The Christmas Blahs

I'm feeling a little blah about the holidays this year.

Now, before you get all preachy with me and berate me for feeling blah when I'm healthy and employed and have a wonderful husband and a beautiful baby girl who will celebrate her first Christmas, let me just say I KNOW. And I already feel bad for feeling bad.

There's no real reason for my holiday blahs. I just don't feel very sparkly about it all.

It's a combination of a few things, I think. Mostly, I'm really missing my family this year, and I don't just mean my parents. This will be the third holiday season I've spent with the Boose family and while I'm very grateful for this and do enjoy going to Ohio (for any Booses reading this, please don't take it personally), I just miss feeling connected to my roots and my past during the holidays.

Greg and I have already decided that this will be the last year that we spend both Thanksgiving and Christmas in Ohio, which is what we've done for the last three years. It's weird being the one who doesn't have parents or a home to go home to. I think we both just kind of assumed that we would always spend the holidays in Ohio. But we don't have to do that at all, actually.

It's hard to meld into someone else's family. Ask anyone who has ever spent the holidays with someone else's family. Every single person I know has something to say about what it's like to have in-laws, especially around the holidays. Greg could even tell you about our trips to Cape Cod and how they're both fun and stressful for him. And next year he'll have lots to say about it…after we spend Thanksgiving there.

Figuring out how to spend the holidays when you don't have parents is a weird thing to have to do.

When I think back over the last 6 years since my father has been gone, there are three Christmases that stand out. The first one that comes to mind was one spent in Los Angeles with friends. My boyfriend J. Ryan and I hosted a really cozy Christmas eve dinner with our friends, George, Lucy, Edan, Tim, Glasgow and Heather. I made eggplant parmesan for the first time and we had a silly gift exchange in which people won things like hemp socks and condoms, and for dessert I made a Christmas creme brulee with edible gold leaf. There were no parents or families or expectations. We all went home to our own beds that night, woke up to our usual lives the next day. It was nice.

The next year that comes to mind took place the following year. This was actually the worst Christmas following the death of my parents. This was the Christmas I spent alone. I was single and living in LA, trying really hard to figure out to be on my own out in the world. I spent Christmas Eve with my Jewish friend Paul and his Dad at a Mexican restaurant and I joined my friend Abby's family for a while on Christmas day (Abby's family is so lovely that it kind of made me feel worse). The best part of that holiday was a solitary run down the Venice boardwalk on Christmas morning, the palm trees sparkling in the sunshine, the ocean looming huge and important. The rest of it I spent in a drunken, lonely blur, feeling sorry for myself. Awesome, huh?

Finally, the third Christmas that comes to mind is the first that I spent with Greg. We went back to Ohio and since we weren't married yet we slept in different rooms, which was quite sweet. I remember waking up on Christmas morning alone on the pull-out couch in the study, and laying there for a little while, soaking up the quiet and the solitude, and thinking about how this was the first Christmas I would spend with the man that I knew I was going to marry. 

Okay, okay, I'm actually cheering myself up a bit here, just thinking about it and how far we've come already since that morning two years ago.

And yes, this year Veronica is definitely a bright spot in my holiday gloom. My friend Ashley was over last night and I think she must have said on three separate occasions that V is a terrible influence on birth control users. You need to start writing about crying more often, she said. But I just can't. I'm having too much fun with her. If V is really making your ovaries ache, like Tricia said this picture caused her to do, then go back and read some of the early entries just after she was born. (I truly thought I'd ruined my life.)


Since we're headed to Ohio tomorrow, Greg and I are planning a little Christmas celebration at home tonight. It'll actually be more along the lines of Feliz Navidad, since I'm making tacos. (Yay for Christmas tacos!) Greg will build a fire and we'll open a bottle of wine and exchange gifts. Veronica will squeal and coo and clambor over us in an attempt to eat wrapping paper and grab at the cats and the snow will fall softly outside the windows and I'll remember just how much I have to be grateful for.

