Christmas, Divorce, Family, Holidays, Home, Life, Remarriage, Thanksgiving
When my first marriage ended, the day before Thanksgiving in 2003, I took a deep breath upon returning from court and began meal preparations for my first major holiday on my own. I set myself (and my raw nerves) to the comforting task of marinating pears for a compote, then started on the bread-sage stuffing. Why? Because for as long as I can recall, I’ve cooked elaborate dinners for the holidays.
During my first marriage, our family shared hosting duties for the holidays, but the times when it wasn’t my turn didn’t mean I was off the hook. I contributed side dishes and desserts to the groaning board so the burden of cooking an entire meal wasn’t borne by the host. That, however, was all in the past. My son would join me, and my cousin, for my first post-divorce Thanksgiving. That was it. Taking the smallest turkey I’d ever roasted out of the oven, I marveled at its lightness. And cried.
One month later, at Christmas, I said goodbye to all that and performed a variation on the theme. My cousin brought her nephew, my son came with his girlfriend at the time, and I rounded out the rest of the table with a young violinist from the Ukraine, who was studying at the conservatory where I worked. She brought her mother along. And, for the first time in my entire life, turkey was not featured on the table. Instead I prepared a standing rib roast from one of Ina Garten‘s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.
This was my new family dynamic, and the start of a new tradition.
It can’t have been easy for my son, who at the time was in his early 20s. He was now required to divide all of his holidays in two; the first half of the day was spent with his father, the latter half with me. Those mornings and early afternoons dragged on so! It seemed strange to be alone in the house on a holiday. I probably hugged him far too long and far too tightly when he arrived. But so it went, each year, until the year I remarried.
My new husband had taken a job in Virginia, and I was now living nearly 500 miles from where I grew up and lived my entire life—and 500 miles from my son. Whereas holidays had presented a mere logistical inconvenience, now the geographical stakes were raised to challenging heights. Would I be able to spend at least one holiday with him? And what of my husband’s sons? How and when would we see them? The oldest is in graduate school in Illinois; the youngest had just started college in Ohio.
As it turned out, I wasn’t able to see my son at all that first year after our move. His work schedule simply didn’t allow him enough time off to make the trip. I cannot tell you how that rocked me. Things fared a bit better with the other boys; they drove to Virginia the second week of December to have an early Christmas with us. But again, what orbits they had to navigate! The eldest and his girlfriend drove from Illinois to Ohio to spend time with his mother and brother. Then, with his brother in tow, he drove from Ohio to Virginia. Then it was back around and up to Ohio to drop his brother off, and westward to St. Louis, so his girlfriend could see her family. And back to Illinois. It was like a 1930s movie, where a map of the United States with moving, dotted arrows illustrated a character’s travel progression from Point A to Point Whatever. The mind reels.
Last year, John and I decided that it was our turn to give the kids a break and do the driving. We left for Ohio early in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. Once there, we stayed with my son and his girlfriend. John’s sons joined us the next day, and we all enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together in a suburb of Cleveland. In a restaurant. For Thanksgiving.
That took some getting used to. Never in my life had I set foot in a restaurant on a major holiday; it went against every cooking and baking gene in my body. I had always felt nothing but sadness for Ralphie and his family in A Christmas Story, forced to eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the Bumpus hounds devoured their turkey.
The meal was traditional enough and tasty enough, I suppose. But that was hardly the point. The goal was to be together: one scattered family gathered for a few brief hours around a table laden with food that might (or might not) allow us (allow me?) to pretend we were in the old homestead, however new that homestead might be.
It was more than enough that we were together and healthy.
It’s true, as the old song says, that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But when you create a new family, and circumstances toss your family hither and yon with no viable base of operations, it helps to remember another song—one that can serve to brighten your thoughts with a clarity that allows comfort and joy to shine through:
Home is where the heart is.
You are so right (again), Marci. As a young father, I was prepared for the boys leaving the nest for college, returning on breaks, visiting them on Parents’ Weekends or sharing some other time on campus. But divorce, remarriage, and relocation certainly sent a shiver into those plans. Seeing them each once a year may be the new normal. That is just one more reason why finding you to spend the rest of my days with is such a blessing. My heart’s home will always be with you.
Oh John … thank you. I love you.
Ladies and gentlemen, do you see? He’s amazing. And I found him just in time.
I too am a mid-life second wife. And my husband and I feel the same way as you two do about each other. Funny how getting married at an oldder age makes you a better partner. That is why I have always advocated living with someone before marriage. There is no way to hide the “deal breaker” parts of your personality if you co-habitate. At an older age we are much more prone to say “Um, not so much.” and walk away.
The dynamics of our family holday dinners and gatherings has changed with the loss of my husband’s parents. He and our daughter are very close, so we work with her finace to make sure everyone gets to see each other on the day. Our son has his priorities with his wife and her family, and their Mom is generally accomadating to Jessica’s want to be with her Dad when we have ours. We do our early in the morning so everyone can plan out their from there.
