[guest post] christmas time shifts

I can’t pinpoint exactly how long I have been following Sweeney around the interwebs but I knew I first started reading her personal blog SweeneySays before I started reading Snark Squad, which happened somewhere towards you guys covering the end of the first Fifty Shades of Grey book. I love both blogs and while I understand why you don’t have as much time for your personal blog with the busy schedule you guys keep over on Snark Squad, I’m always happy to read some other posts of yours. And I’ve been especially happy to have hung out with your real life self in Paris this year!

To me, Christmas means home. It’s the annual promise of family and nostalgia. For one day of the year, time goes a little haywire and my family is back together, behaving in about the same way we have always behaved on this one magical day.

My lovely, ridiculous family is incredibly close but also sadly quite scattered.

Right now I am in a new apartment, in a new city, in a new time zone. In less than a decade I have lived in about a dozen places (depending on how we’re counting) in half a dozen cities. In only half of those places did I ever so much as share a time zone with another member of my family.

My siblings have been bouncing around in about the same way. Who had to travel the farthest to get back changes from one year to the next. Still, each year, we all make our separate treks through airport security – or, you know, downstairs during those times when you happen to be the kid(s) at home – and migrate back to the nest.

Back to the nest with our giant Christmas trees. For most of my childhood, we always had trees upwards of 14 feet. One year we got green stains on the ceiling with our 18 foot tree that bent a little at the top. We didn’t paint over it until we sold the house.

Growing up, our parents took us through their version of the migration ritual. For all of the ten years we lived in LA, we always made it back to the midwest for the holidays. We saw my dad’s family in Madison. My mom’s in Chicago. My parents got to make sure their California-grown children knew what snow felt like.

When we left LA for good I remember feeling as though a decade of family vacations were somehow tainted. We flew to the midwest for the holidays. It was built for magic and snow, not school and routine.

In the last few years, the old routine has faded out. After my grandpa died, my dad’s brothers got together a little less often. The older my siblings and I get, the less time everyone has to spare. Slowly, without anyone even noticing, the center shifted. The annual holiday pull drew us less and less to my parents’ parents; it became more and more about our individual little family unit.

I haven’t seen much of Chicago at Christmas in the last few years. I can see it clearly in my mind’s eye, one of my favorite sights, but it’s no longer where the holiday lives for me.

This year is the first time I’ve really taken notice – the first time I have become aware that it’s my own parents’ house I’m going back to. I won’t see my grandparents’ apartment this Christmas. I’m aware of it all the more acutely as I feel things starting to settle. My older brother is now engaged. I am finally in a place where I am likely to stay a while.

Life keeps happening. Things change.

And yet, I know that very soon I will be on a plane. I will once again arrive at the airport and pile into the car with my loud, crazy family. We will go home and decorate the tree. We’ll laugh at horrifying art project ornaments, wondering who is responsible for the most nightmare-inducing of the lot. We’ll fight over who gets to hang the fanciest ornaments. Inevitably, we will throw tinsel at each other, but it will be OK because my mom will have purchased a few boxes more than we need for just that reason.

We’ll go to sleep and we’ll wake up to a familiar, annual routine and it will be, as always, one of my favorite days of the year. Once a year we will make messes like children and settle into the bedrooms my parents have left largely in tact.

At least, of course, until our center shifts again, possibly as slowly and imperceptibly as it always has. Wherever it ends up, though, we’ll all find our way there.

Thank you so much for taking the time and writing this for my blog. I have to say, this made me a bit jealous of your loud, big and crazy family. But that often happens when I see you guys interacting on Facebook or read about it on your blog. You all have gotten some kind of nomadic gene, I’m sure of it.

Anyway, I wish you the best of luck for your new job, in the new city in a new time zone. 

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  • AWW THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SWEETNESS AT THE BEGINNING AND END. I’m also super glad our life faces got to hang out *and* I got to be there as you saw Paris for the first time, so all-around win.

    Thank you for thinking of me for this project. <3

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      It was my pleasure! And I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Paris than that day! It was amazing!

  • Our Christmases have changed too in our family. We no longer live in the same house we did and we don’t always make it out to our extended family in Indiana the way we used to because now we have jobs that make us work sometimes through the holidays and people are getting married and having babies and needing to visit in-laws too. It’s been an adjustment, but we’re making it work. Just because it’s different it doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful

    • Wilhelmina Upton

      Personally, I think it’s good, natural and necessary that Christmases change. First, we as people change so much that it would be weird if the way we celebrate things wouldn’t change as well.

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