Happy Families Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Christmas! I have been in the grip of writers’ uh, not exactly ‘block’, but certainly ‘stall’ since last summer. With an emergency gall bladder removal in late July, and a diagnosis of a heart rhythm issue which can be managed but not fixed, coming on the heels of my retirement in June, I fell into a hole of exhaustion, fear, and disappointment, that has oh so slowly been resolving but has seemed endless to my impatient soul. When I catch a minor bug, as I did the other week, I am convinced that I will never feel better. But, time has worked its inevitable magic and it seems I will live to write a bit longer after all. Life has settled into a new normal, thankfully.

It is Christmas. As in any family, the reality usually smashes head-on into the myth of the perfect Christmas, but, unexpectedly, this one has become a lovely, gentle, almost perfect Christmas! (It’s a miracle, perhaps?) At home, this year, we left thirty years of ornaments and knick-knacks in their basement boxes and went with just lights. Vases filled with lights, fake twin trees in the front window flanking a real tree with ultra simple decorations, (from my sole student) My “baby”, youngest of our blended family of five kids, aged 33, and his love, are, for the first time in more than a decade, living a scant hour away, and love to cook! 27 years in a step family, with its tensions and compromises, especially in the early years, has blessed John, my husband, and I, with a hard earned ability to go with whatever the flow is each year. There is genuine freedom and acceptance in our very non traditional Christmases, now, as we prepare for Christmas dinner at Matt’s apartment. Besides John and myself, (and my youngest son, Matt and daughter-in-law to be-Mel ,our gracious hosts, and cooks extraordinaire!) the guests include: Mel’s sister and her long divorced mother; my ex and his wife, together now 28 years, as John and I have been, and my John’s eldest daughter, my dear step daughter, and maybe her five year old son, our youngest grandchild-no “step”grandchildren for me!-unless he is with his father, from whom she is separated- these arrangements are usually somewhat fraught as the young family is only two years into separated family issues. Missing: John’s son and daughter-in-law, who will be travelling all day to a town six hours away to see her mother, and my divorced daughter, far away on the west coast, and my two beloved grandchildren, who will be with THEIR father this year flying to see HIS parents on the east coast. Also missing, my other dear dear son, Shawn, dead now since 1992 at age 18, from the hideous ravages of schizophrenia. And yet, it is shaping up to be a wonderful, (dare I say, almost perfect) Christmas afternoon and dinner.

Absolutely untraditional, our peculiar, post modern family can be as magical and filled with comfort and laughter as any idealized Norman Rockwell “normal” one. And Love, there is so much Love! Which is the meaning of Christmas, after all. I always wanted a big, happy family. And by the most crooked of paths, despite everything that has happened, as my husband and I pass our mid sixties, our seventies coming into view, we feel so blessed and rich in family which, it seems, is where you find it. There is a wonderful freedom in our lack of structure. Families: step and bio, dear dogs and/or cats waiting at home, multiple doting grandparents for the kids. Laughter, with the comfort of long association that has mellowed over the years into in-jokes. We did this at Thanksgiving as well and I feel privileged to again spend this iconic holiday with the imperfect, yet perfect family I find myself so so lucky to have.

Happy Christmas to everyone! May the Spirit of Christmas bless us, one and all! (And Happy New Year too, since it has taken till January 1st to post this.)


2 thoughts on “Happy Families Come In All Shapes and Sizes

  1. Lovely. Happy New Year, Jo-Anne! (Curious about your arrhythmmia disorder as, not surprisingly, it’s a subject of keen interest to me these days.)

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