I love my family and am honored they saw fit to include me in it. Wonderful post…evnjoy everyo moment, because the are always for The Best! AmberLena
Jack Viere said:
Home is where the heart is!
Exactly! Jack, thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment.
Mikalee Byerman said:
Love it. My blog deals mainly with my reinvention, post-completely-surprising-divorce…so I can relate to this all too well.
This year, I have my children for Thanksgiving. But I will not for Christmas. And this breaks my heart.
But I have to accept that while my kids won’t be with me on the DAY, they are with me for a significant part of the season. We began listening to Christmas music a few weeks ago, only because they’ll miss a few weeks with me during Christmas. And why the heck not? It’s a way we spread the joy of the season.
Beautiful post. Home is definitely where the heart is. And my kids will be home with me throughout the season — because they’re ALWAYS in my heart!
Thank you for the honest thoughts…an eye opener! Wishing you a blessed future with John. And yes, Marci, he is indeed amazing! 🙂
Congrats on FP!
With my second marriage, it meant travelling to the East Coast during every holiday. Plus, we have a number of birthdayd during that time period. One birthday meal was delivered pizza to our hotel in the midst of a huge snowstorm. Sometimes life means stretching our definitions of what happens on holidays whether you like it or not.
It is the time spent together that counts, whether delivery pizza and homecooked meal. Yes, holidays change as families change.
Carlie Chew said:
Your story is so touching. My boyfriends parents divorced when he was young and he has split his holidays ever since. Every Thanksgiving he eats two meals, one lunch with just his mom and dinner with his dad, step-mom and all of her family. It has always seemed so sad to me that his mom would cook by herself all morning, have lunch with her son and then spend the rest of Thanksgiving alone as he moved on to his next meal. This year I wanted to make it a point to make Thanksgiving a special day for his mom, so for the first time we will all be in my kitchen cooking together and I couldn’t be more excited. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope you have a great holiday season with your family.
Happy to hear a change for everyone has come about for your family because you decided so! Happy Thanksgiving!
Great thoughts .. some for everyone in any situation in life. You must be a positive person. Well done.
Thanks for sharing! Our family is just geographically scattered and some how we make it work because we want to spend the Holidays with our families and friends.
Touching story- I am in the same boat, albeit a little closer, regarding my 88 year old Mom who is bed ridden with dementia. Who get’s to do Mom over Thanksgiving. I wish my story was dealing with making memories and keeping memories: we just try to care for her and keep our own family lives afloat.
All the best,
I am a mid-life second wife too. Married my husband when I was 40. We had three kids to blend a family together and made one more between us. Holidays are a very crazy time for us. This year I am hosting and we will have both our extended families, but we will be missing my step-daughters. It is so difficult fell celebratory when part of the family is missing. For Christmas, my son won’t be with us. I don’t know how I will do it when the oldest goes to college in 2 years. I blogged about my Thanksgiving here:
PCC Advantage said:
The idea of being away from my family for the holidays would be completely heart-breaking, so my heart goes out to you…but you’re right. Home really is where the heart is. 🙂
This was a beautiful and touching post…so glad you were Freshly Pressed today. 🙂
Queen Linda said:
Embrace this as your adventure. Enjoy the sound of clinking silver and glassware at the restaurant, as well as the waves of conversation from your table and those around you. Tuck away favorite comments and observations for that blog post you’re going to write after the fact. You’ll roast a turkey again, and you’ll bake again. This year, wrap that feeling of different around yourself and let it become a memory dessert. Congrats on FP.
Andreas Moser said:
I am a child of divorced parents and I always try to go on holiday far away during Christmas. This year, I’ll go to Malta: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/11/13/leaving-london-moving-to-malta/
This is a poignant account, a variation of something I have experience every year for about 40 years, since I was torn between divorced parents until this morning when my second husband’s ex-wife asked if we were coming over for Thanksgiving. It is partly why holidays are so “hard” for many people. I am glad that as parents you and John realize what a dilemma and burden it is for the kids who want to please everyone.
cabinet stew said:
While I can’t relate directly – I don’t have kids and my family was always very easy-going about me spending some or part of the holidays with my then boyfriend’s family and ultimately we found that my side was more fun and relaxed than his-and now years later the parents on both sides have dwindled to one (my mom only)- I can say that my best un-offered advice is to make it about the whole season. Have a holiday party in advance of the big day if it is abetter time for the loved ones to travel (make it a tree decorating party!) – have wine with friends you don’t see as often as you should. Start the Christmas carols on Nov 1. and if travel,distance, work etc prevents you from seeing all the various kids, etc on the actual days – see them when you can and start a new tradition for the actual day – like volunteering or taking in lost souls or a quiet, sexy, dress-up dinner for you and hubby. Plus why put all the pressure on the holidays – plan more trips at other times of the year to visit.
my final un-offered advice – you will love going out to dinner! We started about 15 years ago and sometimes we still stay home and cook when in the mood but nothing is easier than dressing up, arriving, eating, visiting and leaving. no dishes, no cooking (even if you think you like it) and over-eating is can be at your choosing limited by your choice of wardrobe! my family has a nice restaurant with a big buffet and a beautiful country drive to get to it and digest on the way home. My dream is to make a weekend getaway of it someday – with an overnight stay and outlet shopping. OK rambled enough….
