Nearly every year for the past 15 years, I have spent the winter holidays somewhere other than the place I call home. The only exception to that is the year I had to work on Christmas day. A full-time employee at a newspaper, I heated up a microwave meal for dinner while sadly humming, “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.”
As a veteran of hitting the road this time of year, I can attest that the following will be true if you decide to do the same:
You’ll get annoyed that you decorated your house.
Don’t get it twisted: I love putting up Christmas decorations. One year, I put up a tree on Veterans Day because I JUST COULDN’T WAIT. But it never fails that at some point, I look at the tree, which has never had presents under it, and I wonder why I even bother. Most years, we are gone for nearly a week around Christmas because who wants to drive from the Carolinas to Buffalo for just a few days? I feel like I’m decorating the house just so my kids’ toys can enjoy it when they come alive when we aren’t there (that DOES happen, right?).
You’ll get really good at hiding presents.
Yeah, you might think you’re stealth because you can conceal those gifts at home until after the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve, but just wait until you have to load and unload them into a car – the very car where the kids are sitting and watching your every move. You’re going to get creative. You’re going to use those heavy winter coats to hide boxes. You’re going to do the “Look, kids, a deer!” trick. And you will inevitably fail at least once and have to outright lie. “No, sweetheart, those Legos are a present for Grandpa!”
You’ll need some alone time much sooner than you expected.
I don’t care how much you love your family, after a few days of living in a house with them and all their kids and all their dogs, you’re going to start losing it. No, there is no amount of holiday chocolate that brings comfort after the onslaught of passive-aggressive comments you’ll get about your life choices.
You’ll regret that you can’t spend the day in yoga pants.
If I had Christmas at my house, there is zero chance that I would put on real clothes, much less a dress and tights and – UGH – high heels. My butt would be in comfortable pants and stay planted on the couch, where I could watch the kids play with toys without wondering how we are going to get all that stuff home.
You’ll probably have to ship some presents home.
We live in the South but our families are Yankees, so our car is packed to maximum capacity with sweaters and bubble vests and gloves and extra gloves when we head North for the holidays. We learned after the first year of spending Christmas with my in-laws A.K. (after kids) that we need to rent a van just to get all the luggage and gifts home. Before having kids, Christmas typically meant a new shirt and a check from my parents (not complaining). But now that we have little ones, it’s like Christmas drank too much eggnog and vomited oversized presents all over us, leaving us with the wicked hangover of trying to cram everything in the car for the ride home.
You’ll start to wonder how much longer you’re going to do this.
I love the memories of waking up on Christmas morning in my bed, running down the stairs and seeing our tree, with our ornaments, lording over a mountain of presents in our family room. My kids haven’t had that moment. Will they? When? And if they do, will that mean we won’t get to see our family anymore?
You’ll realize that the juice is worth the squeeze.
The trips are long. The conversations with that uncle about that political topic seem endless (again, not enough holiday chocolate). But we keep doing it because the only way for us to be happy over the holidays is to be surrounded by the people we love. So we will head north soon, our car crammed with presents, winter gear and two children who probably couldn’t care less where we go, as long as Santa knows where we are.