home for the holidays

I took a 30-minute break from work this morning to pick Jeff up at my condo and drive him to the airport, where half an hour from now he’ll be flying out to the Bay Area for the Thanksgiving holiday, returning next Monday. In comparison, I’ll be at work today–though it’s likely that we’ll be released at least a little early. I have a 6:00 reservation to pick up a rental car, and then I’ll get up very early tomorrow morning to drive down to the mountains to be with my family through Sunday.

This is the first major “family” holiday since Jeff and I started dating, and we both already had planned to spend it, as well as Christmas, with our birth families. While I’m definitely going to miss him, I’m okay with spending the holidays apart this year. Holidays aren’t particularly important to me, in any event, but they’re very meaningful to my mother, and I think it’s especially critical for me to be with her this year, our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without my father.

My freshman year of college I missed my first Thanksgiving with my family, spending it instead in Brooklyn with a friend from my dorm; my sophomore year my sister came up and spent Thanksgiving with me, at Harvard (though that’s a story for another day’s blogging). At that point my mother told me that while I might miss other holidays, my attendance at home for Christmas was non-negotiable. And in 41 years I’ve yet to miss one. It’s also been the case in my past relationships that my partners, for various reasons, were willing to spend Christmas with me and my family, so it’s never yet been an issue.

I was discussing this with my sister just a few weeks ago, though, and pointed out that in future years Jeff and I would probably want to spend the holidays together, and that as he also has a close relationship with his family, we might have to miss an occasional Christmas, perhaps alternating Thanksgiving and Christmas from year to year. She was adamant that it was unthinkable, that my first duty would always be to my birth family and not to my partner. My sister’s husband has long been estranged from his own family, and my sister and her family live practically next door to my mother, so there’s never been a conflict for her, but she said that she’d leave her husband behind alone and come home–insisting that the kids would also have to come with her–at Christmas if there were such a conflict.

Jeff and I have decided to see in the new year together, though. While New Year’s has never been a really special holiday to me (though I did particularly enjoy First Night back when I was living in Boston), and spiritually I tend to recognize November 1 as my own New Year’s Day, there’s still something symbolically appealing and romantic about being together for this first calendar new year since we’ve become a couple.

3 thoughts on “home for the holidays

  1. That’s really unfair…and unrealistic. At some point your birth family has to come second to the peace and prosperity of the family you make.

  2. I agree, though they don’t at all see it that way. The paternal side of my family, particularly, has strong blinders on when it comes to their clan-centricity. Realize that in addition to living, in most cases, next door to one another, talking to each other on the phone dozens of times daily, and attending the same church and the same schools, my extended family also spend their vacations together every year, as many as 20-25 people in two condos at the beach. Family provides everything, including your friendships.
    My sister takes this lifestyle perhaps to the most extreme. She doesn’t really see any middle ground and, in fact, insists that her three sons–once they’re married–will of course bring their own families back to the center for holidays, rather than spending time with their wives’ families.
    Those who have married into that side of the family have either been completely absorbed into it, and adhere now to the same philosophy, or have eventually divorced out of it, or have caused a separation between the original family member by blood and the rest of the family. In this latter regard, I already know that I’m viewed with some suspicion–not so much because I’m gay, but because I chose to leave the hometown altogether. One cousin and his wife, who moved to the West Coast, are almost thought of as “non-family” because of their own flight from the fold.

  3. I agree with Mac. When you’re a “family” the birth family will have to come second. We managed to settle such a difficulty by bringing our birth families together at our house. Since it was just my mother, and his mother and brother, that wasn’t hard. My parents managed to bring both their families together when we were kids, but both families lived closer together at the time. I hope that you and Jeff do manage to work things out in the future. Happy Thanksgiving to you both.

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