The holidays are fast approaching so now is a good time to explore some of the unique aspects of family gatherings for empty nesters.
(A little note from the authors: When we refer to Christmas, please feel free to substitute Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Saturnalia, winter solstice or whatever it is you celebrate. We are only using Christmas as an example because it is our family tradition, and to keep from having to write three or four names every time we refer to a holiday. Absolutely no slight is intended or any preference for one over another. If your family is like ours, no doubt any one of them can be just as crazy as the next.)
When we were a young family, the holidays posed a problem for us. Whose family we should visit? Both sides wanted to spoil their grandkids and have the big family holiday — hard to achieve without feelings getting flogged or feathers being ruffled.
We worked it out by alternating Thanksgivings as much as possible and insisting that we create our own Christmas traditions with our kids in our own home. If extended family wanted to see us they were more than welcome to join in. We haven’t forgotten the limitations that young people face as our own kids attempt to tackle the December Debacles for themselves.
Later on, while we were living on a tiny Caribbean island, the girls attended college in Washington, D.C. and New York City. The physical distance — coupled with the short amount of time they were given off from classes — made it nearly impossible for them to come home for Thanksgiving.
Several times we solved that predicament by getting together at a relative’s house up in the States. That made the trip shorter for the girls and more fun for us because we got to see some of our extended family. Other times our stranded students were fortunate enough to be invited to the house of a friendly family of a friend to join in their Turkey Day celebration.
Christmases were much more conducive to travel with plenty of time between semesters for longer stays. We never had any problems there — who doesn’t want to visit the Caribbean in late December?
Now, if we want to spend a holiday with our grown-up kids, flying everyone from the far corners of the map to wherever we happen to be can get mighty expensive.
We no longer have the benefit of two out of our three offspring living in the same city, but holidays in New York City are becoming the norm. We have had the pleasure of staying in The Piglet ‘s studio apartment when we visit the city and even gobbled up Thanksgiving dinner at Decibel’s humble abode. It’s a tight fit to say the lease, even just for the five of us in the immediate family.
Lately, with the family growing, we have taken to renting an AirB&B outside the city and piling everybody, including extended family of any grandparents, in-laws, or aunts and uncles that can make it. Since we are GypsyNesters and don’t have a home to host a holiday hoedown for Thanksgiving this is a fantastic alternative.
All in all, we have discovered that it really doesn’t matter where you are or what’s on the table, it’s all about being together. One of our best family memories involved a ill-fated trip to Cleveland. Not having planned properly (who? US?), we ended up with three teen-agers stuck in a hotel on Thanksgiving. Not a restaurant was open in the city, so we made a spread out of tortilla chips and beef jerky from the mini mart next door.
An unconventional holiday feast, to be sure, but one that all five of us look back on with fond feelings.
Or perhaps, we’re just weird. Yeah, that’s probably it.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
YOUR TURN: How have the holidays changed for you?