Will You Be Home For Christmas?

Martha Williamson asks: Will you be home for Christmas?One of our family’s favorite movies are actually TWO movies, Father of the Bride One and Two starring Steve Martin.  There’s a scene in the second film that never fails to choke me up – Steve Martin is playing one last game of one-on-one in the backyard with his all grown-up and married daughter before he hands over the keys to the family home to its new owner.  Every time he looks at his twenty-five year old daughter tossing the basketball, he sees the child she was.  The toddler, the ten year old, the teen-ager in braces.  It is a beautifully heartbreaking way to show us how many memories he is leaving behind in this house and how much his daughter will always be his little girl, no matter how old she gets. 

I thought of that scene the other day when I heard a friend of mine bemoan the fact that her family was getting together again for Christmas  and that every time they spend a holiday together, they all treat her as if she’s still a kid.  Doesn’t it seem that as much as we may love hearing the song “I’ll be Home For Christmas,” sometime actually BEING home for Christmas can be far less than harmonious? 

It’s not always easy spending a week or so with the people who know you best and somehow at the same time know you least.  Christmas at home with the family can be wonderful or awful or both.  So often it’s the time that secrets get told and surprises get announced and old frustrations get vented, not to mention the pressures of travel, too much food and not enough sleep on the pull out couch or the blow-up mattress. 

In one relative’s house, I know I’m expected to help with the dishes.  In another, I’m not supposed to touch anything in the kitchen.  Ever. Actually, that rule may have been created after I left the carrots in her pressure cooker too long one year. Boom. Now, I know that whenever we get together, my sisters will always have something to say about my hair or my clothes that will make me crazy and feel like I’m still the baby of the family.  And I know that by the end of the night we three will be singing three part harmony to every Christmas carol we know and feeling like we should be getting together and doing this more often!

So, whether you’re coming home from college or taking the family to grandmother’s house or if you’re the only single person at your sister and brother-in-laws condo, here are a few thoughts to prepare you for a family Christmas.  Genuinely pray for a good time before you go.  And expect to have one. 

Remember, it really isn’t the gift that counts. It’s being there. And I’ve found that a handwritten note and a photo from the old days that brings back a happy memory or two is worth a dozen “store-bought” presents. “What can I do to help?” is a great question to ask every couple of hours.  Looking at old family photos will remind you that we were ALL kids once and still being seen as a youngster isn’t always such a bad thing.  And, when all else fails, see if anyone is up for a game of Scrabble.  Or maybe a little one-on-one. 

And Merry Christmas!