Bountiful Giving said:
Beautiful. An age old problem of where to share the spirit is solved. Share your heart and you are always home for the holidays.
Thank you so much for sharing here. While reading your post I was struck by how much love lives inside us, whereever we are. It’s pretty easy for us kitchen goddesses to forget the food is not the love, but rather a conduit, a delicious route into the hearts of those we love.
Lovely post, despite the dark notes. One of my friends goes through the same ordeal and I must say that it has opened my horizons..Keep smiling though 🙂
A Bahamian In Austria said:
When I moved to New York almost 6 years ago, I remember facing the same dilemma. It was impossible to be with either my or my husband’s family due to distance and work commitments and so we created a faux-family of displaced migrants. All our friends who didn’t have family near or were not heading home for the holidays came to our home for dinner. I created the elaborate family meal each year (each year it would change based on the taste of the attendees and my abilities). They were some of the best holidays we enjoyed, filled with true happiness and comaraderie as we were all in the same boat – despots from a foreign land thrust together by chance and whim. I hope now that hubby and I have moved away, that those moments are as dear to their hearts as it still is to ours.
Brenda Clevenger said:
Holidays haven’t been the highlight of my life probably because I never had kids, but I’m thankful this season to have a wonderful mother and sister to share it with. It would be said for anyone to spend it alone.
I’ve learned to simply appreciate family. Period. I lost all my family except for my sister, and holidays mean little if we can’t be together–and it doesn’t matter where.
You got it all. Have a great holiday
When my husband, teen child, and I moved far away from home, we tried various types of holidays. We were too far away from home to drive, and holiday tickets for all of us would have bankrupted us. When child was in school, we invited a couple of divorced moms and their kids to spend the day with us. Later, child had Significant Other who rounded out our group. We always managed to find some others who were as alone as we were. A couple of years we worked in a mission, prepping & dishing for those whose needs were far greater than ours.
It’s not the calendar date that matters. Do you HAVE to “do” Thanksgiving the same day as everyone else? Trust me, not “everyone else” can do Thanksgiving that day, either. Think of the troops and their families, so cruelly separated. They give thanks when they are reunited.
Even Christmas isn’t set in stone–many scholars believe Jesus was born in the spring–so you can have your day of miracles any day you choose.
Don’t be a slave to the calendar. Be a servant of love.
Eva McCane said:
this was a great read. i filed for divorce the day before Christmas Eve, and it became official the day before Valentine’s Day. This season will be the year anniversary…so we’ll see how I do once those holidays approach. thanks for sharing!
Very well said. I experienced this when I was a child and grew up with two sets of parents that expected me to spend their entire holiday with them, and absolutely no reason could suffice to even split the day with the other. I share your burden, and hope you understand the burden on the children.
The best gift my husbands parents give us every year is coming to see us for Thanksgiving. With a two year old and fledgling careers, we often can’t travel. The gift of THEIR travel is much, much appreciated. I know yours will be too. 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. It hits very close to home for me and I found such great comfort in reading your words. I hope you enjoy your holiday with all of your family!
Feng Shui said:
thanks for post, I think i should arrange this kind of holiday with my parents
after i split with my wife – 11 years ago – it turned out to be a blessing (for various reasons) in disguise. i had a great time reconnecting with my two brothers and two sisters. we had a great time after not really communicating much for the 11 years i was married. the main reason for that lack of communication? my ex-wife. she didn’t like them, and they didn’t like her very much either. holidays were fun again because i had not spent them with my own family for a dozen years. i had had to spend all those important days with her family because she just was not very flexible.
as i always say, “there’s a reason she’s an EX wife.”
RMV, this is the Midlife Second Husband, John, who my wonderfully talented wife mentioned in the blog. I felt compelled to respond to your poignant comment because it is what is written between the lines that tells me that we have had similar pre-divorce experiences and post-divorce epiphanies. Through an acrimonious divorce to #1 and marrying my soul mate, I discovered two people – Marci and me.
Reconnecting with the true “me” allowed me to rekindle relationships with my family as well that had laid fallow for years. And Marci has fallen for this guy who, being true to himself, has had the good sense to give his heart to her.
We clearly each have something for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving, and every day. Happy Thanksgiving from TMSH.
Michael LaBossiere said:
Home is where the turkey is.
My first time reading your blog. This Thanksgiving is my first away from my kids after 26 years of marriage. No easy task. Your insight helped me and I thank you.
