I’d be a fool to think we could actually have a nice, small, stress-free, drama-free Christmas…sorry this is going to be long.

Holidays are big in my parents house. My mother loves any excuse to tap into her inner child. Their house (our house) has always been the gathering place for both side of the family for holidays. My mother spends copious amounts of time cleaning (read: being angry and generally making it not fun to be around her), my father runs errands, you need me to go to the store for the 10th time today? No problem. (read: wants to be as far away from my mother while cleaning/getting ready). Christmas morning has historically been over before we could blink because when you’re cooking for upwards of 20 people it takes time, so gift swapping, clean up, and breakfast needed to happen pretty quick in order to start the cooking, showering, and general getting ready.

Five years ago my mother’s father died very suddenly on December 20th. We buried him on the 23rd. That Christmas truly sucked. It also brought many people from out of town and generally made for an exhausting week of revolving door company. My mother does not remember much of that Christmas. The next year felt like the first Christmas with out my grandfather; my mother and her siblings, were navigating this new way of experiencing the holiday. My mother tells us, through tears, that it was her father who gave her her Christmas spirit. Not having him broke her. Not feeling the spirit, she tried to push it. We had three days of Christmas. Three days of full on meal prep, cleaning, company. It began with Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Then Christmas Day with the usual cast of characters (mostly local family), and ended the day after Christmas with my mother’s brother’s family who came from out of town. And got stranded due to a blizzard.

The next day my mother and I had one of the worst fights we’ve ever had. Three days of her totally spazzed out was more than I could take. It was clear that she was just trying to cope in this, the first Christmas celebration with out her father. But in the process, she drove us all really crazy. As our fight concluded and we made up, I made her promise we’d never have another Christmas like the one we’d just had. That next year, it’d be small.

And so for the last four years we’ve been trying to keep it small. As our immediate family grows (my parents, brother, SIL, two nephews, A, Me , and Mr. E), it is becoming more and more important to keep it small. Instead of having everyone for the meal we invited everyone to come for dessert – later in the day. And we (attempted) to keep Christmas Eve just us. We started drawing names, so we only had to buy one present each, plus gifts for the kids, and our partners.

Every year we start the let’s keep Christmas simple conversation in September. This year we decided we’d only buy gifts for the children and our partners, we’d keep Christmas Eve only to our immediate family, and we’d have a pot luck Christmas dinner with a Yankee Swap. It seemed in previous years we’d talked about keeping Christmas simple, but then my mother would end up inviting someone, usually for very good reasons.  We also made it known to our extended family that the Yankee Swap was to replace individual gift giving, as we can not afford to buy things for everyone, and we’re trying to keep it simple. I remember being 8 months pregnant last year before remembering that I had to give gifts and wandering around a local store…miserable…crying…and finally just told A to buy a bunch of candles. Where’s the spirit there?

So we’ve put a lot of effort into making this year simple and really trying to redefine it for what we want for our son. And hopefully we’re making it easier on my parents -easier on all of us.  A and I have spent time thinking about what we want Christmas to be for our son. We do want it to be about family, we don’t want it to be all about gifts and madness. We want it to be magical and fun.

In addition to our immediate family one of my mother’s brother has been coming to Christmas on and off since my grandfather died. While he is loud and obnoxious, and drinks too much vodka, he and my mom have a very special relationship and it really makes her happy to have him here. When he’s here they spend a lot of time together visiting my grandparents grave and generally enjoying each other. He is single (between wives, if you ask him). And for the most part we enjoy having him around.

I’ve been twitting around for the last three or so weeks, listening to Christmas music, singing, teaching Mr. E about Santa, celebrating advent, attending our church, and really feeling connected to family and the spirit, and really looking forward to what seemed like the Christmas Nirvana we’ve been striving for for five years.

But what I’ve learned is that unless you board a plan with the people you want to be with, and don’t tell anyone else where you’re going, you’ll never achieve that Nirvana.

Last Friday we learned some of my mother’s out of town family will be joining us. For a week. They are loud, obnoxious, self-centered, oh, and my mother’s brother, the one flying in from the West Coast, r.e.a.l.l.y. does not get along with them. My mother has planned a two week vacation – to spend time with her brother and is now pissed that they will be here too. We’re all sort of wondering where we can go hide out. A will be on vacation too. We were looking forward to some relaxing time together, as a family. My mother thinks if she tells her brother he’ll cancel his trip. She’ll be broken if he does, and if she does not tell him, he’ll be pissed upon arrival. There is so much drama I can’t stand it. I want my nice peaceful Christmas that I’ve been working on. I want my son’s first Christmas to be enjoyable.

We’re all just kind of shaking our heads trying to figure out how our perfect plan just blew up. I am determined not to let it ruin Mr. E’s first Christmas, it may take lots of wine to achieve this… We’re holding strong and my mother has made it clear tto her out of twon family that they are welcome to come on Christmas, but that we are booked Christmas Eve. I am thankful for that. Thankful that we’ll have our intimate family gathering followed by candlelit church service. Hopefully this will help us center for the zoo on Christmas day.