L and I had our first pseudo-date a few days before Christmas, so by the time the next holiday season rolled around we were, like typical lesbos, totally unable to imagine spending the time apart. To be fair, we were all but living together by then, and we were really, truly, fully a couple. We were so smitten, in fact, that although the original plan was for me to fly out later on a buddy pass while L drove out to Indiana, I made a last minute, late night decision to drive with her, even though it put me in the red with my vacation time at a newish job.
It was strange, that first Christmas away, to be with someone else’s family, to be away from the traditions I was used to and my own family dramas. But, it was nice, too. It felt special to be with this person I was in love with, in her home town, meeting her family, learning about her history. It felt strange, but not bad.
When the next holiday came, L and I were planning our wedding and we’d talked not only about the upcoming Christmas, but also about what Christmases would look like in our future in general. And the decision then was that while we lived in Colorado, we would go to Indiana for the holidays. This made sense to me, although I did have to grieve a little. We rarely saw L’s family any other time, and we spent every other holiday and special occasion with my family, so it was totally logical to go back for Christmas.
But my mom was bummed. She was sad the first year, and has grown steadily resentful every year since. Last year she started mentioning that she didn’t feel it was ‘fair’ and I told her our rationale, and that we would likely continue to go to Indy for Christmas while we were living in Colorado. It never really escalated into a full blown conversation, but I know it’s something that bugs her.
This past April, when I was less than a month post partum, coursing with hormones and generally kind of a mess, my mom effectively cornered me in the middle of modmarket during my first lunch outside my own house. “What are you doing about Christmas this year?” When I told her we were likely going back to Indiana, she started sobbing and talking about how unfair it was. Because I was holding an infant, had a giant gaping wound in my belly, and was leaking milk, I tried everything in my power to get her to stop crying, which included trying to negotiate without actually giving in. I said things like, “maybe we can talk about leaving on Christmas eve” and other non sense. By the time L got home from work, I was a mess.
So we knew the conversation was coming, but I was dreading it. Every once in a while, my mom would throw in, “I hope you’re talking about Christmas!” while we were on the phone, and I spent a LOT of time getting anxious about how the conversation would go, but manage to find excuses to not talk about Christmas plans whenever the subject got close.
But on Saturday, dressed in a gnome costume, at the end of a visit with my parents, I did it. Thanksgiving came up, L’s birthday came up, it was inevitable. So I just said it, “We are going to Indiana for Christmas.”
And the tears were immediate, as was the demand, “Well I expect you’ll be here NEXT Christmas, then?”
For the next half an hour, my mom came up with every reason she could muster why we needed to stay in Colorado – it wasn’t fair, we actually see L’s family “a lot”, other people in my family ‘think we’ve abandoned the family’, it’s not the same to celebrate on other days . . .on and on and on. I held my ground, which isn’t easy for me when it comes to my mom. Finally, we got to a point where she’d said what she needed to say, and I said what I needed to say, so we got up and left.
I’m hurt that my mom can’t have empathy for us, for L’s family. I worry that, at the heart of it, my mom doesn’t respect L’s family as Ansel’s family, that because of the lack of biology she doesn’t see them as connected (my feeling that this is at the heart of the issue comes from more than just this issue.) And that, for me, is what’s so heartbreaking. I’m hurt that she lied (about other people making comments) in order to emotionally manipulate me, and that she can’t just express her sadness and still be willing to move forward and create something meaningful for A and his cousin.
During the conversation, I asked her to help me create a celebration on a different day that would be meaningful. She said it just couldn’t happen, that we’d tried and it just didn’t feel the same. Plus, she said, the extended family wasn’t involved, so that felt bad. When I suggested we invite the extended family, she acted as though people would be horribly offended by this. I said I’d be happy to call folks and ask them. Which I did.
And I found that everyone else seems to understand the situation completely, and are more than happy to come to another event. When I called my mom and told her, she seemed more peeved that I’d proven her wrong than happy that we’d found an opportunity to create a new tradition. And so, I continue to feel hurt by her behavior.
This isn’t unusual, right? That people create new traditions when their families expand, on different days? (For the record, my mom isn’t into Jesus, so why Dec 25th means so much to her, I don’t know.) Creating opportunities for Ansel to have relationships with his family in Indiana is important to us, and that just can’t happen if we only go back to Indiana every other year. I think there are ways to make things meaningful, even when they don’t happen on Christmas day.
Mostly, I continue to grow more and more heartbroken that my relationship with my mom is so strained and has actually gotten harder since Ansel was born.
And just so as not to end on doom and gloom, here’s a couple of pictures from A’s first Halloween:
He’s also just days away from fully crawling! And he’s SO BUSY! And he’s going to be 8 months old soon and OMG what is happening?! I love this baby so much!