December 4, 2012
One of the Grand Dames of the family holidays is behind us, and the other (far bigger for many families) looms large before us. How are you doing so far?
Christmas, or Chanukkah, or whatever you celebrate at this glorious time of the year, is practically upon us. These high holidays often involve extended periods of togetherness with those whom we’ve known all our lives. They rest at the pinnacle of our year. They can also spell disaster, as most of you probably already without my telling you here.
I wrote a book about the remarkable phenomenon of family behavior during times of togetherness – holidays, reunions, weddings, funerals and the like. It was published last year, and I’m thankful to say that it was a pretty popular read. I believe the appeal of the book can be attributed mostly to the subject matter, although my ego would like to say the success can be attributed to my wit and prose. Truth is, people just get family humor, because most of us can relate to it. We all get the profound love we have for family, and we all get how utterly exasperating our families can be when we spend a little too much time with them.
I asked a respected Gwinnett family counselor why that is – why we can simultaneously love our families and allow them to drive us to the brink of insanity – all in the name of togetherness and all in the same day. He answered me with an observation so simple that I thought it was profound. He said that when we come together periodically with our siblings and parents, even years after making our own homes populated with our own children, we revert back to our childhood roles almost instantaneously. Old rivalries and salted wounds crop up as if the years between then and now never happened; in other words, our parents still want to parent us, and we go right back to playing our early roles that we played dozens of years earlier with our siblings.
Throw a little alcohol on the whole mess (as many families will do during the holidays) and what you have on your hands is a pressure cooker full of agent orange. Given enough time it’s going to explode, and it’s not going to be pretty.
I’m happy to say that our family’s Thanksgiving this year was lovely, quiet and relaxed. Things were not always so. From longstanding family arguments to burning cars, to lampshade-wearing aunts, to nearly canceling the entire day years ago because my mother-in-law failed to make a pumpkin pie (bless her heart, her husband was a stickler), our family has our stories to tell, believe me. But now that our children are all grown and we’ve matured past the “everything has to be perfect or else” mentality, the big days are much more low key. We appreciate the people more than we do the trappings. We treasure the time.
I have to wonder though, what kind of damage are we unknowingly doing to our children’s future holidays? Does any family completely escape the inevitable end-of-the-year escapades, those that will be told and re-told for decades to come? I doubt it.
I hope, as we steam headfirst into December, that your month is filled with joy and happiness. I hope that health, warmth and kindness to your fellow man are what mark this magical time of the year.
And I hope your holidays are filled with family – but not too much.
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of two books: “Southern Fried White Trash” and her newest, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear” (released October 2012). She is also a regular weekly guest on FOX News Radio station WYXC 1270 AM on Wednesdays during the Live Drive at 5. Townsend has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 Television News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. She currently travels throughout the southeast, meeting readers at book signings and speaking publicly at various events.