This is the first year I have ever been away from home on Christmas. A couple of times I have been away for Thanksgiving when living farther than a day's drive away from home. Thankfully, many people have been kind and gracious to include me in their holiday plans, and someday I hope to return the favor. This year, though, I wasn't away from home due to the distance, but instead due to this newly extended family I gained almost a year ago - the in-laws.
Alex's family lives in North Carolina, so now that we live in north Louisiana he doesn't have nearly as many opportunities to visit them as I do with my family. With the extended holiday break (~2 weeks for both of us), it was pretty obvious that we needed to take this first year as a married couple and make the trip out east for a visit. My mom was not thrilled with this decision, but we will make our way home in time for New Year's, so she will just have to be understanding of things this year.
Since his parents are divorced, we always have to split our time between the two homes (30 minutes apart from one another). This can be a challenge because on shorter visits it is hard to feel like we get any real quality time with either of them. For this visit, we decided to spend 6 days with his family - 3 with each parent. Essentially, we added a day at each home compared with our summertime visit.
There was also a lot of back-and-forth built into this trip: two nights at mom's, then one night at dad's, then one night at mom's, then two nights and dad's. Add that to our nights in the hotel on the book-end days (first and last) of travel, plus two nights in a cabin with friends, and later three nights in south Louisiana, and you can about imagine what kind of mileage we are putting on my car for the trip. Trying to keep everyone happy is hard work!
The cultural experience of celebrating holidays in a different part of the country is something I realize I have gotten rusty on. The differences in food, faith, and even customs was almost foreign to me this year. I should have remembered and thought about this more, but *face palm* I didn't prepare myself as I should have. My thoughts went a little something like this:
All week, I longed for seafood gumbo. (Ham is for New Year's - not Christmas!) My mind was blown to find his Protestant family doesn't attend church on Christmas (mind STILL blown, by the way). And baking as an elaborate group activity - what's that? Dessert is just "lagniappe" - it's the rich delicious "real" food that counts!
It was this constant internal battle with myself...one that I really should have embraced instead of fought. Fortunately, by the time we arrived at his dad's on Christmas afternoon, I recognized what I was doing to myself and decided to start over with a clean slate, making a conscious effort to accept the differences and enjoy them rather than fight with myself over what "should" be. At his dad's, that kind of decision is very easy to execute - at his mom's, a bit more challenging. But we were on the happy side of the visit and therefore my Christmas Day experience ended much more pleasantly than it began.
His parents are so generous to us, and me especially. It can't be easy to purchase gifts for grown children who live so far away, having very little idea of what they need or want. I have to say his dad and stepmom did a stupendous job of picking out gifts for us that are just exactly to our taste and interest. I had no idea that his stepmom paid attention to my aimless comment about her knife set back in July, yet tomorrow we will leave with the most AMAZING full set of kitchen knives that I've ever used before. Alex also did a great job of sharing little things I'd commented about over the last few months - a cd I wanted, that cheesy 4-H snuggie one can only love, a beautiful infinity scarf, and a cute monogrammed necklace. I'd say they did good. :)
As this first week of our two-week trip draws to a close, we are excitedly preparing for tomorrow's weekend trip to the mountains with some old friends. I can't wait to finally have some quality time with people in our age group who are not related to us - aka friends (hey, what's that? haha). We are actually "sacrificing" an anniversary trip to be with those who served in our wedding just one year ago. I look forward to sharing stories and pictures as our holiday continues to unfold.
For your viewing pleasure, I'll leave you with a few pictures of our antics:
|The closest Bojos is exactly 4.5 hours from Monroe; |
I inhaled the food (twice) before I could even pause
to capture the moment via photo.
|SO excited about this gift from Alex!|
|I couldn't resist.|
And, a belated "Joyeaux Noel" to you and yours!