The challenges of Christmas caught me off guard this month.
A little background:
My maternal grandmother loves Christmas. She has 6 children (including my own mother). They are all married (except for my mother). That makes 11 adult children. They all have their own children, totalling 17 (including me). That’s 28 people “in the family”. Me and my cousins have started having our own families. Some of us are married, some of us are not.
As long as I can remember, this part of my family has had a tradition for gift giving at Christmas. Since we are so many, we put everyone’s name in a hat, then everyone draws one name. That’s the only person for whom we’re expected to get a gift. Of course there’s other gifts that go on, but this drawn name gift is a minimum. Then, on Christmas day, we all pack into Grandma’s living room (which is quite a feat) and open presents one person at a time. Everyone watches.
Last year, my husband and I got pregnant in May. We let our families know in August. We weren’t married yet. In September, they drew the names for Christmas. One of my aunt’s did the drawing at her house, without the rest of the family. I received a picture message with the list and a text of, “Let me know if anyone is missing!”
I recognized my (not yet) husband’s name was missing. So, I thought, “Oops, no big deal, fixable.” I sent my aunt a response on the group message, “Oh, you forgot my fella.”
I didn’t get any response back until hours later. My mom called me. She started by stressing that the following were my grandma’s wishes, not her own. My (not yet) husband was not allowed to be in the gift drawing, but she really, really wanted him to come to Christmas, she really likes him.
What. The. Hell. We are having a baby together. We are in love. He is invited to Christmas, but he is not allowed in the draw? We have a child together. Are we seriously not freaking family? And then you expect him to sit there, a smile, and enjoy the get together. Thank you for inviting me to a party where I don’t get to participate?
I was deeply offended. My grandma and mother are so Catholic that I got sent to Catholic school for 9 years. It was a major value I was taught: love thy neighbor; be inclusive. They make such a big deal about how displeased they are that I don’t attend church, yet, when I grow my love and family, they don’t seem to accept him. Perhaps I was expecting too much of them. They are sinply too dogmatic. Having a child together is not enough to become a family. Certainly, we must be married.
We did get married before our daughter was born. We even got married before Christmas. There was a prompt message that went out letting everyone know that my husband was “Now in the Christmas draw.”
How nice. My husband was so hurt by this whole exclusion that he said to me, “It’s ok. I really don’t want to participate in the draw. I’ll just get gifts for everyone I want to get gifts for and be happy with that. I don’t need to get any gifts.” I super love this man.
Since it was our first Christmas together, and I was drunk on happy pregnancy hormones, I swallowed my morals and had us participate in the drawing and gift exchange.
I wish we hadn’t. We made it to my husband’s paternal family’s event, earlier than the rest of the family because that event and my family’s event were scheduled to happen at the same time. We rushed our way through a delicious lunch and hauled ass out to my grandma’s thinking we were going to be late. We had asked my mom what time to be at my grandma’s. We were told 2:00.
We arrived at 2:30. When we got there, my grandma and the aunts and cousins that were staying with her were just getting ready; hadn’t even showed. We ended up sitting for an hour watching TV. My mom didn’t show up until 4. The big gift exchange took 3 hours. My husband and I were the only adults not drinking. One of my cousins swore she was just having allergies and 3 days later called to let me know she actually had gone to the doctor and found out she had the flu. I caught that flu. We didn’t even get to visit with my husband’s maternal family.
We felt really disrespected. We made it through and put it out of our minds. Our daughter was due to be born in just a couple short months.
The story continues tomorrow.