There are a lot of advantages to Matthew being in school right now. Better hours, lighter workload, and zero travel. Well, almost zero. There’s a trip he’s taking to Morocco in a few months that we, um, “jokingly” fight about. But the single best advantage, the one I’d been waiting months for, was his one month break between semesters. This meant we got to see both of our families for the holidays, instead of having to, um, “jokingly” fight about whose turn it was.
But the closer we got to his school break, the more stressed I became. I was actually pulling my hair out thinking about the ten days we would spend in Wilmington.
So Matthew and I have known each other for over ten years. From the beginning, as friends and then as a couple, one of our greatest strengths has always been our compatibility. We are both exactly what the other needs in a friend and a spouse. Hooray! Long live true love! But nothing, and I mean nothing, brings our differences into sharper focus than the holidays. When we return to our family homes and our old ways, surrounded by the people who maybe don’t know us better at this point but who definitely knew us first, is when we are at our most incompatible
Sometimes the holidays feel like a hurdle we have to awkwardly stumble over in order to get to the fresh new year. No time alone, strange surroundings and schedules for our kids, and any and all disagreements must be passive aggressive because no one can know you’re fighting. And the differences, the small and big differences between how our families operate can really make you feel like you’re intruding on a family of strangers. That’s how I started to feel, and we’ve had the same last name for over 6 years now. He goes full Burton and I start retreating into Trusty, instead of maintaining the hybrid we’ve been building all these years. It can be hard to stay a team, to rely on your compatibility, when you suddenly see your spouse as part of this group and you’re an outsider.
But now that I’ve had some space from the holidays (honestly, they feel like eons ago), I’m really grateful for the time we got to spend in Wilmington. And though we had our bumps and Ella had her tantrums and Jack had zero sleep, there were moments of genuine magic and wonder. Walking on a nearly empty beach in December sunshine. Ella playing Mary in our Nativity. Jack’s first Christmas. The cousins watching Beauty and the Beast together in matching Belle nightgowns. Baking gingerbread cookies, little hands desperate to help. Last minute shopping with Matthew while our kids were safely tucked in bed, guarded by their grandparents. The list goes on and on.
I remember my first Christmas with Matthew’s family and I was so nervous and uncomfortable and truly felt like a trespasser in their home and my own skin. This year was nothing like that. Not even close. I was with family: my husband, my kids, my in-laws. All family.