The Water is Deep said:
Divorce does throw a kink in the holidays for sure! The more we learned to ‘roll with it’ the better off we became. That and I finally decided that its not about the actual date on the calendar… Point in fact: We had Thanksgiving with my boyfriends son yesterday and will have Thanksgiving with my daughter Thursday. Who knows about Christmas…. that’s a lifetime away.
Reminding other family members, especially the older generation about this point is difficult sometimes. The holidays can be celebrated any day, and every day is a celebration when with family and friends.
I was the product of divorce way back when it wasn’t fashionable. Christams began early with my dad, where I lived. His girlfriend would come over and those two would wake me up and we would open presents. Then my sister would arrive and we would have brunch. Then off my sister and I went to see my grandad (because no one else in the family spoke to him). There we had lunch and celebrated Christmas. Then off to my mom’s and my step-family where I put on a happy face, as if this was a normal Christmas with people I don’t like. Then occassionally, we would zoom to another city to see my cousins.
Christmas is in my home. Whoever can come = great. Whoever can’t come, I understand. Home is where my heart is. If you need to come home, you just need to find me, for it’s not the building I live in.
That Geezer in the Corner said:
Sounds like you have come out of a challenging Christmas history to a sane and balanced approach to the holiday. Christmas became a lot more relaxed for us when we decided we were going to celebrate at home and invite our families to visit. Now the kids are mostly grown & out on their own and I’m pretty sure divorce is in the offing. When and if that happens, I am going to be that granddad that no one in the family speaks to, so on his behalf I’m going to thank you and your sister. I imagine your compassion, or at least your willingness to act compassionate, made a big difference to him.
You learn to live with it.
More importantly I learned.
I, too, for many years, sponsored most of the holiday parties. When that came to a screeching halt it was difficult. I put a big smile on my face and in my heart. The kids did not need my troubles on top of their own. With time, and faith, I learned to live with the change.
But I also learned that it came to an end only in that particular form, only to be revived in another. Different but the same. I learned to pay attention. I learned about life and how to live.
Home is where you hang your heart.
My life and family have always been one to go to a restaurant for the holidays, or worse, McDonalds. I actually know every McDonalds that is open on Christmas Day because I have been there for many Christmas or Thanksgiving and we can’t find anywhere else to go to. This year we are going to a restaurant again, and for actual Christmas I will be with my fiancee’s family and my brother will be with his extended family. It can get crazy like that sometimes.
Windy Taylor said:
Yes and yes. My husband and I ended up with matching holiday custody schedules – so for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we either have all 3 kids or zero kids. It’s always hard, but we’ve learned to take charge of the situation. Like this year, our second Thanksgiving with no kids, we decided to get out of Dodge. We’ve rented a cabin in the woods of North Georgia and will be having non-traditional sides with our turkey breast. We’re trying to enjoy each other, even if we can’t enjoy the kids.
The theory is that it’s ever-so-slightly easier to mope if the scenery is nice. 🙂
Though not divorced, this is a familiar theme for me. My husband’s parents got divorced a little while before my FIL died, so we tend to wind up choosing between his immediate family and his paternal extended family three hours away (his sisters are invited to see the extended family, but as of yet we’ve not been there at the same time). Add in an attempt to visit my family out of the country once a year, and most holidays turn into a ‘where do we go this time?’ event. And there has been one occasion where we celebrated Christmas a week later with my MIL to accommodate various travel plans.
To throw another kink into things, my MIL is remarried and my husband doesn’t care for his step-father much. So spending time with her frequently has a slightly awkward dynamic too.
Sol Invictus (@ahorrasi) said:
thanks for this. I was a product of a split home and it had not occurred to me to think of the whole phenomenom from my mother’s perspective before.
Thank you. I am in the midst of my own divorce and, while I have had the gift of many glimpses of beauty in my future, this was was the one I needed today.
it’s in the heart….wherever our heart is, we just follow them. i share the same sentiments but slightly different. my husband is away for 6months, leaving me and the kids..(he works for a cruise ship)…but my trick is this…whenever he’s here we celebrate christmas or new year or any missed special occasions..:)
Dr. Afaq Ahmad Qureshi said:
Yes, it hurts to have split ends like that. Heart has its reasons which the head (and relatives) can never understand and heart longs to be with the loved ones. In the East the culture is entirely different and most of the times the loved ones remain the loved ones till the end of time for us. They surround us. In grief or happiness you are accustomed to feel their presence and there is simply no alternative to that. In a culture where divorce is rare and is not considered a vital part of living, life is still like in old Hollywood movies (and culture as one reader pointed out …’and in those times divorces were not common…’). May God bless you always. You are all great people with great faculty of loving each other and I feel proud to be here. Thanks for sharing, everyone.
I don’t happened to be divorced, but I can still relate to what you said. My daughters are 21 and 19 now and I have been mentally preparing myself for years for the day when they aren’t coming to my house for Easter, Thanksgiving, or the biggie, Christmas. I have plans to see Christmas around the world when I can’t see them on the main day. I am thinking that we may just get together New Year’s Day, or maybe it will be my house for Christmas Eve. Whatever the case maybe I am preparing to be as flexible as I can be and I hope and pray they get flexible in laws as well. I applaud your willingness to try new things, go see the kids, and even have Thanksgiving in a restaurant. I hope you have a good trip!
