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My mother and father divorced when I was three. But they managed to have a very close friendship throughout their lives until his death more than 15 years ago. Though divorced, my parents managed to make holidays painless and nearly seamless for my sister and me. We both lived with my mother and stepfather which, fortunately, was in close proximity to my dad. Each holiday was spent with both families. Sure, there was some shuffling at times and a bit more organization required on their parts, but they created a cohesive family front. As my father’s family aged and he became less likely to have relatives to spend holidays with, my mother always extended the invitation for him to come to her home. What may be surprising to some is that he actually accepted the invitation! It was not unusual to be sitting around the dining room table with my mother, father and stepfather. It may have appeared out of the ordinary to those outside of our family but for us, it was business as usual.

In the family I have created with my husband, it is unlikely that we will ever experience the harmony of the family that I knew growing up. While it has been a number of years since my husband and I married, I am doubtful that my husband and his ex-wife will ever experience the peace that my mother and father knew. On the one hand, I regret that my stepchildren may not have the opportunity to experience their entire family together in a harmonious setting this side of heaven. But on the other hand, I realize that they are now mature enough to realize that their own mother and father are radically different people who were unable to sustain a marriage or even a friendship.

Not all families are the same. I cannot expect what was created by my family way-back-when to be duplicated by my own clan today. Our kids don’t even expect that, nor do they especially want it. What makes my holiday memories more special to me today is that I know how hard all of my parents worked to create that environment for us. I now understand what it takes. For that, I am especially thankful.

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