On a Saturday in December, 1985, a group including myself, Mark, Keith, Alan, Joe, Julie (and possibly a few others), got together for a small Christmas celebration before those of us who were college students took our various paths toward home for the holidays. And just about every December since then, I’ve attended a holiday celebratory gathering of friends which included several of the people from that one get-together 29 years ago. The party size has varied a bit over the years, a few times being as small as the first gathering, and several times consisting of several dozen people. Usually the party has been hosted at someone’s home, with the two variables of house size and attendance always making it a bit of a gamble as to how crowded it would be…
For a number of years the party had been happening at one particular home, if for no other reason that they had the largest living room of all our friends. At the end of the party two years ago, that household had asked that we find another host, and eventually my husband and I had reserved several hotel suites until we finally picked one that seemed the best option. And it worked really well last year and we had plenty of room for the 13 people who attended.
If I’m counting correctly, we had 20 this year. Which made the suite quite a bit more crowded.
We knew that last year was going to be a bit lower than some of the biggest gatherings have been. A larger number of people were going to be out of town. And we knew this year would be more crowed. I don’t think I quite adequately projected how seven more people would fill the space.
I still had a blast.
I always have such a great time laughing, chatting, laughing, smiling, eating, laughing, reading a ghost story, laughing, listening to other people’s stories and/or songs, exchanging news, laughing, exchanging gifts, laughing some more, wishing each other well, joking, thanking each other, eating some more, laughing some more, sorting out leftovers, confirming who is going to see who again where next, finding out what people are doing on the holiday, laughing, saying our good-byes, getting in some hugging with the folks who do that, and of course, laughing.
For well more than two decades, this get-together with these friends has felt like the real Christmas to me. So much so that during those years where I went into the office the following Monday, I have to stop myself from asking co-workers if they had a good Christmas—when the actual holiday is still several days away.
I have gone through phases where I felt a little guilty about the fact that I think nothing of planning on staying home for a quiet Christmas with just my honey (and not seeing any of my relatives at all), but I get very upset if it is even suggested that I skip the Holiday Party.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t like to see my family at Christmas. But it is to say that my chosen family has a much larger place in my heart than at least some of my blood relatives.
Of course, not every relative that I don’t regularly see on Christmas falls into the latter camp. The 1200 miles physical distance to some of those relatives is a big barrier, as well.
But it isn’t the only issue. While everyone has some relatives you don’t see eye-to-eye with, sometimes it’s a lot worse than a simple difference of opinion. From personal experience I can say that when you’ve been told to your face that your significant other isn’t allowed to come to the family gathering, and you’ve been told that if you dare to even allude to your “friend” or your “gay lifestyle” that you will be thrown out, it becomes really easy to walk away.
Yeah, some of them relented 6 or 7 years later… but they only relented a little bit. And to be perfectly blunt, not a single one of them who said those things to me years ago has ever apologized.
But I digress… the annual Holiday Party this last Saturday was a blast. I feel as if I’ve already had the most fabulous Christmas ever. I am very grateful to have such a wonderful, talented, and crazy bunch of friends in my life. And I don’t tell them often enough how much I love them and feel blessed to count them as part of my chosen family.
By the time this post is scheduled to publish, I will be in the middle of a road trip to deliver Christmas presents to some family members who live about 135 miles from my place. Michael has to work all this week, but since I have the time off, I’m taking a day trip so I can do a bit of computer and other equipment upgrading for Mom, deliver presents, and at least say “Merry Christmas” in person to a few folks.
Then I’ll be back home for a quiet Christmas Eve with my hubby. We may or may not have some other plans with local friends, depending on how some things that are out of our control work out. Whatever happens will be fun.
Because Christmas has already been fabulous this year.
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