Like one of Santa’s elves, my typical Christmas is spent driving 100’s of miles in a rent-a-car sleigh filled with presents. Christmas carols are sung from NYC to the Catskill Mountains, then onward to NJ, where I’d land at my sister’s house for Christmas dinner.
But when my sister died this year, so did my Christmas dinner landing.
Within that loss, was the magic every holiday promises.
I’ve chased “belonging” in my family of origin my entire life. But truth is, I’ve always felt like an outsider. What I didn’t realize was, this chase had blinded me. “Belonging” isn’t restrained for only the place I’ve called home.
This Christmas, I tried to gather with my sister’s family, but to no avail. Disappointed, but not defeated, I found solace in having my first Italian Christmas dinner with my boyfriend’s family.
So, in frigid temperatures that made my sinuses freeze, off I went in my rent-a-car sleigh for a round trip songfest to the Catskill Mountains and straight back to NYC!
When I arrived in the mountains, I come to realize my frozen sinuses were more than a cold head. My body now ached from head to toe.
Cousin Deb gives me a long overdue hug and says, “I’m so happy to see you!”
It’s been 2-years—preCOVID—since we last hugged. I say, “It must be nice to see another face besides your husband and child’s.”
They live off the beaten trail on a beautiful mountain property. She says, “No. It’s you. I’ve missed YOU.”
This was the first stir of “belonging” in a new and profound way.
I stay 2-nights, till Christmas morning. Sick, with what I later learned, was the flu. (My first flu ever! Ugh!!)
Not once during that time did cousin Deb or her family make me feel unwelcome due to my unexpected illness. She took such good care of me. Medicine, constant fluids, food prep, blankets, and a unicorn onesie to keep me warm (a special offering from her daughter Becky) we’re in continual flow!
Late Christmas morning I hug cousin Deb goodbye with tears in my eyes. My heart gripped, like I was leaving a home I had just found—I felt unconditional belonging here—as I pull out of the driveway.
As the black sheep of our perspective families, through the years cousin Deb and I compared notes and sympathized with each others stories. But until now, that bond had kept me an outsider. Perhaps, with my family unit dismantled I felt the opening that was always there to feel the “belonging” I sought with my cousin Deb?!
Upon arrival in NYC, I’m told that my illness would make the guests at my first Italian Christmas uncomfortable. And, of course, I didn’t want to make people sick. It only struck me, because it was in such contrast to cousin Deb. I wanted to “belong” with my boyfriend’s family.
Here’s the thing… for years, I was so wrapped up in what I didn’t have, I didn’t see what I did have. I went from chasing “belonging” with my birth family to my boyfriend’s family. And, all the while, belonging had always been there with cousin Deb. I never had to chase it, I simply needed to see it.
I am so grateful to cousin Deb (Ken and Becky too) for loving me up for Christmas. In sickness and in health.
Do you have a Belonging story? Who was it with? Share!
Happy New Year!!