Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A Little Box of Guilt

One of the trickiest aspects of being married is negotiating the holidays with the two sets of parents. Who gets Thanksgiving? Who get Christmas? If you live closer to one set of parents and see them fairly regularly, should you spend all major holidays with the others? Or do you alternate 50/50? There is a whole politics of parents that I was not versed in before I got married.

And then you make them grandkids and the stakes get higher. Each wants to be the one to show the kids their first Easter basket or how to make a perfect snowman. All the photo ops. But it also gets much more difficult to travel, so the long distance parents get less holiday privileges.

We drove out to Cleveland for Thanksgiving two year ago on a cold rainy night. It was a long eight hour drive with a brief dinner at a McDonald's. Half way there, on the lonely highway in Pennsylvania, Jonah came down with the stomach virus from hell. Vomited up grape juice and barely digested french fries all over himself and the backseat. We pulled off at the first exit and cleaned him up the best we could at a gas station right next to some guy who was cleaning up his truck after hitting a deer. We limped in Cleveland four hours later. The next day, Steve and I tossed up Thanksgiving turkey in his parents' bathroom. The memories of scraping up Jonah's stomach contents off the car seat as he wailed in the Pennsylvania gas station have limited car travel to the in-laws.

Even without the long drive, we decided that Christmas morning would be just for our nuclear family. Christmas stockings and all that corn would be our show. You can make them turkey or fire off fireworks on the 4th. But I want their happy memories of Christmas to be orchestrated our way. It must involve our stories of Santa coming in through the fire escape and buying the tree at 181st Street from the stoned Canadians who live in their truck all December.

So, that means no trip to Cleveland at Christmas time. This has sorely upset my in-laws, and I don't blame them. They like their holidays and want some family around. We'll figure it out all in time, but right now feelings have been hurt.

To make up for our absence, we packaged up a little box of guilt for them on Sunday. I bought everything in sight and packaged it up in shiny wrapping paper and cute notes. Sorry we are withholding your grandchildren on Christmas, but here, have a nice pot holder from William Sonoma instead.

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