Sunday, November 25, 2007

Family dysfunction killed the holiday roadshow

The gas prices should be enough to deter us from driving across three states. The feeling of my daughter's feet pounding the back of my seat with her snow boots should keep me from the tradition. The sound of my patience slipping out the backdoor of my soul as we line up in typical Chicago traffic for over two hours just to clear the city limits...that should be enough. None of those things kept us from enduring the annual five star, five stop family road show.....Instead, it was the five stops that stopped us.

It is no secret. "Normalcy" is dysfunction. My specificity of experience is growing up in a home of early divorce, and remarriage. Until this year, I thought I had seen all of its vile by-products: Trust issues, blurred family roles, stunted ability to commit, and so on. People love to throw the statistics at you like social grenades of justification for their relationship issues. Shite, I did! "Marriage to one person is inane, it has less than 50% chance of survival" or "Look at Kurt and Goldie! That's how to do it.".

Those of us who grew up in homes of early divorce look at each other with knowing eyes. When the holidays roll around we say things like: "Whose house is hosting?" or "Are you baring the elements of multi-family gatherings?" We nod in recognition, and hand over the glass of wine. The one thing (lack of thing) I noticed was that fewer people were making the trip. This year, more of us put the proverbial foot down and said: "We are staying home.".

Think about this. It is nearly impossible to please every one with all the factors, and multiple destinations. Let's use our example. My husband is adopted, and in touch with his birth family, and his parents divorced and remarried. Right there....we got 3 "moms" . Add my mother and step-mother and there are 2 more. His father lives out west, and my late father's wife lives out of state. IF you followed ANY of that, you are sorely in the same spot as us. Leaving several people upset with you this year for not making the trip. Even worse, when you do make the trip the inevitable complaint comes out: "I wish we saw you guys more." What?!

Let's further do the math. If we want to see 5 sets of people twice a year, that is 10 weekends. There are 12 months a year, so that makes it more than every other month we are either entertaining or traveling. Short, condensed, forced family togetherness. I'm not as jaded as I sound, just explaining the facts alone sounds exhausting, imagine living it? Wait. You it. Everyone does, unless you are part of the 1% of of us that live with Sally Fields-like matriarchs or have the "Dan-in-real-life" reality. Right. You are like us.

Well, my thoughts on this.....too bad. Times have changed, marriage has changed. If there was ONE central location ( like a grandma's house) that we could trek to and see everyone, we'd be more than willing to deal with the pain and suffering all at once. Maybe we could rent a huge ski lodge/cabin. Keep the different "groups" in different wings. They could avoid each other so as not to have any awkward moments. We could arrange the meetings like speed-dating. Or isn't that what family holidays are about?

Family dysfunction killed the holiday roadshow. You know what? I'm not complaining. Yes, Id love to have a knock-em-out holiday where family was a union of cheers and laughter. Yes, Id love to feel like everyone got to see their granddaughter, niece...children. Yes, Id love to fit into some ideal we all hold of family holidays, but truth be told: I'm a little excited that we finally have a good and debatable reason to skip the trip....

You got divorced.

( nervous smile) Tee hee.

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