Sunday, November 11, 2012

Plans for the Holidays

Noel keeps a work calendar on his computer, and I keep an old-fashioned date book (the kind you actually write in) for my work.  We also write upcoming events on a calendar that hangs in the coat closet.  Don’t ask me how we ended up with this system; usually we’re able to keep it all straight. But, several weeks ago the calendars around here collided.  Noel came home from work announcing that a couple of friends from Idaho were coming for the weekend to go sailing.  He said, “I checked and we’ve got the weekend free.” 

“Wait!” I said, “what about the grandchild who is due at any moment?  When do you plan to go and see the new little one?”  Although we didn’t know it was a girl at the time, our granddaughter Maeve was overdue to be born.  On the due date I texted her Mom, Kylene and said, “Okay.  We’re tired of waiting.  Hand over the baby.”  It didn’t work.  Maeve obviously had her own calendar and was taking her own sweet time.  Then I took a look at the closet calendar and realized that we were supposed to have dinner with good friends on the weekend also. We realized that something had to give.  Noel told me that these out-of-town guests were super excited to come and he didn’t see how he could “un-invite” them.  So, I reluctantly cancelled our dinner plans and we figured that if the baby would only come during the week we could sneak in a trip to Missoula before our guests arrived.   The altered plan seemed like an okay compromise, but I was pretty bummed about missing the dinner.  I am, by nature, a planner and I like to know what is going to happen well in advance.  I don’t like it when changes are made at the last minute. Well, Maeve finally decided to arrive on Thursday and we thought that our new plan was working fine.  Then, our Idaho guests called late Thursday evening to cancel because of unforeseen travel due to work.  I couldn’t believe it.  We’d rearranged everything because they were “super excited” and now they weren’t even going to come! Noel put down the phone and said, “Okay, on to plan number three.  I don’t suppose you forgot to cancel the dinner plans did you?”

“Nope.  And I can’t exactly call and say.  Just kidding…we’ll see you on Saturday,”  I replied with maybe just a hint of sarcasm in my voice.

So, we decided to drive to Missoula to see our new little granddaughter on Saturday knowing that we could easily work around everyone else’s schedule who wanted to see the baby.  After all, we had nothing else planned for the entire weekend.  Then, the telephone rang again.  I said, “What now?  Did they decide to come anyway?”  Noel answered, and I saw big smile grow on his face as he listened.  He said, “I think that would be great.  We’ll be in Missoula anyway on Saturday.”  He put down the phone and said, “We just got two free tickets to the football game.”  So, off we went with plan number four.  I must admit that by the time Saturday came I was frustrated by all the changes and I was a bit miffed that we had accommodated everyone else’s schedule.  (Okay Maeve, you’re officially forgiven for coming late.)

Now, I know with a busy family this kind of thing happens all of the time.  I’m just saying, that with the two of us, things are usually pretty quiet and we are able to make plans that don’t change all that often.  Like I said, planning ahead is what I do.  Then I can count on things and look forward to them.  Everything seems to go more smoothly and I enjoy myself so much more.  Spur of the moment?  Not me.

I’ve been thinking about that weekend recently as I’ve tried to figure out what’s happening at the holidays.  Years ago we gave up celebrating on the actual day.  Thanksgiving can be anytime in November.  Last year we celebrated part of Christmas at the end of February.  In this day and age most families have to work celebrations around many others’ schedules…ex-spouses, in-laws, step-children, work…you know what I’m talking about. Our family is no different.  Add the fact that we’re spread from coast to coast and the problem grows bigger.  Even expecting to see the majority of our family at holidays is ridiculous.  Yet…we do.  We just want to have our loved ones around us some time near the actual day.  And we’ll do just about anything to make it happen. 

Come October I start thinking and planning…and that often is not a good idea.  I badger Noel, “Have you heard from the girls?  What are they doing for the holidays?” 

“I have no idea,” comes the familiar response.  I always know what he’ll say.  I just ask him as a reminder that the holidays are approaching…like he can’t read a calendar.

I sort of know what rotation the kids are on.  Some of them alternate Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I tell myself that it’s only fair.  It is.  But on some level I still cry, “Pick me, pick me!  Pick me every time!”  And then the sensible me chides the emotional me for being selfish.

A couple of years ago I made some remark to Noel’s daughter Lindsey about the continual struggle of who’s celebrating where.  I think I said something like, “Sometimes I get frustrated knowing who is coming and what’s happening.  I just want everyone to come and celebrate with us.”

I’ve never forgotten her reply.  She said, “I used get upset that everyone seems to want me to be with them during the holidays and I can’t be everywhere at once.  But, I just remember that it’s only because so many people love me….and how can you get upset at that?”

So, as the holidays approach I am trying to remind myself that if I feel over committed or if plans change at the last minute it’s because the people I love are in turn loved by many others.  And like Lindsey said, how can you get upset at that?

So, here and now I drink a toast to the upcoming holidays.  May you have as many loved ones near you as reasonably possible.  May you cherish the moments you do have.  And may you be so loved by so many people that you are filled with joy just knowing that everyone simply likes to be in your presence. 
And if nothing else, may you remember the “happy” part in “Happy Holidays.”