When I was a little girl, my mom had traditions for every holiday. Some were elaborate while others were little familiarities. Christian holidays often housed a tradition reflecting the spiritual nature of the day. No matter what the experience the excitement and expectation were fun and the tradition itself created comfort and routine. Valentine's Day always started with a chocolate candy hart and small present sitting on my nightstand. Birthday celebrations were "princess for a day" experiences. Easter was a combination of Jesus and the Easter Bunny. Chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, Easter church service and celebration of the resurrection. Thanksgiving was filled with the Macy's Day parade, football, fabulous food and a movie after dinner. Christmas has always been one of my favorites. Candlelight services on Christmas Eve. Sharing stories of each ornament as the family decorated the tree together. Honoring the birth of Jesus. Many great family memories embedded into my childhood.
Believe it or not, my husband had family traditions surrounding holidays, too. Interestingly enough, they don't match mine. His family honored Jesus or established memories, and his were obviously just as important to him. Not only had he created traditions as a child, but he had begun traditions with my stepson. They had always done things a certain way.
We are strong as a couple. We have fantastic communication skills. We are both mature, respectful adults who love each other. Meshing our holiday traditions while creating some of our own could not be considered that much of an issue. Who the heck was I kidding?! He was ingrained in his traditions and wanted to keep them in place. I was deeply attached to many of my experiences and desired to recreate them with our family. We both wanted to add traditions to cement our new family. Visions of Norman Rockwell paintings danced through my head. Conversations were started. Travel and traditions were discussed. Reflections on holidays missed were considered.
Then reality hit. Here is our first year of holidays...
Easter 2010: The plan was to visit his family in Alabama for the traditional Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren, church together and big family meal. The reality changed when his ex-wife wanted the boy for a week, and I had a fever accompanied by infection. We sat on the couch watching movies while I sucked down chicken broth and antibiotics. So much for Easter baskets and bonnets!
July 4th: Ah, a romantic night with my new husband watching the fireworks. How could I have ever envisioned that my first July 4th as a newlywed would bring the pain of miscarriage. We didn't want to be far from home as I was an emotional wreck and physically falling apart. Perhaps we'll see fireworks in 2011.
Labor Day: My husband's family has four birthdays within one week at the beginning of September. The family gathers to exchange presents, celebrate lives and play. My father in law ordered a moon bounce for all the grandkids. What fun! Then we received the call. Granddaddy had died. We were out the door for Mississippi. Memorializing this man of God was heart wrenching.
Halloween: Little kids love to dress up and dash around the neighborhood for candy. I did as a squirt. My opinion of the celebration had changed as I grew older, but I conceded to join the fun with my stepson for this year. It would be a unique experience in the mom role. Or not. I sat home hovering over a box of tissues plagued with bronchitis while my husband darted around the neighborhood.
Thanksgiving: One holiday actually went well! Discussions were closed about traveling; we would stay home for this one. Our budget was shot and we were saving up for Christmas. The ex-wife bailed on the boy; I was thrilled to have him with us. I pulled off an amazing dinner. My very first turkey with ALL the fixings was a tremendous success. The day started with the Macy's Day parade and was filled with football games and Lego towers. My Thanksgiving Day pictured was fulfilled!
Christmas: We knew from the beginning we would travel to my husband's family for this first Christmas together. Their traditions are here to stay. My family's are a little more flexible. We decided to discuss swapping travel plans in future years as need or desire arose. I purchased all the gifts and started the plans to prepare us to go... budgeting for travel, hotels, boarding the dog. Then it hit. Early in December that fateful Saturday where I just didn't feel very good. My tonsils grew larger and my throat became scratchier as the days and weeks passed. My consumption of antibiotics and pain killers increased as nothing was working. Travel plans were canceled. Doctor appointments were scheduled. Christmas Day included the excitement of me sleeping for 21 hours while my husband was worried out of his mind that I wasn't breathing. The morning after Christmas held a 6 a.m. trip to the emergency room to discover an undetected case of mono complicated by severe tonsillitis. I suppose I'll have to return the dress up Christmas clothes that were never worn and anticipate a Christmas dinner of something more substantial than chicken broth for next year. Maybe we'll have a Christmas in July celebration.
Traditions help bond a family together. Not only are they fun, but they create fantastic memories and lifetime bonds. However, they must be flexible. You never know exactly what is going to hit you when! The holidays this year taught me to cherish my memories, look forward to eventually creating our traditions and allowed me to see how blessed I am with a compassionate husband who would have made a great nurse.