Happy holidays to all of you out there, blah and all.

Okay, these questions that you've been seeing at the bottom of some of my posts are not just for you to think about. I really want to hear your answers! I loved getting to hear so many of your stories a few weeks ago during the diaper bag give-away and it made me realize how much more I'd love to hear from readers. So, speak up!

Do you share your holidays with another family? What are the best and worst parts of that? How do you keep your sense of roots and home when in someone else's?



  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled across your blog a few months ago while searching for something. I can relate to many of your posts. The grandpa thing-my dad was older and people constantly said that, then my kids’ dad was older (died in 2002), repeat.
    But this post-I always say no one would want to deal with me from Nov 1-Jan 1. Talk to me on Jan 2 and I am fine again.
    The lack of family-ugh. I have my kids (2 here, 1 out of state), am raising my now 4 1/2 year old grandson.
    Other than that, no family (few that are ceased communication over 20 years ago), friends are of course with their families and then the dreaded question when I get back to work after every holiday…”so how was YOUR holiday?”
    Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year with that beautiful little angel. Love your blog. 🙂 And you make L.A. sound so nice….and warm!

  • Lyssa
    Posted December 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    I just spent my 3rd (wow 3rd!) Thanksgiving in New Jersey with Josh’s family. I’m very lucky in that they are the most friendly and accepting family (except when the Cowboys game comes on), and they dote on my every need while I’m there. We take a long vacation because it’s so far away and overall very relaxing. And when I help I get lots of praise. Much different from the 25 Thanksgivings in a row I’ve spent with my own family—first of all we have about 35 family members at our Thanksgiving because Mexicans reproduce like it’s going out of style, so it’s chaotic. And I’m expected to help and take orders. Also I’m the only person in my age group, everyone is either over 45 or 20 and below…can be a little lonely.
    On the other hand, we spend Christmases with my family and the entire time I worry whether he’s having a good time or if he’s missing his family. Luckily he’s Jewish so he doesn’t have strong Christmas roots 🙂 The year before he met me he spent Christmas skiing with Shawn and Matt…

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for commenting, Helene! Im glad you can relate (on multiple levels). This can really be such a hard time of year for so many people, family or not. Happy new year and here’s hoping you get through the holidays this year!

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Ha…that year that they all went skiing was the first year I met them. So funny. Wow, your holidays sound pretty great, Lyssa. And so different! Id love to hear Joshs take on your family. Merry Christmas to you guys!

