Have Yourself a Lonely Little Christmas?

Much like 94.7 The Wave out here in LA rockin’ the Michael McDonald version of Winter Wonderland in early November, I’m getting into the Christmas spirit far too early this year. I simply can’t help myself. I LOVE this holiday. We’re the hillbillies leaving our obnoxious multi-colored lights on the balconies until the HOA sends us a letter that we’re bringing down property values. I look forward to my fortieth birthday when I’ll finally be allowed to wear knitted Christmas vests through the entire month of December, à la every third grade teacher in the Midwest.

Why do I love Christmas so much? There’s all the obvious things, of course. A week and a half off work. Starbucks gift cards in stylish felt jackets. An opportunity to damage my husband’s career at his company party by sticking my hand in the chocolate fondue fountain and showcasing my three-martinis-deep dance moves.

But it’s actually a little more intangible than that. It’s the knowledge that no matter how many other things change in my life, my parents will always host an hors d’ouerves party on Christmas Eve. My brother Ken will always spend $78 trying to out-fancy the rest of us with an appetizer that will be largely inedible. My dad will always have a batch of his homebrew Holiday Ale ready for us, and my mom will always cluck over how quickly it disappears. (As if we didn’t get our German drinking prowess from her side of the family.) We will always play euchre, Big Bear Rummy and Trumpet every day until someone falls asleep at the table or my mom throws her cards in someone’s face and storms off, leaving a trail of obscenities behind her. Mornings will always be loud when someone gets pissed that someone else took the last asiago cheese bagel from the fridge (ahem, Matt). I will always buy Ken a medium sweater and have to return it the next day for a large. My mom will always bake spritz cookies and Hello Dollies and other ridiculously-named confectionaries and we kids will always gain an average of seven pounds in three days. Why, just look at this Christmas baking joy, circa 1986! From everyone except my mother, who looks like she’s about to murder someone with a spatula (though maybe that’s the Russian mobster sweatsuit).

So much of my love for this holiday comes from the effort my parents put in to preserving the traditions of our youth. But it won’t always be this way. There will come a horrible year where they won’t be around to create that Christmas magic. And what then? Maybe one of us kids will pick up the reins and I’ll continue celebrating with my brothers until it’s OUR turn to exit the planet. But more than likely, both my brothers will marry (one already has), and both will have kids. They’ll begin shaping their own holiday traditions with the new sub-unit and our invitations will get lost in the shuffle. Maybe Drew and I will invite everyone to our place, but flying in from New York and Chicago with a family of four (or more) will eventually become too cost prohibitive for them. Or they’ll be obligated to go to their in-laws, or they may want to celebrate with only their immediate family…which it shocks me to realize will no longer include me. It’s just the way things go when kids come on the scene (which is exactly how it went for my parents).

So that leaves Drew and I with only the dozen miscellaneous cats we’ll have under our roof if we make a firm Childfree commitment. Don’t get me wrong – I do love a quiet night in with Drew, or a nice meal out or weekend getaway with just the two of us. But a major holiday that’s always been heavily populated with full family fun? That’s just not a twosome activity for me, and it never (voluntarily) will be.

It scares me to think that having kids is the only real chance I have at making sure I’ll have those boisterous holiday memories for decades to come. Many of you will likely remind me that having children is no guarantee that I’ll wind up with the family life I’m looking for. My fictitious future children might hate Christmas and spend sulky Decembers locked in their rooms, refusing to participate in the festivities or threatening emancipation if I buy them the wrong color Uggs. But I’ve never been a fan of not doing something just because the worst possible scenario could play out, and I would have to assume that there was at least a good chance I’d be able to recreate a fairly similar family dynamic to the one I grew up in. Minus, I would hope, the hysterical sibling arguments over the shared car.

But is wanting to continue those holiday traditions a good enough reason to put up with the physical, financial and emotional demands of child-rearing for the other 364 days a year? Am I allowing sentimentality for something I won’t be able to perfectly recreate anyways, cloud my judgment? Am I confusing future grief over losing my current family with grieving for the family I won’t have if we remain Childfree?

Such a heavy topic for a Monday. It’s probably best if I just slip on some headphones and let the smooth vibes of Michael McDonald’s Christmas album wash over me while I eat a platter of Hello Dollies for dinner.

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