do they have an agenda? This many people traveling from the east coast to Texas to spend Christmas with strangers did not make any sense to me. Some were driving some were flying.  I could not accept that it just.... was.... There had to be some reason. 

 

Two weeks before Christmas, there was some conflict with my nephew, and his girlfriend and suddenly there was talk of no one coming for Christmas, not even his girlfriend, and maybe their relationship was in jeopardy.  

 

It was starting to feel like a day-time drama story.....

 

A few of us shamelessly, but silently, rejoiced about the potential reprieve from the visitors for a few days (while feeling bad for my nephew, of course), until we got the news that all was well, the relationship was rosy, and the visitors were indeed coming. I pouted some more and refused to believe they were coming until I saw some people I didn't know in my nephew's driveway, unloading luggage from a car.  I live across the street, so I was doing the "Gladys Kravitz" thing out my laundry room window watching them unload (Gladys was a nosy neighbor on the TV show "Bewitched" back in the 60s).  

 

In reality, ten people showed up to celebrate Christmas, and nine of them stayed at least three days or more with my nephew and his girlfriend.  I honestly don't even want to know how he made that work. 

 

I was still pouting as I watched them unload their luggage. Can we just have a nice Christmas with just our family? Seriously?  To be honest, we had just had one.... on the 22nd... when all our children were present.  We had a big Christmas dinner, a gift exchange and got to visit with everyone. I got to spend time doting on the grandkids. Yeah, it was a nice Christmas while all of my immediate family was here, plus my niece and nephews from my husband's family. 

 

On Christmas Eve day, the parents have arrived, and the festivities were about to begin, starting with a craft event that is supposed to happen sometime in the afternoon. My husband and I had planned a small dinner and game night with my daughter, her boyfriend, and my husband's sister, who was going to be alone on Christmas Eve as her son had left to go back home to work. I didn't want her to be alone so I invited her to dinner. At 5;45 pm, we get a text message telling us that craft event is about to begin.... Okay... it's dinner time and my husband has already put his green chicken chile casserole in the oven, and I've just made fresh guacamole (yeah, you don't want to know how many calories I ate that night).  We are getting ready to eat within the hour.  So, we had to beg out of the craft event. 

 

While we were being texted about the craft event we were 'reminded' about tomorrow's schedule of events in our group family text. We were told what time dinner was taking place (1:00 pm) and the gift exchange would happen before then.

 

WHAT GIFT EXCHANGE???? This was the first time my husband's sister and I had heard about this. We said as much but were told it had been discussed with both of us (no it hadn't because we would have nixed that idea). If you think I didn't go back and scroll through every freaking text message I had received about Christmas plans. And.... nope, no mention of a gift exchange other than the one with our family that had already happened three days prior. Other people might have been told but we had not been told.  So, now we were missing a planned gift exchange AND a craft activity with the strangers who had descended upon us. Well.... don't we look friendly....  

 

I was not looking forward to the big family dinner that had been planned with these visiting strangers. Mind you, this was going to be Big Family Dinner number #2 in the space of four days. Three days prior, we had Big Family Dinner #1 with the first wave of our collective children that were here for Christmas but had to be elsewhere on Christmas day.  Our extended family of 17 only had one day where everyone and their children were here visiting at the same time. That day happened before the ten people arrived.

 

My diet didn't need Big Family Dinner #1, let alone Big Family Dinner #2... 

 

Now I'm annoyed and frustrated.  I hate looking bad through no fault of my own. I now feel like a shithead and I'm worried about first impressions.  How is this going to look?  We appeared to have blown off a planned craft event and now we don't have gifts for a gift exchange we knew nothing about. We could not show up at a gift exchange without a gift, so my husband's sister and I told our sister-in-law that we didn't have gifts and to do it without us....Ugh... 

 

I go to bed stressed and annoyed... on Christmas Eve... Not what I planned.

 

On Christmas morning, my daughter and boyfriend are still in bed and I'm starting to panic. I have some cooking to do for Big Family Dinner #2 and have yet to meet these visitors. We already look like horrible people who want nothing to do with them, given the events we didn't take part in.  So... now what? I feel like I have to do something. Make some gesture of goodwill. There are children, right? Could we do something for them? I don't even know their sexes and ages. I'm mulling this over as I'm still venting to my sister-in-law, the other plan-clueless person in this mix, and texting her furiously that I think we should do something for the kids. Then I'm texting my nephew and my other sister-in-law to request information about the kids, I finally get someone to text me their ages (9, 7, 3, and twin 2-year-olds).  I start thinking about what I have around the house as I'm responding to my sister-in-law's comments that we should not have to go through this as we were never told about anything. My husband also jumps on that bandwagon saying we shouldn't have to throw together gifts.  It finally hits me why I'm so determined we need to do something.

 

It's not about me... or the adults, I tell them. It's about doing something nice for the children. Who are here instead of in their own home on Christmas.  We need to have some grace, and some goodwill.  I proclaim that loudly and then my attitude shifts (honestly, it really did) and I became determined to do something for those kids. To spread some joy. That became my focus.

