Fair is fair, and since Justin got to experience the full-blown Wyatt family Christmas over the weekend, it was my turn to learn about all the traditions observed by his family on Christmas Eve and Christmas. I probably ended up spending more time with his family in the past two days than I have in the past three years, and I really enjoyed seeing how close he is with them. It is a challenging, but special thing to become part of a new family, and I was happy to have this bonding time with the whole clan.
On Christmas Eve, we traveled north to Milwaukee (we're really
getting around this season!), to have dinner at Justin's cousins' house.
I could relate to his cousins' Italian heritage, and was happy to see
minestrone soup on the menu. Apparently, it's a family tradition, and a
highly beloved dish. I can't blame them; it was excellent! Though we
were seated at the "kids'" table in a separate room from Justin's
parents' generation, I appreciated the casual vibe created by being
among people our own age. Justin's cousins were very welcoming and
convivial. In fact, I enjoyed them so much that I was a little sad that I
will only get to see them once a year.
we gathered around the piano to sing Christmas carols, led by his
great-aunt on piano. It was almost like something out of a greeting
card, but it was nevertheless fun to learn about one of his family
traditions. It's a good thing I love my Christmas music so much, as I
was able to sing-along without any problem, and largely without having
to rely on the lyric print-outs.
Justin was a little
sad that we missed out on his father's annual Christmas Eve reading of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," but it was already very late by the
time we made it back from Milwaukee, and we needed to be back early the
next morning to have brunch and open gifts. I felt like a mean
girlfriend for insisting that we go home, but both of us are grumpy when
we haven't had enough sleep, so it seemed like the best decision in the
We were back bright and early the next
morning bearing bagels and gifts (one of the perks of living close to a
predominately Jewish neighborhood is that the 24-hour bagel shop is also
open on Christmas, meaning that you can satiate any bagel craving you
might have, at any time). Justin's sister, Cathie, needed to head back
to Ohio to spend the afternoon with her boyfriend's family for the
holiday, so we opened gifts and ate breakfast in relatively short order.
Justin's parents generously gave us a Nest, a fancy Internet-enabled
"smart" thermostat that Justin has had his eye on for some time. Over
time, the Nest learns your habits and will program itself to operate
with maximum energy efficiency, resulting in a savings on your heating
bill. Plus, you can install an app on your smartphone that enables you
to change the temperature in your house remotely, so you can have the
house warmed or cooled to your desired temperature before you get home
for the day. Pretty cool stuff!
I was charmed to discover that Justin's mom still does stockings for the family as well; I can't remember the last time we did stockings in our house. In fact, it was an entirely different experience having Christmas with just his immediate family. Since we've been going down to White Hall for as long as I can remember, my parents and I never really developed that many holiday traditions within our nuclear family. Sometimes we opened gifts on Christmas Eve, sometimes we did it on Christmas morning. Sometimes we were out of town and did it when we got back. There were never any specific foods that Mom made, instead we always ate whatever Grandma felt like making that year. I'm not saying that either system is inherently better, just different.
I'm glad that we were able to reach a holiday compromise this year where everybody ended up with what was most important to them. Both of us got to spend time with our respective families, and we got to spend time together. It will take time to become fully integrated in each other's family lives, and I am not sure yet how we will divide our time come next Christmas. Still, I'm proud of us for negotiating our way through this holiday season, and I'm looking forward to having the opportunity to do it all again next year.