A typical holiday with my married family has evolved over the past few years from a traditional Betty Crocker style gathering to something a tad unconventional. As of late it includes complex cooking competitions among three or four teams in which our chopping skills are showcased then judged with homemade scoring sheets. Our patience, imaginations, and ability to work with a sundry of strong personalities and obstacles are tested under fire… literally. Four generations with wildly different perceptions of what a holiday meal should look like gather together in a 60 square foot kitchen and compete for the most tasty dishes. I’m not recommending you try this at home with your family, nor am I suggesting you gather with 13 blood and married relatives to create anything in a 60 square foot space, but it works for us. It’s an absolute culinary and mental sanity wonderment.
I recall the year several teams suspected cheating on the score sheets. A sabotage by under reporting scores so one team would come up on the top. Then of course there was the year that Mimi generously handed out perfect scores to all of her grandchildren, leaving me the unfortunate grandchild excluded form this bias due to being on Mimi’s team. She threw the challenge for us and still feels horribly about it to this day. The best memory however, was when my husband’s cousin assigned gefilte fish as a secret ingredient and my husband vindictively turned it into one of the most delectable appetizers and finished the competition in first place. This year, however, there was no cooking competition. My husband and his brother kicked the baby boomers out of the kitchen and designed their own holiday menu by taking traditional dishes and adding an Italian spin on each. The shopping, baking, and cooking preparation was divided among 5 of us and the result, was surprisingly delicious.
Our family isn’t perfect. Our family isn’t without dissension or misunderstandings. In fact, although we love each other, we don’t always like each other. Despite this we always muster the energy to spend our holidays this way, every year and will continue to do so until we can no longer. Some folks are fortuitous to experience this similar thing, however not everyone has family available to them nor has family they care to be around. For some, separation from family is necessary for basic survival or well being. For others it may be a choice due to effort outweighing the overall benefit of being with family. My advice? Find a family. Your family may be the close friends you gather around or family of close friends. Your family may be yourself and a napping cat in a small apartment this year. Your family may be your mother for whom you have a history of bitterness but want to mend what’s been broken. The institution of family looks like many things, but it’s the adhesive to a healthy society and community, and from my experience, is well worth the effort to maintain.
Unfortunately, the holiday season in western culture is a significant time for increased feelings of depression, stress, and fatigue. The famous hallmarks of the season “peace, love, and joy” do not always come easily or naturally. They come with effort. We have to be peace, we have to be love, we have to be joy to have it around us and for imperfect people in an imperfect world, this can be challenging. Love one another, respect one another, and seize each moment this holiday season.
If you’re looking for it you may find it, so be careful in your search
“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We only have today.” -Mother Theresa