This morning my little family consists of just three: parents and one teenaged daughter. It feels so tiny to me, having grown up in a family of five.Later today we will have my husband's parents over for Christmas dinner. We will see my older daughter and our son in law tomorrow for Boxing Day. I've spent too many holidays separated from Alice through the challenges of joint custody. Now that she is grown it isn't quite so heartbreaking, as she can make her own choices. It makes me happy to see her creating her own family and family traditions.
Far away in Indiana are my sisters. One sister has isolated herself from our family, and I haven't seen her in over thirteen years. The other sister and family are very dear to us, but we rarely get to see each other. Our reunion at Alice and George's wedding was a highlight of last year for us.
And by marriage is George's family in Pennsylvania, and my sister in law in England. While we have never spent a single holiday together, still we reach out over time and distance to connect and share Christmas joy. It is the essential message of Christmas--despite distance, love can leap across the miles through our shared connections.
Alice's grandmother, and her stepmother both were a part of Christmases past. Though I don't see them very often now, they people my memories of Baltimore Christmases, winter in Bolton Hill, high church Episcopal midnight Mass and stollen on Christmas morning.
My parents are both gone now, and my father in law from my first marriage, too, whose friendship persisted long after the marriage was over. My husband's brother is also gone, and his great aunt for whom Margaret is named. When the holidays come we think of those years past when "those whom we love, now absent from us" were there enjoying the celebration. We miss them.
Holidays make me think about my family. We're supposed to be with family for the holidays, at least the adverts tell us so. But while some of us are rather spread out, others of us, surrounded by relatives, wish we were farther apart. For me it is the former. I am a part of a family stretched thin: from Columbia to Baltimore to Pennsylvania to Indiana to England and Ireland and to the life everlasting. Or at least to Christmases everlasting, in my heart.
The tiny threads that hold us together are not broken. And maybe the holidays make them a bit stronger.