Monday, November 29, 2010

To Grandmother’s House We (Don’t) Go

The Green Phone Booth welcomes Courtney from A Life Sustained for today's Meaningful Memory.

So often the choices that I’ve made in order to live a life that is more gentle on this earth have involved what I don’t do. I try very hard not to consume mindlessly, not to drive unnecessarily, to just use less, etc. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for very interesting or sexy reading and it can be especially difficult to practice in the current season. But, one of the things that Steve and I are considering forgoing this year is travel for the holidays.

In all honesty, entertaining this notion came about quite by accident. Last week for Thanksgiving we had planned on making the 140 mile drive to spend the holiday with his family. Unfortunately, our dog care plans fell through and since my in-laws have a strict no-dog rule at their house we found ourselves in a bind. We considered Steve going alone and I’d stay home. We thought about just driving there for the day and then turning around and driving back that evening. But we finally came to the conclusion that the best answer was, as usual, the simplest one. We would send our love and good wishes to his family over the phone and we would spend Thanksgiving in our own home with just the two of us.

As much as we would have loved to have seen his family, we were amazed by how good our decision felt. We cooked a meal together and it was wonderful. We slowed down. We savored that time. There was no rushing and no attempt to cram as much into two days as possible, which has been our holiday MO for as far back as we can both remember. We were reminded that quiet reflection can, and probably should, have a place in this holiday. And we thought we might be on to something.

When I was growing up, it was easy. We lived less than a mile from both sets of grandparents so it was completely possible to have our little family traditions with my parents and my brother and sisters and then to also see both sides of the extended family for every holiday.

Once we all grew up, moved away, and gained significant others, however, things got more complicated. I found myself driving all over the state for a good portion of November and December. Not only did this blast more carbon into the atmosphere than I care to admit, it has been incredibly stressful and Steve and I agree that we’ve come to dread the holiday season, more than enjoy it. So it’s time to take stock. To reassess and prioritize.

I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with traveling for the holidays. For most of us, spending time with our families is a priority and that necessitates a certain amount of driving or flying. I’m not saying that holiday celebrations should fall into my above mentioned category of “not doing,” but I do think it’s worth really considering what our traditions are and whether or not they fit with how we want to live our lives.

What is tradition, but repetition for the purpose of slowing time? Increasing the chance that we’ll remember these moments, rather than rushing through them. I realized that in all of the rushing around to make sure that we spent face time with all of our family members, we weren’t really present for any of it. How could we be in the moment when it was all just a countdown to when we had to get in the car to go to our next destination?

So, we’re exploring the tradition of staying home and making our celebrations more quiet. We want to build a tradition of celebration in the place where we are, rather than seeking it somewhere else.

Bio: Having recently left her office job to prepare for the birth of her first child, Courtney is making the transition to being a Stay-at-home-not-quite-yet-a-mom. She and her husband share a home in Iowa where they try live a life that is simple, mindful, and full of nature and beauty. She blogs about her transition to living a more sustainable life and now her transition to motherhood at A Life Sustained.


Billie said...

I am going home this year to see my family. Christmas is the only time I see them so it is pretty important to me.

Christmas is a time to be with family. Since I no longer have my own personal family unit, I prefer to go back to my original family.

The downside is that I don't decorate my home for Christmas. What is the point if I am not there?

Rosa said...

I wish we could say no to all the family travel, but the guilt trips are endless. I keep telling my folks it was *their* choice to move so far away (after I moved back to the midwest to be near them) but no dice, endless whining.

I took back Thanksgiving this year and staying home was AWESOME. I don't think we'll get Christmas or spring break back until the kiddo is old enough to complain for himself, though - I hold no water with the in-laws and my parents use the amount of travel we do for the other grandparents as leverage.

Green Bean said...

Honestly, this is a hard one for us - even knowing what an impactful choice it is. We have tried to simplify things here and there and now often spend Xmas morning with just our family and then go to the closest family for a big gathering but I'd miss seeing my own half of the family and we generally make a trek one way or another for Xmas and sometimes Easter to reconnect. For us, family is what makes the holidays the holidays.

Rosa said...

It wouldn't be hard for me at all. I hate traveling and I really prefer our relatives in small groups instead of massive hordes.

In fact, before I had my son I worked 6 Christmases in a row and never ever went anywhere. It made me very popular with coworkers, too.

But the backlash (and the fighting with my partner because he would totally not stand up for me to his family) would be too awful.


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