Passing the Family Torch

 

By Marni Jameson

My views on aging are simple: I plan to put it off. As a blackbelt in denial, I have been pretty successful with this strategy, except when I haven’t been. Regardless of what I ordain, life changes strike, ready or not. Like the day I was reading the newspaper, and discovered that the only way I could read the shrinking type was to get longer arms. Or the time I was standing in line at the air-conditioned grocery store and my cotton blouse was suddenly soaked with sweat. That was around the time my primary care doctor handed me a referral for a colonoscopy.

“Are you freaking kidding me?” For the uninitiated, a colonoscopy is where you starve for a day, get a turbo cleanse by a jet propulsion laboratory, then someone you barely know goes where no man has gone before. No, thank you.

My latest unwelcome age-related awakening hit me over the holidays in a one-two punch.

As DC and I navigated our first married Christmas among our blended family of five grown children, ages 21 to 35, who live in four states, we watched the sands of time shift before our bifocaled eyes.

This season my two daughters felt they should see their dad in Colorado for the holiday. Meanwhile, DC’s son and wife, who live nearest us in Central Florida, were going to her parents.

DC’s daughter, stepson, his wife, and their two young children, who all live in Phoenix, wanted us to head their way for Christmas, which made more sense — intellectually, at least — than having them all fly our way.

Insert heavy sobs here.

“What’s wrong?” DC asked, when he saw my sad face, like a balloon with the air let out.

“I’m not ready to give up having Christmas at my house,” I said.

“It’s their turn,” he said, squeezing my hand.

That was blow number one. For the first time since I had my children, my family was not going to spend Christmas around my tree.

The second blow came with the realization that by marrying DC last February, I instantly became a grandma.

“Am not,” I told DC. “I am too young.”

“Sorry,” he said, “and no you’re not.”

Ouch.

However, the little darlings call me “Glamma,” which I admit, softens the blow.

And so, my rite-of-passage list, the one that attends getting older, grows: glasses, menopause, colonoscopies, Christmas at the kids’, grandparenthood.

Now that the season is over, and I’ve had a chance to absorb these new blows, I’ve learned my first lesson of the New Year: Just because I think I’m not old enough to be a grandmother, or wear glasses, or have a colonoscopy or hot flashes, doesn’t stop time. Life moves. You can either go lightly, with the grace of a ballerina, or stubbornly, ungainly as a goat, but go you will.

When we arrived at the kids’ house in Phoenix, the grandkids, ages 6 and 3, stormed the door. “G’Pa!” They shout to DC, which he thinks makes him sound cool, like a rapper. “Glamma!” They squeal, which melts me.

And there I was, spending Christmas Eve by someone else’s tree, while the grandkids ran around restless with excitement, and put out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, thinking how not so long ago my girls were doing the same, and trying not to feel too nostalgic, which I cannot help, as I remember holidays with my own mom, who died six months ago, and who always made Scotch shortbread this time of year, so I bake a batch in my new daughter-in-law’s kitchen, and teach her the tradition, and feel myself stepping, I hope gracefully, into a new role, which has taken me, more than anyone, by surprise, while my daughter-in-law asks for decorating advice for the home she and her husband bought a year ago, which I am honored and delighted to give, and suddenly it strikes me: I’ve passed the torch.

Ready or not.

As I try to rationalize all this, and fish around for perspective, I see how home life unfolds in chapters. From children, to newlyweds, to parents, to grandparents, we evolve. And then, in the wink of an eye, with the twist of a head, with a finger alongside the nose and a nod, time flies away like the down of a thistle, leaving you beside the next generation’s tree.

When celebrating holidays for your expanding family, keep these thoughts in mind:

  • Be realistic. Newlyweds, kids of divorced parents, new parents, and new grandparents, listen up. You cannot be in two places at once. So stop trying. Though you will likely feel pulled to please more than one household, keep guilt and stress to a minimum by accepting the reality that you cannot please everyone. When the holiday comes, celebrate the family members you are with, rather than mourn the ones absent.
  • Don’t over commit. Too often, in a desire to please everyone, you suffer. Some years ago, after spending half a holiday sitting in traffic trying to see two families, I learned it’s not worth it. Set clear limits and expectations.
  • Focus more on the present, less on the past. The best way to weather the changes that come with life is to adapt — quickly. Of course, you will reflect on past holidays, recall loved ones who are no longer around, and feel a twinge of nostalgia. However, when you find yourself dwelling on what is no longer, reframe that sadness with the positive thought of how fortunate you are to have those fond memories. Then fast focus on creating warm memories for those with you now.
  • Pass the baton. Once children come on the scene, the torch gets passed from one generation to the next. For older parents, letting go can be tough, but put the little ones first. Go to them.

Join me next week as I help my new daughter-in-law decorate her entryway and share tips on what every entryway needs.

Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of three home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at marnijameson.com.

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