Growing up, my family was the center of all holidays. No matter how far we strayed during the year, we always came home for the holidays. After I got married, my husband and I kept that tradition. Our respective families were the focus of our holidays.
At first, it was easy. Spending a holiday without them just felt weird.
We drove all over the place to ensure we balanced time with both sides of our family. To be honest, we completely wore ourselves out in the process of splitting holidays. We wanted to be fair and make everyone happy. But we lost sight of ourselves in the process, returning from every holiday totally exhausted. We needed a week just to recover from the traveling!
My husband and I decided that once we had children, the traveling madness would stop. We wanted to create memories in our very own home. And so we did. Y'all, that decision wasn't a hit with everyone in our families, but it was one of the best decisions for our growing little family (and our sanity). We opened our doors to friends and family alike, which created an eclectic mix of delightful people each year. We started our very own wacky and unconventional traditions. We put down deep roots. We created a true home for our holidays. Spending holidays at our home became normal.
Although our biological family is not here in Memphis, it hasn't mattered much.
Our house has been full with visitors and the friends who have become our beloved family here. Despite the lack of official “family” here, our holidays have never felt empty. In fact, they've felt quite full. We’ve been incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by love and laughter, which [to me] is what the holidays are all about: lots and lots of people creating memories in our home. As long as our house was full, we considered Christmas a success. The more, the merrier, right?
...Well, sort of.
One year, our traveling visitors got sick and couldn't make the trip to visit. Time froze. All of a sudden, I got nervous that somehow our Christmas might be ruined by the lack of a full house. How could we do Christmas (gulp) solo? I worried that it wouldn’t truly feel like Christmas to my kids. Ultimately, I thought that missing the Pinterest-y idea of a huge family holiday might mean a holiday devoid of meaning.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Instead of spending a day cleaning, we let the mess fester. Instead of finding the perfect matching outfits, we wore jammies all day. Instead of cooking the dishes that I knew were crowd favorites, we made exactly what we wanted – chocolate chip pancakes and all. We were all totally relaxed. We did whatever we wanted to do, and we had genuine fun as a family. It was totally awesome. Why hadn't we done this before?
It hit me like a ton of bricks: somehow, in the transition from newlyweds to a Party of Five, we became exactly what we used to drive countless hours to find. As we transitioned from traveling road warriors to holiday hermits, we built a foundation for our family. We became the family unit. Nothing was missing at all! We had everything we ever wanted, and it consisted of 5 pajama-clad people (plus dogs!), snuggling in a disheveled king-sized bed, with the occasional kid denying that s/he tooted. It was perfectly imperfect, just like us.
Don’t get me wrong, mamas. This holiday, we greatly look forward to reuniting with dear friends and family, and the joy that comes with the celebration. But if you ask me what the best part of my holiday will be, the answer will be simple – us. We don’t need a packed house to validate our holiday or our worth as a family. We don’t need to angry-clean for an entire day to pretend that we are naturally tidy people. We don’t even need to cook fancy meals to cater to everyone’s unique eating habits. We don’t need anyone but ourselves.