The peanut butter in a peanut butter sandwich. The Midwestern plain states of this great country. The moderate among extremists. A woman with a mother and a few young children, right smack-dab between two generations. The middle is a sticky place to be.
I am lucky enough to be the daughter of a relatively young, healthy, energetic mother who only depends on me for occasional conversation, visits with her grandchildren, and unwavering daughterly love. She is the beautiful and gracious hostess of a lovely Christmas Eve dinner that I have been a part of for twenty-eight years.
This family tradition is a high point of the season: She assembles an interesting crowd of friends, family, and clergy, and makes her dining room absolutely sparkle. There are always complex hors d'oeuvres, delicate bowls of oyster stew, delicious pasta, good wine, and sumptuous dessert. It is eaten by candle light and served at eight o'clock. As a girl, I always enjoyed wearing a new Christmas dress and delighting in the buzz around me. As an adult, I still enjoy dressing up and indulging in festive food and conversation at my parents' home.
As a mother, well, as a mother I find myself secretly wanting to create a new tradition for my young boys. With a three-year-old and an eleven-month-old, I have a new and exciting take on Christmas Eve magic. I'd like it to happen in our home. I'd like it to begin long before bedtime. I'd like it to involve finger foods, classic stories, the hanging of stockings, and anything else that might be impromptu and fun.
I am in the middle of wanting to please my mother and enjoy her event and creating a new family tradition with my children and husband. Two weeks until Christmas and I'm stuck in the middle...stretching, squirming, second guessing.I am not sure what to do.
I suppose every new parent trying to navigate traditions, new and old, finds themselves in this state. In the middle of a significant other and your extended family, in the middle of your children and your parents, in the middle of sheer excitement and utter dread. Things of this nature like to heat up during this time of year. It's a significant place to land because these middles can turn into monumental moments in the history of your family. Of course, we want to avoid heated exchanges and hurt feelings. Instead we fervently hope for the bright side...opportunities for broadened understanding and positive conflict resolution that result in heaps of good cheer and perhaps a new family tradition.
If you find yourself a fellow middle-dweller during this holiday season, I offer you tranquility and thick skin. Personally, I am stalling and have yet to climb out the other side of this deep core of predicament and I have no advice to give.
Except for maybe this: You know the boxes of Russell Stover candies, Frango mints, and Godiva chocolates that get passed around at the office and re-gifted over and over again during this time of year? You never know what you'll find at the center of these little pieces of heaven, but you know it's bound to be good. So go ahead, find a box and lock yourself in a happy, solitary place for ten or twenty or sixty minutes. Leave your lists, leave your guilt, leave your loyalties at the door. You may find some solace. You may find your center. At least it's a middle in which you'll be happy to dwell.