Thursday, October 27, 2011

The not-so-great compromise

It happened. We had our first discussion of how the holidays are going to work.

Our hometowns are 3.5 hours apart by car, no quick jaunt but certainly not so far that it's not expected we can make it happen. I imagine that if we had bicoastal hometowns, we'd be forced to properly choose. But a compromise - could there be anything worse?

It probably seems odd that in six years together, we don't have all this mapped out in some contingency rubric. But Nick often worked holidays back in his scrubs-wearing days (what up time and a half pay). It was uncomplicated - I did my celebration with my family as usual, and he tried his best to grab an afternoon or evening with his parents, often driving through the night on Christmas Eve, dangerously sleep-deprived.

Last year we attempted to share Christmas and it didn't go so well. We drove separately to my parents' house, I got almost immediately ill upon arriving, and spent the evening alone on the bathroom tile while my family went to church. Nick stole away to Canton under cover of darkness while I longed for death's warm embrace.

The next morning, I weakly opened gifts and had to abstain from the traditional bucketfuls of coffee and breakfast casserole (a great tragedy). Late that morning, having pooped out my whole childhood, I drove to Nick's mom's house in my pajamas. The trip was miserable, hurricane-force winds(unscientific exaggeration) had me white-knuckling to keep my little station wagon in its lane. By the time I arrived (to manic and overwhelming Christmas cheer) it was all I could do to not spend the remainder of Christmas Day fantasizing about dramatically faceplanting into bed, on top of the covers, still in my clothes.

We are lucky that there is no spoken pressure for us to do any certain thing, and that we both get to see our family fairly often throughout the year. When it comes down to it, neither party wants to concede Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning. Neither party wants their partner to be unhappy. And neither party certainly wants to make the final call.

"Well," I said last night, serving myself another slice of pizza, "we could truly alternate. Spend the entire holiday in one place this year, and then switch next year."

"We could do that," Nick said.

Then we stared across the table, silently daring the other to suggest which places gets picked first. We didn't break eye contact, or make a sound.

Then we laughed, paid the bill, and walked home, with Christmas still unscripted.


  1. Planning holidays is my least favorite thing. We have an idea of what we're going to do, but we also have a huge clause that if it doesn't work, we'll re-plan.

    I kind of want to avoid it all, but I LOVE Christmas, so that's just cutting off my nose to prevent the possible gangrene when I could just take antibiotics. Or not let it get infected at all.

  2. My best guesses for our Sheets-Norris contingent is Thanksgiving in America/Christmas in England. "Easy" bc there is no Thanksgiving in England. But never seeing my family for Christmas again? yeah right. Thus,back at square one, forever, and expensively so, either way. My thoughts are with you at this difficult time.

  3. this argument is what has led to silent two hour car rides for me. oh what a joyous time the holidays are! and if one's sigfig isn't going to ruin it, then one's mother certainly will.

  4. Agh. Holidays.

    Just because your families are 3 1/2 hours apart DOES NOT mean you have to see both every year. Theoretically we could do from ID to either WA or OR, spend Christmas Eve with one and Christmas Day with the other (3ish hours apart). But this would make us cray cray.

    The monkey wrench in the thing is that my parents ALREADY had that sort of compromise. My Mom's fam does Christmas on Christmas Eve and my dad's did it on Christmas Day. And they're all in Tacoma. And I fucking love them all and don't want to choose!

    Alas, we're going with my choice Christmas and his choice Thanksgiving alternated with the reverse. It means that I still don't get to see my family every year but everyone seems to understand our choice.

    The thing we seem to miss out on is the cozy Christmas morning at HOME. I need to teleport from Idaho to Tacoma for Christmas Eve, back to ID for Christmas morning, and back to Tacoma for Christmas Day. Gah.

  5. I guess we're in the minority, but we really love alternating. Our respective hometowns are 3 hours apart, and each 6-8 hours from us, and last year we did a triangle. It worked out well except that for some reason we spread it out over our entire holiday, spending 10 days schlepping a great dane puppy, gifts, and ourselves all over Southern Ontario in a rental Impala.

    This year, we're hosting christmas for his family and then going to meet my entire extended family at a chalet for New Year's, where we'll probably do a christmas re-enactment. I can't wait!

    Of course, this is all to wean our families off of our presence over the holidays, as in 2 years we'll be overseas and (hopefully) celebrating Skype-mas 2013 in lieu of dealing with airports that time of year.

  6. Yea gods, this was the conversation Ben & I had last night. His parents are here, but extended family is mostly in Ohio/Indiana. My Dad is Florida, my Mom in Michigan, and my siblings are equally strewn (mostly Ohio). We did the Ohio Christmas two years ago-- 3 locations in a day and a half. Exhausting.

    Christmas is our make-out anniversary, and selfishly, we want it to ourselves. The best year, we took 5 days off of work and hibernated ALL.BY.OURSELVES. I wish we could do this again, guilt-free. An exhausted holiday is not a holiday.

  7. HA! This was a beautifully written post. The line "Nick stole away to Canton under cover of darkness while I longed for death's warm embrace" especially slayed me. :)

    And we are having this same conversation. Or not having it, as the case may be. We're spending Christmas here in Cinci together (hello, time and a half for this scrub-wearer!), and each visiting our families separately. Hopefully it'll work out alright...