• Clarissa Laws


Christmas 2018 will be my first Christmas married, but we were engaged for Christmas 2017 and that was when Dan and I decided that it was time to get serious about finding a way to spend the holidays together. My family would typically travel to visit relatives in the midwest, and Dan's family would spend Christmas in Richmond. In years past, we would exchange gifts a few days in advance, wish each other well and head on our own, separate, merry little ways. Apparently when you're, married people think that's weird, so last year was our first time spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with one another while splitting time with BOTH families. We are incredibly fortunate that we are both from Richmond (we went to high school together), so it's easy for us to do both families at the holidays. My mom and my brothers stayed home from Indiana for Christmas last year so we could all be together, and I was able to spend the morning at my mom's and the rest of the day with Dan's parents and his brother. When I write it out like that, it all feels very neat, organized, equitable and easy. In reality, there's the tricky little bit about emotions that keeps things from being so tidy. The holidays are a time brimming with tradition and nostalgia that takes root when you're only a few years old, so if you're anything like me, shaking up this routine can bring out your worst.

Christmas Eve 2017 was smooth sailing. Dan's family is small when you compare his one brother to my seven, so they weren't too particular about how they spent December 24. When I suggested that we all go to my older brother's house for dinner together, they were more than accommodating and happily came along, which meant that both Dan and I got to spend that piece of Christmas with all of our people in one place. Our families got to know one another, we played games, exchanged new pajamas to wear for Christmas morning, drank way too much, basically just enjoyed all of the things that we would have been doing on Christmas Eve when we were single, only better. I left Christmas Eve celebrations feeling excited about my first split holiday.

When I woke up on Christmas morning, it was a slightly different story. First of all, I had a wicked hangover. Secondly, we had to be at my mom's by 7:00 AM because my little brothers are psychopaths. Between the crappy drunk sleep and the scrambling around we had to do at 6:00 AM to get our outfits, gifts, chargers and anything else we might need for the next 14 hours in order, I was pretty crabby by the time we got to my mom's. My mood turned around quickly when I saw the magic of Christmas on the children's faces, kidding, it was the mimosa I drank, but when it was time to pack up our gifts and leave, I found myself resisting. I asked Dan if we could stay for an early brunch because "he would love my mom's Christmas casserole" and attempted every other means I could think of to delay our departure. I wasn't ready to leave my family.

When I was all out of stall tactics and had officially succeeded in making us late, I knew I had to go. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I bawled like I was four years old leaving my mom on Christmas morning. I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. At one point I even threw up. It felt heartbreaking and wrong not to get to spend the day with my mom and brothers, even though we were ultimately only going to be 20 minutes apart. I cried all the way to my in-laws' house, and as soon as we arrived I had to take a walk to calm myself down before we could go inside. I eventually pulled it together and convinced myself that my swollen face didn't make me look like someone had just run over my puppy and there was no way anyone would be able to tell how distraught I was, but they could definitely tell. The second I walked in the door, they could read my heartsickness on my face. The thing is, they didn't care. They didn't take it personally that I was having a difficult time with the transition because they knew it had absolutely nothing to do with them. I love them, it's change that I can't deal with. They were overly kind and supportive, and I had a wonderful mid-morning with Dan's parents and brother. They were far too generous with their inclusion of me in their gift exchange, everyone was in good spirits, and we had a fantastic time celebrating. They have different foods for breakfast than we do, and they have different traditions. They go on a family walk when we would play a board game, and they watch Muppets Christmas Carol when we would watch Christmas Vacation.

I wanted to write all of this to say that growing up is scary, and losing traditions can really hurt. If you're still adjusting to spending the holiday season with two different families too, you aren't the only one and you're not crazy. At least, if you are crazy, I'm crazy with you. But at the end of the day, it's about being with the ones you love, even if you haven't known and loved some of them quite as long as you have the others. Christmas can take a new form and still be Christmas. Anyways, there are always things that will never change, like the fact that I will never, ever enjoy Muppets Christmas Carol. Stupid freaking movie.

XX, Clarissa


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