Shawn Weber said:
Thanks for sharing your experiences with the holidays. As a divorce attorney, many of my clients share some of the same feelings. I also think it is good that you point out the difficulties on your adult children. So often we forget the adult children just assuming they will be fine because they are adults. Obviously, divorce can be hard on all members of the family and rarely are the feelings so difficult as during the holidays.
Lovely. Home is where the heart is ^.^~
Wow, I can totally relate to this. It is so strange having everything flipped like that. Even the eating out part. Life sure throws some strange curve balls… that’s for sure.
Susan Elizabeth Ball said:
My husband and I are in the empty nest stage and now have to share our sons with their in-laws on the holidays. One son will be with us this Thanksgiving and the other two will celebrate with their wives families. My parents, one sister, and two nieces will be at my house, so I’ll have a full table. Fortunately the boys all live in the area and we’ll get to see them all at some point over the Thanksgiving weekend. I am blessed to have a large family and have much for which to be thankful.
This is lovely and sad. I have been battling the busted up family for too many years and it is a drag. One year I actually had hot dogs because there was no family around and I had worked a 12 hour shift the night before. That was dreary. We make the best of it and flex when necessary!
My first time to your blog. I love it! There’s nothing like home honey. There shouldn’t be any fixed dates for occasions. Celebrate each day as if it just comes once a year. 😉
i have been living in spain and now germany since 2006, or to put it more clearly, for the past five thanksgivings and christmases… it is so difficult to be away from my family during those times. i got married this year (which is why i moved to germany) and so my husband is with me – but he’s a brit and doesn’t get thanksgiving. bless him, he tries: the first year (or my second “thanksgivingless year”), he met me after work (work on thanksgiving!!) and took me to sushi (sushi on thanksgiving!!)…
anyway, while that has nothing to do with divorce and i don’t have any kids (except the one in my belly), i completely understand the sense of loss of all those traditions.
congrats on being freshly pressed – and obviously it’s awhile ago now, but congrats on getting married!
Your post touched a chord in my heart. I’ve spent the majority of my life hopping between 2 homes. If I spend christmas with my mother and husband, I try to spend the new year with my father and step-mom. Try to balance it out.
But these days now I am married hence I am more relaxed in being in one place with my husband.
Kudos to you and your husband for balancing it out well 🙂
I am so happy to read this. This is the kind of info that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.Some truly superb information and very useful it outsourcing.
My father and stepmother, mother and stepfather, and in-laws all live within a 20 miles radius of each other. This is two and a half hours away from us. We have all the grandchildren. We are never able to spend more than 2 or 3 days at a time during the school year, even at Christmas because of work schedules. We end up not telling somebody that we’re coming to town in order to make it work because someone always gets their feelings hurt, thinks they’re being left out, or makes unreasonable demands.
My mother has been, for the past two years, coming to us througout the year at various times to stay a couple of days. Her husband doesn’t like my husband so she comes alone. This has been so wonderful for all of us. My mother-in-law also comes over to visit occasionally. It is so much easier for us to be in our home with toys, blankies, beds, you name it.
I appreciate your perspective. I would caution you to tread lightly when grandchildren come…it’s almost not worth the time spent because I spend so much of it worrying about who’s going to be mad at me…I would rather stay home and enjoy my children myself.
Home is where the heart is…? Really enjoyed this post…simple words and yet made your point …
I myself have a strange family – one that usually requires multiple flights to ensure all important members are given their fair share of family time. This year I will be flying to the East coast for the week before Christmas to be with family members there, then back to the West coast to celebrate with my West Coast family. Thankfully, we will not have to travel while on the East Coast like we sometimes must to visit both sides of the family. We will probably have to next year. For Thanksgiving, I flew from San Francisco to Seattle to be with my West Coast family. At least it was a short trip. And eating two holiday meals on the same day has always been a part of my experience. So I can completely sympathize with your family’s modern plight – it seems to affect many of us.
My mom used to say, “Food is love.” But she was not very traditional, nor was my childhood. Then I grew up to be a chef, eating thankgiving leftovers with my cooks at ten at night with lots of wine.Marriage, motherhood, divorce and marriage again did allow an evolution of sorts on this wonderful holiday. Hopefully we can leave some of the good traditions to our children! You might enjoy my post: Thanksgiving Traditions: Egg Intrigue at http://www.steppingintothewater.wordpress.com
Happy writing and happy eating!
Great post…it depressed me, yeah, but in a nice way. Or maybe that’s how I’ll choose to see at this moment. Nice depression. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that I relate quite a bit, especially to the beginning. It’s a sad state when the high point of your holiday is getting a “Happy Thanksgiving” email!
