From Where I Sit – Merry, Merry Christmas

In less than 10 days many of us will gather in living rooms or basements all across the country to celebrate Christmas. The gathering may be Norman Rockwell-ian in its old-fashioned wholesome sensitivity. Or more likely it will be a collection of souls connected by DNA strands and years of shared (if sometimes disputed) memories. And while each of us may vow to be on our best behaviour, the sad truth is we’ll all be there with human foibles and failings intact.

Surely there will be spirited debates about the near-miss with the federal coalition. Some will talk about the dwindling investment balances and disappearing nest eggs. Others will whisper a prayer hoping that the alcoholics in the family won’t overdo it this year and create some ugly scene.

The youngest in the crowd will get the most attention and best loot. The tweens will wonder when they will finally graduate from the little kids? table and move on up to the adult group. Grandmothers everywhere will preside over the kitchen and the feast, cooking enough for an army and urging yet another helping.

Games may be played if enough coaxing is done. As always, some will choose to ?sit out? as voyeurs and critics rather than playing charades or favourite board games. The actual gift opening will be done in smaller nuclear family groups.

Our family stopped ?picking names? years ago. More recently, our extended family even had to dispense with the Grinch gift exchange when battle lines were drawn around the ?it? gift of the season.

What should have been a fun exercise in strategically getting the coveted gift after the agreed upon number of ?steals? in fact turned nasty. Not our proudest collective moment. It seems wiser to seek peace than try to force tradition or a minority opinion on the larger group.

For better or worse these people are our tribe. Our customs, characters, and craziness are our own. We can’t be anything more (or less) than we are. we’re not like movie families or even neighbour families. That reality has been harder for some of us to accept than others.

It’s easy to look outside and think, Why can’t our family be like that? Why can’t we do fancy holiday travel? Why don’t we serve turkey dinner to the homeless? Why don’t we sing carols or skate on an outdoor rink? Why aren’t we creating new traditions for our own little immediate family? Why aren’t we trying to recapture or reinvent some of the best memories from our own childhood Christmases?

For me It’s been an exercise in acceptance, live and let live, understanding that my way isn’t the best (or only) way to do anything. Maybe one of the blessings of the realignment of the economic world will be a rethinking of priorities and values and a step back toward simplicity. That could mean a merry, merry Christmas, from where I sit.