I don’t really remember a time when the Christmas season was not filled with activity. I grew up in a home with four other siblings and Christmas was a great event in our house. My earliest memories involve sneaking down the stairs with my sister to see if Santa had come, and being absolutely convinced that Santa Claus was real, because ALL the presents were there, and Daddy and Mommy were asleep! As I grew to adulthood Christmas continued to be the central holiday when the family gathered. It was also true that as an adult I became much more involved in the preparing of these seemingly effortless rituals that culminated in the perfect Christmas morning, the presents wrapped and prepared for all, the Christmas breakfast and the Christmas dinner prepared and ready to serve. I have loved Christmas and enjoyed the traditions of having my own home and making these traditions ours.
Now with my own home and my own adult, married daughter and my own Christmas to prepare, I am facing a first. My daughter is spending Christmas with her husband’s family in another state.
No matter what I tell myself – that this is normal, that this is right, that this is her life, that we will be fine– I am overcome with sadness. All of the wisdom I have so readily shared with others – make your own plans, create your own traditions, make this a day that is right for you, do a service project for others – pales in the face of this new reality.
As I face this, I think of my mother, whose five children grew up and scattered far across this country, rarely being all in the same place at the same time as adults. I wonder how this felt for her. I wonder how she bore it when I swanned off to South America for six years. I wonder if she felt the same kind of emptiness in the face of this absence of what is, in the end, a part of one’s self.
So a part of my heart is going to be in North Carolina this Christmas. I will bear up and be brave and have a good day. And I will do my best to support my daughter in her choices, perhaps on the inside having a little childish tantrum that says “What about ME!” but hopefully not letting that part of me get in the way of giving her what she needs as an adult. I will take my own advice, and my husband and I will do something different on Christmas. It will be different, and it will be ok, and we will all grow a little bit in new ways.
I will hope for some new traditions that will translate into new ways of being for all of us.
So – Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays – Whatever you celebrate, make it a tradition that works for you.
About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP:
Susan is a communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, and proud native Nashvillian. She has been in private practice for over 30 years. As she says, “I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts.” Contact Susan at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com
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