 

In my role as awesome Grandma, I sometimes become a crazy impulse shopper when it comes to my granddaughters. I was at a craft fair in November and bought two small battery-operated fur-covered dogs that yap and bark and walk. I was going to give them to my two granddaughters. When I got home, it dawned on me that I had given the oldest one a dog like that a few years ago, so those two dogs did not get gifted to my grandkids. They were sitting in my closet in a bag waiting to be donated or something else. Because of that, I now had suitable gifts for the two-year-old twins. I had also bought (impulsively) a board game at Aldi several weeks ago (their miscellaneous items aisle should be outlawed....) but found out after the fact that my granddaughter already had it. I was going to keep it here for us to play with her but okay, that was a gift for the seven or nine-year-old. What else did I have? I went to the bookcase where we keep all our board games and sure enough, I found one unopened board game, still wrapped in plastic, from a gift exchange we did at Christmas a few years ago. This game was suitable for the nine-year-old.

 

I know in my heart that those toys I had were never meant for us or my granddaughters. They were meant for these children. Nothing will convince me otherwise.

 

However, I could not find anything for the three-year-old.  I stopped my intermittent texting with my sister-in-law, who has guilt about putting her name on the gifts these gifts I'm assembling and saying we shouldn't have to come up with gifts. I give up and just end up calling her to convince her it's all good. After my insistence, she gets into the spirit of my idea, and we go back and forth but neither of us had anything in our homes suitable for a three-year-old, so I suggested a small gift bag with candy and cash would have to do.  We both had chocolate candy in the house, thank goodness. I felt bad it wasn't a real "gift" like the other gifts were, but I should not have worried. 

 

As it turns out, the three-year-old was very happy with that candy, and the rest of the children were also happy with their gifts.  The nine-year-old looked at me and said, "How did you know I liked board games?" It was a humble moment for me being faced with such wonderfully polite and happy kids. Over gifts I'm sure they had duplicates of at home. I'm still marveling at how this all worked out, of how I went from pouty, grumpy, whining me, to someone who realized what was truly important. 

 

Lesson: It needed to stop being about me and what I needed for my holiday.  Once I turned my focus outward, my attitude followed right along with it. 

 

The Christmas celebration continued on much as it had begun.  Dinner started an hour and a half after we got the text telling us dinner was moved from 1:00 to 1:30 and then an additional text at 1:25 telling us that dinner was happening shortly. It was more like dinner happening at 3:00 pm. Meh, par for the course (but my maple glazed brussels sprouts got cold).  My husband was trying to change his seat at the table with his 85-year-old mother so he could have more room sitting on the end of the table... I profusely shamed him into sitting where he was told to... men. I ended up sitting across from my nephew's girlfriend's parents. LOVELY PEOPLE! We chatted about all kinds of things. Travel, our bike tours, the Caribbean islands we'd visited, our kids, where they lived, etc. Warm, loving people. Down to earth, no nonsense, pretty much like us.  I should have guessed that given how the children behaved.  You'd never know there were five children eating with us at our long table, not to mention three of them three-years-old and younger. 

 

This was not what I had expected. And I had set myself up for that. 

 

Christmas day ended with a bonfire in the back yard. It was cold, but we all hung out and chatted. I even got to say 'hi" to their grandma on a video call. It's funny how comfortable we all were with each other, just having met hours ago, and given my shameful, initial resistance. One group (the aunt, uncle and the five children) were leaving in the morning to drive east, so we were discussing the possible routes Google would send them on, and I told them I would stop by to say goodbye in the morning. The next morning at 4:30 am, I was getting ready for the airport run with my daughter as they were loading up, so I went next door to say goodbye.  They seemed happy I made the effort to do that. 

 

The parents were leaving the next day after that. I dragged my tired butt over there the night before (having been up since 2:00 am for the airport run) and wound up staying over an hour, talking to my nephew, his girlfriend, and her parents. We had the best time talking about all kinds of things. I got a few hugs and the hope that we would meet again. Her mother is such a lovely woman, and I enjoyed her company very much. 

 

It was during that chat that I finally discovered why they had all descended on us for Christmas....

 

Apparently, they have a big Thanksgiving celebration at their home for 40 to 60 family members (holy COW!). They do the cooking and entertaining. The mom told me that because of that, they never celebrate Christmas at home, because if they did, their family would descend on them, and they would not be able to enjoy Christmas because in her mind, she needed a smaller family gathering to really celebrate and enjoy Christmas. They probably were looking for a place to go for Christmas and thought "Texas? Why not?"

 

Given my niece's very unexpected passing New Year's Eve Day, I can honestly say that the I time spent with others, renewing connections and making new connections, is not something I should have been grumbling about. It's something I should have been looking forward to, welcoming, and embracing. I'm going to try and keep that in mind throughout 2024 and be grateful for it. 

 

Taking stock of day two of the diet reboot:

Did not exceed daily calorie count.

Went to the gym for a strength training workout. 

Considered what was important in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

(photo courtesy of Nicole Michalou)

 

 

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7th Decade Redhead
7th Decade Redhead

I'm 60+ years old female retiree who is finally figuring out why she's been struggling with losing weight her whole life. I want to share the lessons I learned so others can help themselves with their own weight loss struggles earlier in their lives.


60 Pounds by 60 Years
60 Pounds by 60 Years

My final weight loss attempt after 40 years of different diet failures. No shakes, no supplements, no surgery, no crazy food, no purchased meal plans, no fasting. Creating a healthier relationship with food and facing the painful truth about my relationship surrounding food. No BS, just common sense. And it worked.

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