The invitation came nearly a year ago. It was our turn to have the kids for Thanksgiving and our son, Carl, invited us all to Milwaukee for the holiday. We were quick to accept.
It’s a tricky game. Marrying off the kids and sharing them with the in-laws can be complicated. We should know, we went through it ourselves as young newlyweds. I remember well that first Christmas, traveling home to be with family. The good news was that both sets of parents lived in Duluth. The bad part was we spent Christmas Day ping ponging back and forth between houses trying to be everywhere at once. Not a wise idea. The year we stuffed the car full of gifts for the trip home with the tricycle wheel spinning over one of the carseats, we reached our limit. Christmas would be at our house in the future.
Those memories compel us to try and make it easy on our kids, allowing them take the lead and let us know what works for them. Fortunately, for starters at least, they have all managed to land on a common schedule. Thanksgiving with us one year, Christmas the next.
By now we’ve experienced both holidays “kidless.” It’s not so bad, really. The key is not to dwell on their absence, but to strike out and do something new. Viewed as an opportunity as opposed to a loss. Good friends become family for a day. Or we take ourselves somewhere new for a treat. Different yes, bad no.
This Thanksgiving marks the first time we have been guests, not the hosts for a family holiday. It was a change, but adapting was oh so easy. Carl and Chelsea set a beautiful table and produced a bountiful turkey. The rest of us brought our favorite side dishes and desserts, all prepared ahead of time. I have to admit I watched in admiration as Chelsea calmly puttered over those labor intensive last minute sides of potatoes, gravy and vegetables. It brought back memories of my anxieties over gravy that would not thicken. Potatoes that took longer than expected. And getting greatly flustered over the whole bit required to bring it all together at once. I was happy to turn it all over to younger, very competent family members. Sure, we all pitched in. But someone was in charge and holding the reins. And that someone wasn’t me.
What a pleasure to sit at Great-Grandpa Hoeg’s long dining room table lit by his candelabra, surrounded by our family now numbering 11 and friends. We are now the top of this family line, and it is humbling to think that this fine array of individuals are the product of our own marriage 33 years ago. We are truly blessed.
I’m not entirely ready to give up hosting for good. I still crave gathering my family at Grammy and Grandpa’s house. I still love anticipating their arrival and hugging each as they arrive and fill up all our available space. It still feels right to have them all come home.
We have another invitation for Christmas, even though its technically not “our” turn. But who can resist waking up Christmas morning in a house filled with our grandchildren? I’ll readily pass the torch for this one too. I just may ask for it back now and then.