Between the families of my dad, my mom and my step-dad, there are enough relatives to make even the sanest person lose their minds during the holiday season (and to begin with, I am not “the sanest person”).
First of all, there is the logistics issue. How on Earth are you supposed to attend THREE (or more) celebrations!? And don’t you even dare mention to one of them that you won’t make it, because you will pay for it every day until the next Christmas (believe me!).
So you devise a pretty clever plan, and know exactly how long you get to stay at each place. But then wonderful cousin Alfie arrived late, because he also happened to be with his girlfriend of one week’s family, so celebration #1 goes on for longer. Now you are late for the second one! You quickly excuse yourself, even though your grandma is giving you that guilty look (I might not be here next Christmas, but fine, leave… I will be okay… hopefully… if this little mole turns out to be benign… but who knows…). Yes, these words are all there, in that one look.
You finally arrive to celebration #2, which has started without you. They are already halfway through the gift pile. Suddenly, there is a gift for you. “Oh, auntie Muriel, I love this knitted sweater! I had always wanted a 3-sizes-bigger sweater with a weird-looking reindeer! How did you know!?” Oh, there is another present, this time from your “funny” cousin Gil. For some reason, he thought it would be hilarious to give you what you can only assume is something taken from Christian Grey’s Red Room of Pain. Suddenly, your old aunty exclaims “oh, what an interesting spatula” and the whole room falls silent. You pray that the ground swallows you whole. But thankfully, now it’s time to go to celebration #3. By now, you are exhausted and have answered a million times “I don’t know, possibly next year” when asked when exactly is your next child going to be conceived (I was lucky I never got asked the “You are (insert age here) and still single!!!?). Of course you are forced to eat yet another meal, because the second you imply that you are actually full, they give you the death stare and exclaim, loud enough for everyone to hear: “We slaved in the kitchen since 5am for you to reject our food!?” and everyone just shakes their heads at you. You are forced to smile and say thank you for the 500th time when you receive a bag of candy from that great-uncle, who by the way, insists that your resolution for next year should definitely be to lose some weight. You nearly snap back: “SERIOUSLY!!?? I HAVE BEEN FORCED TO EAT AT LEAST THREE ADULT PIGS AND YOU EXPECT ME TO LOOK SKINNY!!!” but all you do is nod politely and smile.
After all that, you get to go back home, and relish in the thought that you won’t have to endure this again for another 364 days. You have survived three sets of relatives and came back in one piece (nearly) and that is something to be proud of! I am now a master at this art of family gatherings, as every single year since I was little I have divided my time amongst all three families, but it has taken years of experience. My best strategy? nod. Nod and smile as much as you can. People get confused as to why their comments aren’t getting the expected reaction, and that way maybe they’ll shift their focus away from you and towards that little cousin who (shock horror!) decided to dye her hair blue and magenta the other day.
This year, however, I am at a complete loss. You see, my in-laws are coming from New Zealand and spending Christmas with my whole family, and I am pretty much sure that it will be an exact replica of “Meet The Fockers” (yep, my family are the Fockers for sure!). I can only pray that “funny” cousin Gil doesn’t gift me “spatula” this year…
Any advice is extremely appreciated!