Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The First Mention of Christmas

We’re scarcely halfway through November, but of course the Christmas hype begins the minute Halloween is over. It’s been making Grammar a bit cranky. Up until just a few years ago, I used to be a great sentimentalist about Christmas, but I have come, alas, to a time in my life where that is no longer so. I have joined the cranky ranks of Grinches who find the whole thing too much fuss and bother.

One of my sisters recently emailed me to discuss this year’s Christmas dinner. I come from a big family: my parents, blessedly both still with us, and three sisters, all of whom have spouses and children. Luckily my husband came from a very small and agreeable family, because the logistics of trying to get my family of origin together for Christmas dinners has always meant that his family takes whatever date and time is left over. My sisters have apparently had equally understanding in-laws, and as well, we have all continued to live reasonably locally. It’s been very serendipitous for my mother, who has always felt so strongly about having her entire extended family together for Christmas dinners. We have managed to make this happen almost every year.

There came a time when I would have preferred to give this up; the youngest generation kept increasing in numbers and by the time we reached a total of 18 people, I felt it was just getting too unwieldy a group, the event too much of a zoo. Grammar is an eremite by nature. I handle cacophony very badly. If I had wanted to sit at a dinner table with squadrons of people, I’d have joined the army.

Well, it can’t go on forever, of course. Half of the youngest generation are now grown-up. It won’t be long before they begin to marry and have children (and in-laws) of their own, and logistics, and likely distance, not to mention sheer numbers, must break up the old meta-clan. This will be, in fact, the third consecutive year where we will be missing one or more of our squadron. I know this hurts the heart of one of my sisters in particular, but it’s the way of time and the world, and we’ve certainly done better than most at staying together all these years.

I’m afraid I have no desire at all to play the hosting matriarch to the Grammar family as my own mother insists she has enjoyed doing all her married life. Once my kids are on their own, especially once they have their own spouses, RH and I plan to make a habit of spending Christmas seasons aboard a cruise ship, away from all the frantic activity. (In some ways, I married myself. We’re two happy hermits together.)

So does this make me unforgivably selfish? It’s an interesting moral question, isn’t it? We only get one life. To what extent do we sacrifice it to the happiness of others and to what extent do we do what makes us happy? Where is the line? Some would say that making others happy is what gives them happiness. To those people I say: fill your boots, and the line for beatification forms on the right. Guess I won’t be in it.

Instead, we’ll be the boring but usually appreciated elders who just disburse generous cheques to everyone for Christmas and make it clear we don’t want any gifts ourselves. Occasionally we might even invite a child and their family on a holiday-season cruise with us, to enjoy the food, décor and entertainment it has cost us only money to provide. Ho ho ho.

The extended Grammar family at Christmas Dinner. (But replace the flag with a TV screen showing a fireplace with a cozily burning log.)

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