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Holiday Joy – Surviving Family Gatherings

Holiday Joy – Surviving Family Gatherings

Who doesn’t love a room filled with great food, family and friends for a day of celebration? Times that come so infrequently in real life, spending an entire day savoring one another’s company. Eating more food than any one human should be allowed, yet loving every bite.

The day begins with such great anticipation gathering the family in the car to descend on the doorstep with food in hand, children in tow. Or it’s your home and you are the one answering the door, hugging the necks of those you love.

The hugs, the laughter, the delight in one another’s company, that is, until humanity rears it’s ugly head.

Your sister-in-law has just entered the kitchen with the ingredients for the dish she is bringing. Your mother with a sideways glance states to anyone within earshot, “Some people apparently are just too busy to cook at home.” First blow of the day has landed!

What to do? Chatter, about anything light. Find a quick complement to offer your mother, a stealthy hug to sister-in-law, with a quickly whispered “no big deal”! All the while lending a helping hand in mixing up the unprepared dish, as quickly as humanly possible.

Task completed, explosion diverted, you walk into the living room where the volume is increasing. Oh dear, Crazy Uncle Joe is recounting an entirely lewd military story in front of the 9-year-old boys in the room. They have stopped what they are playing, eyes wide taking in words and events that should not be gaining residence in their yet-unscathed brain cells!

What to do? Offer a backyard rocket launch that you have prepared in advance because you know they will need distracting at some point in the day. This seems like that perfect time. Uncle Joe soon forgotten, rocket in sight.

The hugs, the laughter, the delight in one another’s company, that is, until humanity rears it’s ugly head.

The college-age and 20-somethings have gathered in the corner of the family room, torn between televised sports and idealistic arguments. They have inevitably entered the arena of politics, religion and social justice. At that age they have it all figured out. They may be arguing against each other or even arguing the same theory. But it is passionate!

What to do? Nothing. Walk out of the room. What they think today will change tomorrow and change again, the day after that. They are being exactly who they are supposed to be, idealistic dreamers. Some of what they dream will change the world in a wonderful way, the other parts will move aside to make room for life.

Then there’s the family know-it-all. I don’t know why, but there always is one. Doesn’t matter what the subject, they have the answer. Fix the toilet? They’ve got you covered. Raising your children? They have the answers. World peace? They are on that too.

What to do? Tell them thanks, sounds good, will take that under consideration. It’s really not worth the energy to prove they aren’t as smart as they think. None of us are.

Finally, you gather around the table, or multiple tables in connected rooms. Someone stands up before food is served to say grace, thanking God for this crazy, wonderful, difficult human assembly. They may not say those words out loud but you all know it to be true.

It is then that you realize you are thankful. Peeking up from the prayer you see the crazy uncle who has made you laugh. The difficult mom that worked her tail off preparing this day for the family. The wiggly little boys and hair-bowed little girls. The young idealists stroking pretend beards, holding hands with their current love interest. And the know-it-all, that if you ask will gladly help you repair your toilet, even if he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

And you love them.

So, what to do? Eat too much. Laugh, cry, hug, and end this day with great stories and wonderful memories. This is your family; these are your friends, the ones that you share life with. Together creating the memories will forever endure.


Darlene, President of The Grit and Grace Project, is crazy enough to jump in the deep end then realize she may not have a clue where she’s landed. She has spent her adult life juggling careers in the music business, been an author, a video producer, and also cared for her family … some days drowning, other days believing she’s capable of synchronized swimming.

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