By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
It’s hard to believe, after all of the anticipation and waiting, that Christmas has already come and gone. We’ve had such a busy few months: new baby in October, her first Thanksgiving in November, and now her first Christmas. It came and went too fast! But on Christmas night, after celebrating for two weekends in a row, I sat and reflected on these holidays versus those of the past few years. It is amazing the difference of a few years….and a baby, apparently.
When Erikka and I got together in the summer of 2008, we didn’t expect the sh*tstorm that would occur once people started finding out – namely, MY family. By October of that year, my mother found out, and it wasn’t pretty. Needless to say, I didn’t spend any part of Christmas with her that year; I took the boys over to see her on New Year’s for a couple of hours so that they could exchange gifts. That was my first Christmas not only with Erikka, but with her wonderful family as well and the first without my boys. I was emotional, and felt like an orphan with no family, all because I was now living my own life out loud. The weekend before Christmas that year, as well as every year since, we drove to Henrietta, Texas for her family’s annual Christmas family reunion. I had met some of them at Thanksgiving, so it wasn’t completely new territory. We then traveled to Erikka’s parents for Christmas Eve, just she and I, where we had dinner, opened gifts, and spent the night to wait for Santa to visit. Even though they barely knew me, they welcomed me into their home and treated me like family, for which I am forever grateful. That was a hard Christmas, without my kids AND my family, so I was appreciative for being included in their Christmas traditions. The day after Christmas, we spent the day together shopping and touring the Dublin Dr. Pepper plant in Dublin, Texas – hey, it kept me and my mind occupied! I knew, even more, that Christmas that Erikka was most certainly the love of my life and the person with whom I was meant to share all of my Christmases.
By the time Christmas 2009 rolled around, we had gotten married and excitedly looked forward to the holidays, knowing that the boys would be with us that year. The weekend before, we traveled to Henrietta again, taking both boys to join in on all of the craziness, which they loved. I had arranged for a surprise for Erikka and the boys, and we drove from Henrietta to Oklahoma City to stay with one of my best friends, Burt (aka Lorrie “Hellcat”). I had gotten tickets for all of us to go see Trans-Siberian Orchestra, where we dressed nice, took pictures, had dinner out, and enjoyed a fantastic concert and light show. It was a great weekend, and I was eagerly anticipating Christmas as well. We all loaded up, including the dog, and traveled to Erikka’s parents again, and the boys really enjoyed their first Christmas at the new grandparents’ house. We had a white Christmas that year, and were snowed and iced in at the in-laws for the holiday, which was perfectly okay with everyone, I think. Once again, I didn’t spend any time with my mother over the holidays, other than taking the boys by her house for about an hour to swap gifts with her once again. I told her that I had come the year before without Erikka, even if it was only for a few hours on New Year’s, and that I wouldn’t do it again. I told her that Erikka was part of our family, and I would not leave her at home to have some kind of weird Christmas dinner with my mother because it just wasn’t right. I was shocked that she had a couple of gifts for Erikka, but she clearly acted like I wasn’t supposed to make a big deal about it.
Christmas 2010 was unusual, to say the least. We made it to Henrietta the weekend before, and I’m not sure if we had one or both boys with us. Nicholas had moved out and then come home for the better part of December, while waiting for a January move-in to an apartment with his friends. I’m not sure when it happened, or who it started with, but it was like the plague moved through our house that Christmas. The few days leading up to it brought fevers and vomiting, first to Erikka, then to Nicholas, then to Noah. I was spared from the puking, but had the fever and congestion. By Christmas Eve morning, it was clear that none of us was up to participating in any kind of family festivities, so we ultimately had to call up Erikka’s folks and cancel Christmas. As it turned out, Erikka’s dad was pretty sick himself, so it worked out. They had been planning to come to our house for Christmas last year, since we had just moved in and wanted to spend it here. We had planned to go to my mom’s for a brief gift exchange some time over Christmas weekend as well, which didn’t happen either. The boys’ dad came over on Christmas morning to see them and exchange gifts, but didn’t stay long so as not to get sick himself. With that, we re-scheduled Christmas for New Year’s weekend – it was all we could do. After spending a few more days sterilizing the house and getting all of the fevers finally gone, we planned for Erikka’s parents to come for our Christmas/New Year’s weekend, where we went to dinner, checked out light displays and shows, and stayed up until midnight to have a toast of bubbly grape juice with Noah. He was thrilled to finally be included, and barely made it to midnight to toast the new year. I think that on New Year’s Day, once the in-laws had gone home, we made our way to my mom’s to exchange gifts and have some dinner. It was nice, but it was still a bit strained and there was not a lot of talking – except between the boys and me.
And Christmas 2011? It has come and gone, and was a crazy, hectic, fabulous occasion! My fourth Christmas with Erikka, with the addition of a daughter AND a daughter-in-law! We went to Henrietta the weekend before and had a wonderful time with family once again. Noah went with his dad and new stepmom on the 21stfor a few days, taking a trip to San Antonio. Once again, we went to Glen Rose on Christmas Eve to Erikka’s parents for the night, where Noah joined us just before dinner. Lots of gifts for everyone, and Santa as usual did an outstanding job for everyone. We drove home on Christmas day around mid-day, before going to my mom’s for dinner and presents in the evening, where Nicholas and Krystal Fay joined us. There was lots of talking and laughing once again – the first time in a long time. And as I drove home, I couldn’t help but be thankful that while it had taken a few years, that my mom has been coming around a little at a time, and slowly. I know that some people, when they come out to their parents and families, never see a change occur (which is totally what I thought would be the case in my situation).
What have I learned about the holidays and about family this holiday season? I have learned that traveling, even for one night, with a new baby is a pain in the ass. There is so much to take and carry, to load and unload and then bring back into the house again upon return. We have decided that we probably don’t want to travel anywhere again until Harrison is sleeping through the night…just sayin’. And I have also learned that family is family, and when you add a new baby into the mix, the expectations get ramped up. But the family we have is the family we have, and they are ours, and we love them. Some, like Erikka’s parents and extended family, have supported us from the beginning; others have needed a bit more time to adjust to the fact that things don’t always conform to what they may have envisioned for their family.
And it is amazing what a few years, and a new baby, can do.
Merry Christmas 2011!