Over the weekend, my husband and I were at a holiday party with some other military families and we began talking about holiday travel. Everyone seemed to have a story (or five) about how difficult it’s been throughout the years always traveling to be with family. One of the wives said that once she had children, she put her foot down on holiday travel and that took care of the problem. They were no longer expected to navigate the planes, trains and automobiles maze. The other mothers agreed.
I don’t have kids. But, I do know something about how frustrating it is to always be the ones who travel to family, and what it’s like to never spend time in your own home during prime holiday season.
And year after year, I find myself conflicted over this very subject.
As I listened to the conversation unfold, I thought of our 20 years together. If my math is correct, we’ve traveled for all but four Thanksgivings. Two of the four Thanksgivings brought family to us, and the other two took us on vacation away from family. How many Christmases have we spent at home as a couple? One. And that’s only because my husband arrived home at midnight on Christmas Eve.
About three weeks ago, the push for information began. My family wanted to know when we’d be home and my husband’s family wanted to know when we’d be there. We haven’t developed a plan and neither side has received an answer. I’m not looking forward to giving one, either because I know what it’s going to entail. We live in between both families so in order to see them, we have to do a lot of traveling. That means spending a lot of money on travel during peak season, living out of suitcases for days, eating at someone else’s table, having no privacy and coming home just in time to take down the Christmas decorations.
As I said, I’m always conflicted this time of year because for all the headaches and expense of travel, we do love to spend time with our families. I’m fortunate to have in-laws and family who I really, truly love, so this isn’t about having to spend time with people I don’t like. Furthermore, I know when I’m on my death bed I’ll never regret one moment spent with the people I love. And it’s much easier for us to travel to them than for them to travel to us. But that doesn’t make me slightly resent the fact that we are always the ones doing the travel. I also resent the fact that because my family doesn’t look like most families (our kids are four-legged), it’s just naturally assumed that we should be on the roads and in the airports with zillions of our closest friends.
It’s a tough situation and it’s hard to write about it without sounding like I’m whining, but I think military families understand this as we’re so often geographically separated from extended family.
I’m sure we’d miss our families on Christmas if we didn’t see them. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that once, just once, I’d like to wake up, walk downstairs to our Christmas tree, open our gifts in our own living room and stay in my pajamas half the day. Or all day.