Home for the Holidays With Family

The author’s Hemmila/Samar/Turri/Banks Christmas 2017: “Christmas Pajama” theme

By Patti Samar
Editor/Publisher
Blue Water Woman Magazine

Last week, a friend was fretting to me regarding holiday plans.

“It’s just so hard being with my family,” she said. “There’s always arguing and tension. Some friends have invited me to hang out with them on Christmas Eve. I feel guilty not going to my mom’s, but I know I’ll be more relaxed with my friends. Aren’t we supposed to be with family on Christmas? What should I do?”

My answer was simple: “Go where you love and feel loved. That is what family is all about.”

When I first moved to Port Huron in 1992, I was married to my first husband and my parents still lived in the Upper Peninsula. My then-husband and I took frequent trips “home” to the U.P., especially during the holidays. Within five years, all of that had blown up: I was divorced, my parents had moved to Arizona where my brother lived, and I was living in Port Huron, a community where I never intended to stay for the long haul.

And though I owned a house, I wasn’t sure this was “home.”

Divorce will leave you feeling unsettled that way.

So, I spent a number of holidays living out some television news story as one of those “record-breaking numbers of holiday travelers,” flying to the desert and spending Thanksgiving and Christmas surrounded by cactus and the hot sun, not a snowflake in sight, just to be with my family because, well, that’s what you do, right?

But the longer I lived in Port Huron, the more I became immersed in the community. A number of families welcomed me into their homes for Thanksgivings and Christmases during those early post-divorce years when I felt just kind of lost.

My own family of origin was never a “Hallmark Holiday” family. My parents were always fairly casual and nontraditional regarding Christmas. There were no particular annual family “traditions” that led me to feel like I was missing out if I wasn’t around during the holiday season. In fact, traveling during the holiday hustle was a lot more stressful than traveling out west any other time of year.

The last time I went to Arizona for Christmas, I found myself running through the airport to the gate with minutes to spare because the one-hour drive took three hours (and yes, I made sure to leave extra early) due to a blizzard in southeastern Michigan. I buckled my seatbelt and watched the safety video as the plane barreled down the snow-covered runway. Tears rolled down my cheeks. That three-hour white knuckle drive to the airport was NOT supposed to be a part of my so-called “Hallmark Holiday.”

And the thing is, once you’ve lived 1,500 miles away from your family of origin for more than 30 years, it’s hard to continue to feel connected in the way that you did at a different point in time when you still had some inkling of what was going on in one another’s lives when you lived in the same community.

Therefore, to me, anyway, family is nothing like you see in a Hallmark holiday movie. This time of year, too many people try to force that definition of family onto their own circumstances when the reality is much more complicated.

I was once invited to be a part of the family of an old boyfriend. For a number of years, I watched as his awesome mom and sisters planned wonderful holiday gatherings filled with good food, lots of wine, and great conversation that always, somehow, after too many glasses of good wine, turned into a scene from the Hallmark holiday alter-ego family movie that ended (more than once) with one sibling yelling at the father figure: “And everyone would be happier if you hadn’t left Mom for the stripper!” (Yup, she said stripper.)

And we’d all be happier if you hadn’t left Mom for the stripper!

But families are complicated beasts even if Dad doesn’t leave Mom for a stripper.

Over the past 30 years, I’ve also broadened my definition of the word “family.” Family, to me, has also become the people who know and love me here in the community where I live, and the people who know and love me from afar who make the effort to stay connected to me, and me to them, because something deeper than blood draws us together.

And, of course, I am ever-so-fortunate to be a part of my husband’s Yooper, Finnish family. We are fortunate enough to be able to see them and spend time with them many times throughout the course of any given year. In this era of political divide that can cause a lot of tension within families, we are a family who remain (so far, knock wood!) in lock step with one another.

There is no crazy uncle at the holiday dinner table espousing the virtue of some crazy conspiracy theory on the left or right side of the aisle.

Thank goodness.

There is no crazy uncle at the holiday dinner table espousing the virtue of some crazy conspiracy theory on the left or right side of the aisle.

Thank goodness.

And though I’m sure, in the midst of their quiet Finnish way, I’m weirdo, crazy Aunt Patti to them, they seem to love me anyway, and for that I am grateful. And I look forward to spending time with all of them next week over the New Years weekend when we will celebrate the Hemmila/Samar/Turri/Banks family Christmas.

So on this holiday weekend, my husband and I will be home alone, except that we probably won’t be all alone. We have friends/neighbors who are also “on their own” for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, so we will gather for cocktails and toast the holiday season and our health and the opportunity to ring in another new year next week, all grateful for the love and affection we share with one another.

Because, as I told my friend last week, home and family is where you love and feel loved.

And isn’t that where you should spend the holiday season celebrating?


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