Anyways, have a lovely time at the restaurant, leave a decent tip, and enjoy telling everyone that you’ve been Freshly Pressed! : )
You had me shedding a tear today – what a wonderful post and i’m so glad you found happiness the second time around! Congrats on FP 🙂
how true home is anywhere your kids are
Great Story Nice Posting 🙂
its hard on children. it was for me
Home is where the heart is. Hope you have a wonderful holiday!
Thank you for such a great post!
Several years ago my wife and I divorced ourselves from my family due to increasingly septic relationships that arose. For the first time since we were married we had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. With no family other than our one-year old son and my SIL we had our first Orphan holiday. It was a big change for me coming from a home where holidays meant lots of family and decades worth of traditions. We quickly learned that not all change is bad and have taken the opportunity to make our own traditions and really enjoy one another. Our family has grown by one with the addition of our second son and from year to year our numbers fluctuate with friends left family’less and my SIL’s boyfriend/single status.
I congratulate you on your new marriage and new family dynamic. I know things will take some getting used to; but I have a feeling that these will become some of your most fondly memorable holidays!
…Beautiful, heartfelt and timely. Thank you!
I so relate to your words! I remarried and moved to Richmond myself, leaving my family and only daughter in Houston with her job. Holidays have been difficult, but we have learned that live goes on and new traditions can be born from the pieces of our lives! Well written and from the sound of it you and John are equally blessed!
Young Wifey said:
I am Hubster’s second wife. We’ve learned that when it comes to Pumpkin (his son from his first married), it’s too hard to split the holiday. Instead we rotate years. It’s nice to go to my inlaws large buffet style Thanksgiving. However it doesn’t feel complete to me without Pumpkin or my side of the family. Either the Saturday before or after Thanksgiving I host a large, formal sit down dinner with both of our families, but most importantly, we have Pumpkin at home with us. I’m not sure what the furture holidays will be like in 7 years when he goes off to college, but I’ll cherish every moment.
Coming acorss this post today has me in total headnod of agreement with you.
Yesterday, November 21st, the judge said ” good luck on your new life.”
November 1st 2010 is the day I left my husband under absolutely no choice, resolve or going back choices. about four days later it set in that it was the holidays. thankfully my mother whom I do not always get along with turned into the perfect momma bear for her 29 year old daughter and I wasn’t alone during the holidays with her and my siblings and good friends.
It was still the lonliness thing in the world.
This year I am a stroger woman after a long hard year of the very future looking like the picture of a hurricane and rediscovering who I am by myself and healing from a nasty marriage and what it took me to leave it.
This year I have finally made a home ( this was a hard journey itself) and I am inviting about the entire world over to feed…because feeding is what makes me happy and what I like to do. I love cooking for large numbers of people…or just one even. I wasn’t unhappy when the judge granted our divorce yesterday. I wasn’t alone feeling this time. I walked out knowing that my life would change and thatb change would take time but over time would mold to whatever it belongs being for me.
Grown children I imagine will always be changing and hard as they marry and must spread their time not only between divorced parents but spouses parents as well. The focus now? Is you and your new husband….the rest will mold around that.
Following a divorce with two children years ago, I quickly learned what you described. Now that the kids are in their late 20s and one has been overseas for 2.5 years, we celebrate whatever holiday was missed or will be missed whenever they are here at “home”.
I share all your feelings. I’ve been divorced now 10 years; the kids were little and with me as we relocated out of the state. Now they are grown and busy with their lives. I hope to now find that special “John” as you have but think about how differently remarriage with kids and step kids will be, it’s just not the same as when I was growing up with my parents together and family always around. To top it off, I relocated away from all family, so it’s missing family that’s hard. I’m glad I found your blog, it’s comforting to find someone who understands! Have a wonderful holiday, whereever you are, wherever you go!
I can sympathise – my parents got divorced when I was 16 and from then onwards Christmas Day was with Thunder (she made more effort) and Boxing Day was with my father (toast & sport on tv).
Unfortunately my marriage ended and my little fairies now have the same issues albeit with better food! Home is definitely where the heart is and as long as the children, no matter what their age, know that they are loved then a good time will be had by all.
This Christmas will be a special one for my little fairies and I as it will be the first one I have spent with Thunder since 1995.
This post touched my heart deeply. Thanksgiving has always been a point of contention in my life ever since my parents split at age 11. I quickly learned that I would never spend that holiday with them and would transport myself over to friends’ homes over the years just to avoid the question of who to spend the day with. It’s difficult not to feel like a vagabond because it is difficult to know where exactly home is. But then I am reminded of all the people who love me and want me with them for the holiday–you are right, home *is* where the heart is. This year, it is 500 miles away 🙂 Much love to you this Thanksgiving. xo, Cara
We have family in multiple countries, let alone states. It takes a miracle to get every one in one place at the same time. I haven’t seen my mom’s side of the family since I moved south of the border, eight years ago. I miss all the food, baking, piano playing, and general warm fuzzies being together with my cousins. In today’s world, I value family time above all else, no matter how little that time may be.
