This I Believe

Melanie - Minnetonka, Minnesota
Entered on December 11, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family
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To Grandmother’s House We Won’t Go

by An Annonymous Grandaughter

Many of the most memorable Christmas stories have villains. Scrooge and the Grinch are the first that come to mind. Both are anti-Christmas, but in the end, they realize the err of their ways and change.

The villain in my Christmas story is my own grandma. Unlike Scrooge and the Grinch, she’s pro-Christmas, but I feel like she’s anti-me.

Knowing she and my grandpa are tired of having family gatherings in their home, I called and offered to host Chrismas dinner this year – an event she hasn’t invited me to in years.

She said she already had plans with her daughters and other grandchildren (my aunts and cousins).

When I asked if my husband, children and I could attend, she said, “No. Don’t come. It’s tradition.”

Shocked, I told her it hurts to be excluded from her family gatherings and asked why she doesn’t invite us to her home.

She said she and Grandpa are too busy to have us over throughout the year, and that she only had enough dishes and table space for the rest of her family on Christmas Day.

I lightly replied that there’s always a way to make time for family, and let her know that on Christmas, we’d happily come over after the meal or use paper plates and sit on the couch.

“Of course not. We’ll get more dishes and another table and you can come,” she said.

I told her I couldn’t help but feel like an imposition, but she insisted we attend. Not wanting to give the issue any more energy, I accepted. Then she told me to bring toys for our kids to play with because she and Grandpa weren’t planning to buy them any.

My grandparents are financially secure, and, while gifts from them to my children were the last thing on my mind, I was surprised to hear my grandma say this in reference to her only two great grandchildren.

Nevertheless, I thanked her for the thoughtful suggestion to bring toys and assured her we didn’t expect to receive any gifts. We just wanted to be together as a family and it would be gift enough for our children to get to know their great grandparents.

I realize people can become set in their ways when it comes to holiday traditions, and not everyone enjoys having young children in their home, even if they are well behaved. Yet the whole exchange made me understand the meaning of the phrase, “Be careful what you wish for.”

I spent hours considering different ways to get out of attending Christmas dinner. Ultimately, I decided to take the high road and be the change I wish to see in the world.

What I wanted most was for my grandma to validate my feelings, hold herself accountable for hurting me and apologize. I knew this would never happen, so with the most restraint I could muster, I basically told her and my grandpa that I was sorry for complicating their holiday plans, and thought it would be best if we waited until sometime next year to get together.

In typical Grandma and Grandpa fashion, they critiqued my apology. Yet this time, I feel calm in the knowledge that, just like me, my grandparents are imperfect human beings. Even though they didn’t live up to my expectations of how grandparents should behave, they have many positive traits, and I accept them as they are. I would even go so far as to say that my grandma was right when she initially said we shouldn’t come to Christmas dinner.

Hosting holiday dinners is hard work, especially at her age. She has twice my wisdom and life experience and knows her limitations.

I believe that some traditions truly are better left alone.

Just like Scrooge’s and the Grinch’s fellow villagers upheld the joy and spirit of the holiday season in their Christmas stories, I won’t let this experience ruin the holidays for me.

Perhaps life will imitate art, and my grandparents will have a change of heart about intentionally including us in their Christmas plans next year.

If not, that’s okay with me, too … now.