This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea–that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.
I gave myself one year. I’d move to Florida and be away from my family for one year, and things would click. Best case scenario, I’d gain a year of teaching under my belt, spend weekends at the beach, eventually meet some hunk of a man, and he would insist on moving back to the great Midwest where we would raise babies near my family. Years later, in conversation, I’d casually drop mention of that great year I spent in Florida as if it was a badge of honor—like a semester at sea or a hiking expedition in India. That’s how it was supposed to happen.
But it didn’t. It surprises me today just as much as it surprised me then—watching the proverbial dreams for my adult life settle and grow where the long stretch of five states separates me from the heart of who I am—my family. I never thought I’d be that girl—the far away one whose kids don’t understand the concept of cousin sleepovers every other weekend. And yet, while sometimes I feel the throbbing pain of what I am missing—especially this time of year—I am happy.
This is home.
The first year, I jetted home come November. Spending a Thanksgiving away from Michigan and family was an oxymoron. I defined Thanksgiving by my mom’s cranberry jello—the one with the salty pretzel crust—by my sister’s pumpkin rolls and my brother’s laughter and the way the girls clean up in the kitchen when dinner’s over. And it certainly wasn’t Thanksgiving without the Doxology, sung after prayer, its harmony beautifully split into four parts with the very first “whom all blessing flow.” I couldn’t imagine it feeling like a holiday without these things.
But eventually I got married—to a man whose love for Florida runs a close second to his love for me. By the time we welcomed Lainey, it had been decided together that, for the sake of the boys and travel expenses and the importance of beginning our own family traditions, we would watch the parade from our own living room. We’d spend our Thanksgiving at the very bottom of the five-state stretch that separates me from the Novembers of my past.
That first one? I’ll be honest, it was hard. I cried when I hung up the phone with my sister, after hearing in the background all the things I missed. I wanted cousin memories for Lainey. I wanted my mom’s cherry pie. I wanted to be home.
You can mope, though, or you can take charge. And if becoming a mama gives you anything (okay, lots of things), it’s empowerment. Somewhere between my tears and my counterproductive game of imagining just what we’d be doing at that very moment had we been in Michigan, I realized I could create my own reality.
You know a fancy word for mother? Matriach. Throw “Holiday” before it, and you’re practically the Godfather. I was now the Holiday Matriarch (leave the gun, take the cannoli), and I would own it. My family’s Thanksgiving memories were no longer guaranteed by the Doxology and the jello with the pretzel crust but rather, they depended on my own efforts of creating magic.
If you don’t have family near you, find one. (Pick one up at the corner store, would ‘ya? ) While living hundreds of miles from true blood family has its obstacles, it comes with the blessing of recognizing and appreciating friends who become family—not to mention, the challenge of going the extra mile to make meaningful traditions for your kids.
Enter Matt and Dede, separated from us by merely a street width. They started as neighbors, grew into acquaintances, graduated to good friends and now, five Thanksgiving breakfast traditions and countless good times under our belts…they are family. Holiday Matriarch sees to it that we take advantage of that, especially during the holidays.
Next Thursday, we’ll slip out of bed, skipping coffee and showers and heading straight across the street for breakfast. We’ll comment on each others’ pajamas (we go for festive) and confusingly recall just how many years now we’ve been doing this. There will be bacon and blueberry pancakes and a lavish table spread with pretty dishes. And my kids will be hugged and kissed and pampered by Uncle Matt, Aunt Dede and Cousin Alec, who lets Lainey boss him around and never complains.
Later, we’ll head home where dinner preparations will commence and every so often, I’ll look at my kids—taking it all in—and I’ll wonder just how they’ll remember this. I will call home and smile as my brother recounts the Michigan scene, and I will wish for a moment we were there. When I feel sad, I will also feel empowered—to do something about it. Create your own reality. Mom’s cherry pie. The good dishes. Place cards with hand-written names. A beautiful grace before dinner. Toasts with kid wine. Toasts with real wine.
This is home, and I am the Holiday Matriarch.
My friend Elizabeth e-mailed me something tonight—just as I was finishing this post—and it seems profoundly fitting:
“Quality of Life…it’s what we all are working on, right? Every day. It’s all about bucket lists, too, although we call it being intentional.”
And I guess if I had to choose something out of all of this to get cross-stitched on a pillow it would be just that. Whether you have family close by or far away, whether you’re blessed with children or not, whether the coming holidays bring you joy or uneasiness, you can create your own reality by being intentional. Invest time in friends, create new traditions, make efforts to carve memories your children won’t soon forget. And though it might not be a semester at sea or a hiking expedition in India, being intentional will most definitely be a badge of honor, the most notable one for sure.
How will you make your holidays intentional this year? Hallmark and I would love to know how you embrace your title of Holiday Matriarch (or patriarch–ha!). Any meaningful traditions or stories? Please share!