Considering who raised them, my kids couldn’t help growing up with a dark sense of humor. It helps get us through hard times, minor and major. They’re both in their early twenties now, long past the age where I could shield them from the troubles of the world. Past the age where I even want to. It’s a relief in a lot of ways, being able to speak openly with your kids about big issues.
It’s been a year of living since last Christmas, which means a year with a few problems mixed in with our joys. Car repairs. My younger son, the 20-year-old, has been dealing with annoying health issues off and on for several months. Our washing machine is about to give up the ghost — in a shuddering exorcism, by the looks of things. My firstborn has roommate issues. Deep cuts in benefits at my workplace. Some deaths of loved ones. I hurt my back a couple of weeks ago, and could barely move for about three days. Which meant Christmas prep was rushed and last minute. Then there are the things happening on the world stage — refugees needing asylum, climate change, markets crashing.
But in the middle of all of that, we’ve been able to foment a spirit of celebration within the family around Christmas. Granted, the celebratory spirit has an edge to it. “Merry Crisis!” read the text from my oldest a few days ago. It quickly became our unified holiday greeting. With every newly developing issue — Merry Crisis! Yeah, the world’s going to hell, but we’ve got each other and we’re going to make what joy we can.
I ordered some gifts to be shipped to Kid One, thinking we wouldn’t be seeing them for Christmas. They live four hours away, too far for a day trip. Parties on neither end could do an overnight, for various reasons. I thought I was okay with being apart, since we message all the time.
But I got sad as the day approached, and sadness is sometimes the mother of invention. At nearly the last minute, I pitched a Christmas Eve plan to meet halfway. I looked at maps, researched restaurants that might be open, and found the perfect spot to meet, a two-hour drive from each end. That perfect spot was an IHOP in Quincy, Illinois.
It worked out. It wasn’t the Christmas get together of days gone by, but it was a new innovation that turned out nicely. Kid One brought along their significant other and we had a great visit, filled with our usual brand of humor, leading to lots of laughter. In case anyone wonders, we left a sizable tip for the wait staff working on the holiday. Without them, I wouldn’t have gotten to visit with my (23-year-old) baby.
If there’s a lesson for me, it’s to let go of what I think a Christmas celebration should be or what it has been, and to improvise as need to make it what it can be.
Merry Crisis and a Happy New Improvisation!