Nearly every year since I was a teenager, my family has flocked to my uncle’s house in Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving, they’ve wandered to our house for Christmas, and my aunt’s house for Easter. Since my stepfather died nearly 8 years ago, the holiday rotation has changed a bit with my sister’s house hosting Christmas and Easter, but Thanksgiving has always been at my uncle’s house. Always.
This year, that’s changing. My brother is getting married next summer and he’s decided to spend time with his future in-laws. Their schedule is Thanksgiving with his bride-to-be’s family, Christmas with us. When my uncle learned of the change in my brother’s plans, he cancelled Thanksgiving. Funny, huh? The entire family holiday apparently hinges on my brother. Not that I blame my uncle.
My brother is the closest thing he has to a son now. He lost both of his sons to illnesses. His oldest son, whose nickname was Boy, had a stroke at 3 years old and it was discovered he had a brain tumor. He was terribly sweet, calling me Sha (Cajun French for dear), he could play hide-n-seek better than anyone else, and he had table manners that earned him an award nearly every year at his school. Boy wasn’t supposed to live past his 8th birthday. He surprised the medical community and though he had the mentality of a young child, we had him until he was 22 years old. He was only 6 months older than me and I loved him like a brother.
My uncle’s second son was born a year after the burst of kids in the family (my brother and 2 cousins 15 months apart). Edward was the youngest of the group. He developed leukemia at age 2, but he never let that stop him from living life to the fullest. For 2 years, he raised hell, leading his older cousins into all kinds of trouble. He was a charmer and when we lost him, it was like all the light went out of the family. Losing Boy 10 years later was even harder.
Holidays are hard on us because of the loss of the boys and my stepfather and for a while, it looked as though we would break apart. Somehow, we’ve held on, fighting through depression and family squabbles, coming together every year like an amoeba. It’ll be strange not to have a big family gathering for Thanksgiving this year (although I’m sure my mom, sister and her family, my aunt and her family will pull together regardless), but I know we’ll be together for Christmas.
I’m very vocal about my dislike of the holidays sometimes, but I crave being with my family more than I dislike the commercialism of the next two months. They are my muse, my entertainment, my heart. The holidays are coming and I can’t wait. I look forward to the inevitable arguing, old stories being dredged up, picking on each other, and eating so much I probably won’t fit into the dress I have to wear for my brother’s wedding.
This was an intensely personal and emotional post for me and if it’s made you uncomfortable, I apologize. What is your favorite holiday in the upcoming season? Do you have large family gatherings? Have the dynamics in your family changed recently?