Congrats for being Freshly Pressed!
From Moments to Memories said:
Ah…yes….I have not remarried and am NOT looking forward to the day that my 13 year old goes to college and moves on 😦 In the meantime, her father lives in FL, we live in MN. We only have my family here, luckily. And I cook for my elderly parents. Otherwise I can imagine the nightmare. Love your blog, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Thank you so much! I hope that your holidays were happy!
I have been navigating Thanksgivings and Christmases for the past 2 years. This makes year 3. My situation is a tad bit different though. I have children who are young enough that I am involved in the shuffling process. On top of that I have been mostly alienated by my own family because I came out as a lesbian after 18+ years of marriage. My own parents and siblings aren’t inviting me to the celebrations due to the fact that I now have a girlfriend instead of a husband. As I’ve navigated these strange waters I’ve been able to keep my head above water and mostly been ok. Every year the situation evolves some and I’ve just learned to go with the flow. I’ve learned that the actual day might not be the day I get to celebrate. I’ve also learned that my family is who I choose as well as who I’m related to. My children will be with their dad and his family for Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to celebrate appropriately. Around my Thanksgiving table this year will be me, my girlfriend, her 2 children, her ex-husband, and a teenage boy with no where else to spend the holiday. And I am so very thankful!
Thank you for sharing – Find myself sharing the same sentiments!
The scars of divorce are at their worst right around the holidays. I have been divorced from my first husband for nearly 3 years, and he’s had our son for all of the major holidays because I was naive enough to think we could work together, so I didn’t make the holiday divisions straight in the divorce paperwork. He’s become so cruel and irrational that I’m resigned to the fact that unless the holiday falls on my visitaion week, I will not get to see my son. So we celebrate when and where we can. We make a celebration about of “normal” days, and that makes them special.
Anna Gall said:
I can relate to your life story … I, too recently remarried (7/2/10) after a long 1st marriage and 5 years between marriages. I have a wonderful 2nd chance in life with my best friend, confidante, and lover. Though holidays and family events are complicated with 6 grown children between us (3 his and 3 mine). Thus far, the only time we had them all together was at our wedding reception held the day after our private garden ceremony in pictureque Hermann, Missouri. My new husband is from Kansas City, and I from St. Louis. We met through his family member, my friend. After dating for awhile, he took a transfer over to the “east side” of Missouri. Our lives are full with our jobs, activities, and new marriage. Though family is important to both of us. Sometime all our children will be together again. But until then, we cherish every moment we have with each.
By-the-way, how do you like Richmond? Please let me know. I am tempted to apply for a position there, as it would be a substantial pay raise and a new life for my husband and I. But again family would be 1,000 miles away …
There’s no reason a major holiday has to be celebrated on a specific day. Just make it a season, and have family come and go throughout the season. It makes it easier on everybody.
As a newlywed wife, we are dealing with this in our own way. (The subject of a soon-to-be post.) Our families live fairly close, but there’s so many places we try and go all in one holiday season. It’s crazy sometimes but we like to see everyone, even if it means we’re on the road a lot. This year though, is our first married Christmas, so we’re going to try hard to find time for just us, as well!
Can’t recall how I stumbled in here but I read the post and I feel for you, not least because you express yourself so compellingly. And the post by your husband is an absolute tear-jerker! Lucky two of you!
Well, I don’t have to deal with second families but rather with divisions created by marriages (i.e., the desire of each spouse to “home back” to his/her own parental fold) and by immediate family members who, for whatever reason, prefer to maximize school vacations out of town. Last year, faced with a particularly unhappy-making version of this new normal, I suddenly realized that everyone who was unavailable or torn or less-than-intensely-interested was an ADULT, and, as such, had to be aware that this feast it is not really about the Thursday itself but rather about the gathering of tribal members. So I came up with the idea of a pre-Thanksgiving.
Lo and behold, scheduling problems suddenly disappeared. *Everyone* was available to attend. This little trick addressed all my challenges. It let me cook, allowed my mother to have all her kids and grandkids around her, kept me from pushing or pulling anyone, and eliminated sacrifices (other than that of the bird itself, which, we were told had had a good life and a good death). Afterward, all who attended told me that it felt like “real” Thanksgiving. Everyone felt fully taken care of, Thanksgiving-wise.
An added benefit for me: having already enjoyed my “real” Thanksgiving, the day-of activity could now be anything, as far as I was concerned: involving friends, strangers, my family or my sig other’s family, or nobody but me — at our place or someone else’s, or at a restaurant. No option seemed “less than.” Very freeing!
Plus, and this was unexpected, with my own feast out of the way, I felt very holiday-ish — a feeling that was extended and enhanced by the general atmosphere that pervaded farmers markets and grocery stores. For the first time in my life, I went grocery-shopping a couple of days prior to Thanksgiving with zero stress. What a boon. And I was eating holiday-appropriate leftovers the whole pre-holiday week. I found I liked that even better than eating them afterward.
