Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A New Holiday Battle...

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on November 22, 2008

The Holiday Season officially kicks off Thursday with my personal favorite, Thanksgiving Day. My wife and I will gather with family, eat some turkey, watch some football, and enjoy our favorite holiday traditions.

But there is a power struggle going on within our clan over just where the holiday celebrations will be held this year – and with whom.

This is our first holiday season as grandparents, and that is a joy I cannot properly express. My 7 month-old grandson (did I mention his name is William?) has given us renewed holiday spirit the likes of which we haven’t enjoyed since our own two sons were toddlers looking amazed beneath the tree on Christmas morning.

But our family is a bit more spread out now. Our married son and his family live on the Cape. They have expressed a desire to experience their own holiday celebrations this year, skipping some or all of our traditional family gatherings to start their own traditions.

That’s nice. Misguided, but nice.

Just who do these new parents think they are? They have the first grandchild on either side of the family, and decide they will dictate where and when the holiday celebrations will be? Sorry – that’s our job.

You see, we have earned our spot in the family pecking order. These young people haven’t paid their dues yet. There should not be any leapfrogging over those of us who have put in our time.

Almost 30 years ago my wife and I were the newly-married parents of the first grandchild on both sides. This made us very popular. Our presence was requested – read that to mean expected – at the traditional gathering of each family at holiday time.

Concessions were made as to schedules so we could bounce from one family celebration to the other. For years we took our kids on a hectic holiday tour, visiting relatives and friends and usually eating two holiday meals. And for years, we complained about it.

We tried to cut down on holiday travel. People can come see us, we reasoned. But we had a small home, and elderly and handicapped relatives for whom travel was simply too difficult. The mere suggestion we “alternate” holidays between the families was met with disapproving stares and teary-eyed sad faces.

But when my son was a year old, we informed my family we would not see them Christmas Day. My mother was hysterical. My grandmother, to whom I was very close, called me to her hospital bed early in December saying she had to ask me something.

“Please don’t take our baby away from us on Christmas,” this saint of a woman cried to me. I folded like a cheap suit, and promised her I would work something out. And I would have fulfilled that promise – except she died that Christmas morning and our celebration was decidedly muted.

As the years went on and people got older, we eventually gained in holiday status by virtue of our longevity. We bought a bigger house, and began hosting dinners for both families. It took a while, but we got there.

Now we find our status prematurely threatened. Our son and his wife are trying to pull a bloodless coup. With virtually no time served, they are expecting to move into Most Favored Nation status. This would be the political equivalent of Barak Obama totally skipping the presidential primaries, but still expecting to be nominated at the convention.

Our kids live in a condo not large enough for the entire family. While we have tradition on our side, they have a powerful tool in this fight – our perfect grandson. They know full well there is nothing in this world we wouldn’t do for Will (what a great name) and that we would never put our needs and wants above his having a wonderful Christmas.

So we wait and see what will happen. Strategic and top-secret negotiations will no doubt take place. Both sides seek a peaceful settlement.

Maybe we did it wrong all those years. But remembering my grandmother always convinces me that in the end - it was worth it.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, and – in case you hadn’t heard – has a grandson named William. You can send him holiday advice at aninsidelook@aol.com.

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