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Hi Claire,
    I’m guilty of having been so short on time of late that I’ve merely skimmed your posts. Made note (and applauded) the questions showing up at the bottom now — it’s a great way to build community among your readers, especially those of us who are non-bloggers 🙂
    We moved 3000 miles away from both sets of family when we were married, so holidays became a bit of a problem. For some reason (and, I can’t for the life of me think why) I don’t recall that we ever flew East to spend the time with my beloved husband’s really wonderful family. For other reasons (and I know *exactly* why, in this case) we also never connected at that time of year with my own parents.
    His folks split the years between coming to see us, and being with their daughter and her family, so that worked out well. And eventually we were sort of “adopted” by a wonderful warm and loving set of “surrogate grandparents” who lived nearby and included us in every single family celebration they had over the years. It really helped bridge the gap when our kids were little and we couldn’t conveniently provide them with their actual grandparents for the requisite fussing and pampering.
    Holidays can go three ways — really wonderful, subtly stressful, or flat-out wretchedly difficult.
    Here’s hoping you’re in for a nice surprise and find yourself once again happily enfolded in the festivities with Greg.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Ha…I like your description of how holidays can go three ways. I think youre spot on. Do you think theres anyone out there who doesnt get stressed by the holidays, at least just a little?
    And I love that you had this adoptive family! Ive adopted many family members throughout my life. Veronica has lots of extra aunts and uncles and I wouldnt have it any other way.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Claire. I just saw Greg’s gift…and the sparkle in your eye as you saddle V on your hip. What a spectacular and thought-filled gift! I wish I could be there. Holiday Blah-Blah-Blah…I feel it in a different way. Daniel and I have too MANY choices. (I know “boo-hoo-hoo”) But this makes it impossible to not dissapoint either my mom, my dad, or his parents. We, too, came to the agreement that this would be the LAST year that we spend BOTH Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family. Although they are the most comfortable, feeding, sweet, lovely people…they still aren’t MY parents. We will start splitting them in some way over the years…and yet, I can’t stop thinking that at some point I want Thanksgiving and Christmas at my OWN house. With my OWN traditions, snacks on the coffee table, music on the stereo, and “A Christmas Story” dvd on the flatscreen. At what point can you opt for your own Christmas with a “grandparents welcome” invitation?
    And this is a sour side-note– with it being Christmas and all– but must be said. Nothing hurts, stings, pains, and teaars at my heart more than my parent’s divorce this time of year. It is the factor that complicates everything, that hurts deep in the pit of my stomach. So, to any of you who seriously consider it as an option, know that we (the children of divorced parents) survive and thrive and come to love our amazing step-parents but it hurts EVERY single year. I have one more set of parents in “the rotation,” one more phone call to wish “Merry-Merry,” one more place that my heart can’t be. A broken family sucks and holidays never fail to remind me of that. I want to put on holiday and watch my mom and my mess up my future kids’ hair and smother them with kisses on the couch.
    Now, am I thankful for both of them and their splendid spouses? Yes. Am I lucky to have both still living and loving me from different zip codes? Yes. And it also helps me feel gratitude for the cohesive family of Daniel’s parents.
    Please post pics of V in the furry pink suit…when you get a chance. I couldn’t stop imagining it. I almost kept the suit as a fuzzy blanket! Happy travels to Ohio.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    You already heard my take on things, (personally I never felt fully integrated into my in-laws. No matter how nice they were, I felt like an extra to their tight-knit main characters.) and thanks for the link to my website! It’s actually nice (and not in a schadenfreude, but more in a kindred spirit way) to read about your Christmas alone. I did that too the year of my divorce, two months after my mom died. I had an invitation to spend it with a friend’s family, but didn’t want to be the extra person while they opened their stockings and exchanged gifts. So, instead I housesat for my ex-husband while he brought his new girlfriend home to meet his parents (my ex-inlaws). I remember laying on the couch with his dog who, until 8 months before, had been both of ours, crying and wondering where I had stepped so far off of the path. And also realizing I needed to set better boundaries for myself! BUT, it’s good to have that Christmas alone in my bank of memories, because I gained so much empathy that night, sitting by myself in the dark. It had never truly sank in that people (even people who have good friends) spend Christmas and Thanksgiving and New Years all alone. And I am grateful that this year I am not. And thankful to have a new friend in you! Have a wonderful trip and come over when you get back.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Ah, yes the holidays on our own….one day. As much as I do love and appreciate all my in-laws and birth-familys traditions and generosity, it will be so much fun to do it all on our own one day. But I bet that when that day comes, well be sitting around reminiscing and yearning for our families! Ah, life.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and dont worry. There will definitely be photos of V in her soft, furry bunny suit. You are too sweet.

  • Posted December 22, 2009 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, you know I am also really grateful for my Christmas spent alone. It certainly serves to make every other Christmas easily better than that one! And oof, yours sounded particularly bad. 🙁 Cant wait to compare cluttered households in the new year.

  • Katie Riley
    Posted December 24, 2009 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I get the Christmas blahs in one way or another every year. I think most people have unrealistic expectations about holidays and we always get pumped up and then so often, let down, when they aren’t exactly as we imagine them to be.

  • Posted December 25, 2009 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I think youre right about people having a lot of unrealistic expectations around the holidays, Katie. And thats why things are so disappointing when they go wrong.

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