Last month when Halloween itself was just a few weeks away, I entered a department store searching for an outfit for my husband for our family photos. As I walked in, I heard a song that is a familiar one for my Christmas-loving heart. Once I got past the initial shock of hearing holiday music for the first time in the year, I really listened to the lyrics and started to tear up.
“For I’ve grown a little leaner
Grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder
Grown a little older
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now.”
Whoa. It hit me hard. While I definitely couldn’t connect to the growing a little leaner part (thanks, quarantine life), I connected to all the rest of it and I realized that this year has been a tough and heartbreaking one and what I need right now isn’t going to happen and it made me so, so sad. I need celebration, I need gatherings, I need my extended family, I need the holidays.
I am the family hostess with nothing to host, and I don’t know how to deal with it.
Ten years ago when my firstborn was just three months old, I foolishly volunteered to host my extended family’s Thanksgiving. To this day, I still can’t believe I did it. My beautiful Grandma who was 80 at the time had officially hung up her hat on hosting, and rightfully so. She was a mother to ten kids and a grandmother and great-grandmother to many, many more. She deserved a break…she also deserves consideration for sainthood, but that’s another post. So after some back and forth with family members, I decided to host my family that Thanksgiving.
That year, I locked the animals up in a room, dressed my baby in her finest “First Thanksgiving” threads, and opened (and stuffed) over thirty-five family members into my small split-level home for our Thanksgiving Day feast. It was loud, it was hectic, there were many spills and a ton of dishes, but at the end of the night I was so happy, full, and over the moon that I had pulled it off. I had hosted my first family holiday, and everyone seemed to have actually enjoyed themselves. Thus started my run as the non-official/official family hostess for holidays with my large Irish family.
Over the last ten years, I’ve hosted every Thanksgiving, many Christmas Eves and Easters, a couple of 4th of Julys, and other gatherings. I’ve got this! It doesn’t stress me out at all. I know for the most part who I can rely on to bring what, I know who will be early, who will be late, who will help with clean-up, and I know that Grandma will always bring black olives because she knows I’d never willingly purchase those nasty things to have them just sitting around.
I feel like I have hosting my family down to an art. I love it. I thrive off of it.
But now we are in the middle of a pandemic, and we won’t be gathering.
This year, I won’t be descending to the basement to bring up folding chairs, purchasing tablecloths that the kids can color on, or scrubbing the heck out of my house giving Mr. Clean a run for his money…although my home could totally use it. Instead, I’ll be googling turkey roasting instructions, most likely reaching out to Butterball for help, and calling my Aunty Kathy for the dressing recipe.
It won’t be the same.
I will miss the laughter and connection. I will miss having my cousins over for our annual mashed potato night the evening before Thanksgiving where we assemble large pans of the best mashed potatoes around. I will miss the out-of-town family walking into my home to a warm reception. I will miss sitting on the floor of the family room passing around the Black Friday ads with my aunts and looking for the best deals. I will miss the sarcasticness of my family as many of us label our red solo cups with our names and some sort of reference to being Grandma’s favorite.
Over the last five years, our family has suffered some great losses after losing my mom and my uncle a few years later. This year, we lost my Grandma’s sister, my great-aunt Mary. She passed away at the age of 102. Mary was here at my home almost every Thanksgiving, sitting at the table with her sister, drinking a Boulevard Wheat and celebrating the holiday with all of us. Losing her this year is just another reminder to all of us just how important gathering together as a family is. It can never be taken for granted, and I hope after this year, it won’t ever be again.
So yeah, I’m sad.
But I know that I’m not alone. I know that we are all in the same boat. I am sure that I will still do everything in my power to make it a fun, magical, memorable, and beautiful holiday season, but it’s still going to suck.
I pray for things to get better quickly, I look forward to the day when we can gather again, even if an Aunt spills wine on the floor. I look forward to the day that I can hug my Grandma, whip up some mashed potatoes, and put on my hostess hat. I have a feeling that after this pandemic is through we’ll find a lot of excuses for celebration.
I better start cleaning my house.