A good friend described her family this year as “discombobulated.” The grown children recognized last year that things had changed with their parents: they were no longer capable of hosting the big Christmas dinner that was the anchor of family tradition. One sister insisted on hosting it in her house, but it was too small. A sister-in-law wanted everyone to come to their home, but they live too far away. No one wanted a restaurant, and besides all the favorites are closed. The single brother said he wasn’t coming if there wasn’t a dinner. What to do?
Their dilemma is repeated in thousands of families every year. Life rarely goes on year after year with no changes. Babies arrive, to everyone’s delight, but they howl just as dinner is served. Little kids turn into balky teenagers and new in-laws appear, some more likable than others. Some people grow up and step up to new responsibilities, while others just get set in their ways. At every turn of life, aging is absolutely certain, but it nevertheless catches us by surprise.
We are sure of this point: those who are flexible in their thinking and adapt easily are generally happier than those who don’t.
In the case of this family, the daughter and son-in-law with the most time agreed to arrive a couple days ahead and make the house ready, and everyone else agreed to bring a part of the meal. The brother from downstate was assigned to bring the rolls and the wine (brands and types specified, to leave nothing to chance). Mom and Dad will have the pleasure of hosting the event as usual, except that they won’t have to remember to change beds and shovel the walk.
Will this arrangement last for many years? No one can say. For now, it satisfies the need to engage in old traditions while adapting to new conditions. Certainly in future years, things will require change again, but by then everyone will have more time to adjust their thinking.
Oh – and the brother is bringing a date! What does that portend???