In short, I highly recommend pre-Thanksgiving to all who are blessed enough to have a roof over their heads, the ability to cook a Thanksgiving feast, and people with whom to share it. Your family members may also, as mine did, greatly appreciate the alternate date.
p.s. this year — tonight in fact — we are doing a pre-Thanksgiving in a restaurant. As last year, thanks to the date, everyone can come. But unlike last year, though I would have hosted again, since my mother is recuperating from major surgery, she can’t negotiate the stairs (it’s a lot of stairs). My day-of feast will be at another restaurant, with my sig other’s family, because of his mom’s failing health. I do feel a little sad about not cooking for others or enjoying home cooking, so I take real comfort from wise advice offered by others on this thread.
Megan Madill said:
I think this sort of situation is becoming more and more common these days. I’m from the UK so the geographical barrier isn’t quite as severe: but to be honest, I don’t know if it makes that much of a difference if it’s 50 miles or 500 miles. My family is very complicated – although I’m sure most families are these days. My mum has two divorces behind her, and kids from two different fathers (my older brother and I share a dad; the younger one is a ‘half’ brother, much as I hate to put it that way). We tend to spend Christmas with her (no such thing as Thanksgiving on our side of the pond!), but the wee one always spends the morning with one parent and the afternoon with the next. That, of course, complicates things for the whole family.
His two parents live in different towns within 20 minutes’ drive of each other; both sides of my family, aside from Mum, live an hour away in capital Edinburgh. We can’t ever host Christmas dinner because my aunt has to see her in-laws every Christmas and they refuse to travel. I know she feels guilty for ‘alienating’ us from the rest of the family; especially since I cried when she told me over Skype the other day that we are not invited to the Christmas dinner this year. There are too many of us and I guess it’s too much of a hassle. Honestly, after six months abroad in Costa Rica, I’ll just be glad to be ‘home for the holidays’ in the house we’ve lived in for ten years. I have that, at least.
I think the point at the bottom of it all is that there are a lot of things that comprise ‘home’. Sometimes it’s the physical house, sometimes it’s a familiar meal, sometimes it’s family, in a restaurant, eating Chinese food instead of turkey. But you just have to embrace the element of home that you do have, and be thankful for that above all.
My, for a non-American, I think I’m really getting the hang of this Thanksgiving idea!
Compelling post, I’m sure you can guess why it caught my eye!
I hope you have wonderful holidays, and enjoy not having to do the washing up 😉
I guess you just have to make the best of the situation. Great post.
Divorce Blogger said:
Keeping yourself busy and maintaining routines following a divorce can really help a person to recover.
Love this! Thanks for sharing & happy holidays 🙂
T Scott said:
Live and learn…nice post
Life Normal said:
Very inspirational post. Life is change. When we are able to let go of what was “before” with beauty and grace we can then step into the “now” which allows us to be present and fully in the moment. Have a wonderful holiday season.
Thrift Shopping Buzz said:
Great post. For the first time in many years I didn’t travel back to the Midwest to see family over Thanksgiving. Anyway– my Thanksgiving was absolutely wonderful!! It made me slow down and appreciate the here & now. And I saw the most beautiful sunset imagineable at the beach.
Happy Thanksgiving! I am truly thankful for all the blessings in my life. And all the fabulous people in my life. I’m looking forward to a fantastic 2012.
Having just had a major holiday without either of my parents, this post really spoke to me. It’s comforting to know you care enough to go visit your son for the holidays, even though it’s a long drive and means you have to eat out. For me, it was either go home and wrangle both parents or just go somewhere else. Unfortunately, going with a friend to her family’s Thanksgiving seemed more enticing.
xmas is bad…
my xmas place…
A wonderful post. My husband and I have family 500 miles apart, and holidays are divided. Thankfully, it was easy to divide – Thanksgiving is the bigger deal in my family, Christmas is the bigger deal in his. So my family gets us for thanksgiving, his for Christmas.
Great thoughts, brought tears to my eyes!
We appreciate the value of family in these holidays.
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I’ve been doing the split holiday thing for more than 20 years. The first few were ouchy, but it got better. My daughter and I found new ways to celebrate the holidays we were no longer sharing in the same way. That included lighting Chanukah candles instead of opening an Advent calendar or ringing bells on Solstice instead of going out together to get a Christmas tree. We attended concerts, went skating and dogsledding, made cookies, traveled miles to see the ‘other’ family, returning just in time for the child-to-other-oarent handover. It was mind-bending stuff, but really, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. And it’s on-going, even though my daughter is now 30 and married. This year was typical. She spent Thanksgiving with her husband and dad’s family in D.C. She spent Christmas with her husband and our family in Ohio. Then she headed to D.C. for the second celebration. The trick is being flexible. And hey, it works. We’ve learned that holidays are what – and when – you make them.
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