Questioning Holidays

There’s just something about a family get together that makes me cringe and smile simultaneously. In my family’s case, it includes lots of small children, wailing smoke detectors, and regrettable edible decisions. Particularly, the Christmas holidays tend to become a parade full of unwanted gifts, extra pounds added at the waist, and distant relatives suddenly becoming concerned about your education and love life, and the incessant answering of the “what’s your major?” question gets really old, really fast.

After enduring the rush to get potato salad before your uncle with the weird mustache can slop it all on his own plate, there are the thoughts that may linger in a young person’s mind. And these thoughts tend to vacation in your brain long after the miserable ride home with your pants unbuttoned as a result of your successful sprint to the table.

Today my thoughts concerned the following:

What will it be like to have my own Christmas in my own home with my own kids?

This one was a weird thought to try and wade through. Yes, I have a boyfriend, and yes, we are pretty serious, but the future is just a farfetched place where I have children with cool names and even cooler personalities. Thinking that, at twenty-one years old, it’s feasible that I will have to wrap mounds of presents for my own kids within the next five to seven years is terrifying. I can’t even get my oil changed on time or by myself, so how am I supposed to prepare myself for this?!

Just thinking about all of the extra people being introduced in the Christmas dinner equation in the next few years makes me already mourn the loss of my front-of-the-line position.

How will it feel to not have my mother at Christmas when I’m older and watching my grandchildren unwrap their new hovercrafts (or whatever future toys they will cry over)?

This thought trickled into my mind several times throughout the day as I watched my own grandparents, who are the oldest living people in my family, enjoy watching all of their grandchildren getting gifts. How many times do they smell baking pecan pie and are taken back to the time when they first learned the recipe from their now deceased parents? Or, when hearing the squeal of a child’s laughter, are thrust back 3o years to find themselves once again in the living rooms of their first homes with their own parents looking on at their children doing these very things?

My mother and I are very close, but not in a cinematic, over-dramatized way. We argue and butt heads quite often, but it’s healthy for two hardheaded women to yell it out sometimes (or, in my case, cry it out— you will learn that I cry easily, dear reader). She doesn’t have her father at Christmas anymore, being that my Grandpa died when I was 12, and I can’t begin to imagine how hard that is for her.

My grandfather was a miserable person to be around, but in the most caring, compassionate, and steady way possible. I say ‘steady’ because that’s what he was in my life — as steady as a rock caught up in the currents of a river. In my life, change came often and was always unwelcome, but my grandfather was always there, with a frozen Charleston Chew, to make it all better. Maybe he was a grumpy person for 99% of his life, but he was so fiercely protective of his family and loyal to his friends that it was almost a pleasure to endure it.

Not having him at Christmas makes each year a duller event than it once was before, and he was my grandfather, not my Daddy. Not to diminish my relationship with the greatest man I have ever known, but I spent far less time with him in my life that my mother did. So when I lose her, which will happen as it does with all people as much as I refuse to entertain the idea of it, I will lose a part of me that contains my only redeeming qualities.

I don’t want to think about it, but becoming an adult shoves me nose-to-nose with uncomfortable scenarios.

Will I know what to do when my mother dies? Of course not.

Will I be able to get through holidays without her? Probably, but with many bittersweet memories and lonely smiles.

I think at that point, I will be relying a lot on the strength that she has taught me to always have.

Why are family members sometimes so awful to one another?

By awful, in this case, I mean that family members seem to forget that they are supposed to enjoy being around each other for the holidays instead of wanting to shove each other’s heads in the oven.

Wait…I did say you should enjoy the ever-looming presence of annoying little cousins and weird uncles with narrowed eyes.

Holidays are stressful, but everyone has to suffer through them. As I get older, I start to scrape the surface of understanding for what my parents have gone through to provide me with amazing holiday memories.

So a goal I made for myself was to like my surroundings for the remainder of the holidays, even if I have to force myself. If we remembered that family is at the core of us as people, maybe we would love to be around each other more.

Can I honestly say that I like the holidays? Not definitively.

Is it thought provoking? For me, apparently so.

Like what you read? Give Mallorie Hays a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.