We’ve seen it happen before: the few years of transition as the family finds its way again in the face of change. When we first got married, we all gathered at the grandparents’ home, enjoyed each other, had a big meal, and did presents.
Sometime later, a big day was hard for the grandparents and we all rotated through the aunts and uncles’ homes for the holidays. It was great to be wrapped in that embrace and to feel the different textures and spirits of the various households.
The younger folks got married, children came, the grandparents left us. As the aunts and uncles’ families also grew, we broke off into family groups that centered on our parents instead of the grandparents. Again, the families gathered with these new grandparents, and everyone moved over a notch in the structure of family gatherings. We stayed in touch with aunts, uncles, and cousins now by cards and the occasional phone call, but no longer at the big holidays.
For many years, we continued this way as the kids grew. Eventually, the big holidays grew too much for Mom and Dad. As with the previous generation, more of us showed up to help with the big meal and the big day. Before long, we found it best to go “on rotation” among the siblings, as our aunts and uncles had done before us.
That lasted for a few years until we lost Dad and a few years later, lost Mom as well. We struggled, I felt, to keep a sense of familiarity and to preserve the extended family. But things change. Our children have their own lives, their in-laws, their children and we gradually assume the mantle of the grandparent generation.
Another shift in the family hub — our third time around — has the siblings now centered on their kids and grands, staying in touch with brothers and sisters by card, calls, text, and Facebook. Change is the natural order of things as families grow and mature. It isn’t always easy as we wonder about our place and strive for the connectedness that has sustained us throughout our lives.
In any configuration, may we all have a blessed Christmas, happy Hanukkah, peaceful new year, and may we each enjoy the spirit of this magical season.