The older I get, the further I move, in an emotional sense, from familial traditions like holiday gatherings. That isn't to imply that I'm making a conscious choice to avoid these traditions. It just means that the pull, the gravity if you will, and the need to fulfill my role in these traditions has diminished over the years. It should come as no surprise given the fact that I'm unmarried and have no children. Furthermore, due to the fact that my parents married each other very young and then divorced only to both remarry others later means that all my siblings are at least fifteen years younger than myself and have yet to begin any new traditions that I might feel compelled to attend. At forty, I'm some sort of over-the-hill 'tweener.' Acknowledging this, as I have, does little to improve my standing within the family. Quite the opposite, it makes me seem as though I've purposefully avoided taking part. My new role after this lazy descent into exile is that of pariah. If that teeters on the maudlin, than perhaps a more fitting synonym, such as 'black sheep', might right my posture.
I bring all this up simply to illustrate that after years of living away from family and therein filling out the ranks at many orphan Thanksgivings and Christmases, I've come to understand that once one stays out, one runs the risk of being left out. Like so many of the restless passengers I've had in my cab over the years, I too have had to sit idle and anxious at holiday get-togethers, clock-watching and waiting for an opportunity to bolt after having said all my strained goodbyes. Mine is just one example among many. And yet I have to admit, most of the anxiety has been of my own creation. These events needn't be staid but, at the same time, one shouldn't presume they be frivolous either. It might be that the best course for all families may be to acknowledge that holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas are in need of a more cohesive ritual, one that places importance on each attendee. That way, each member will see that he or she is properly integrated into the whole and not left to feel as though the invitation was forced and their presence somehow superfluous.
There's always a great economy practiced around ritual. This is where only essential elements need play a part in explaining the formal nature of any given rite. In light of this example I can't say which casualty occurred first; the unraveling of the family or the profane celebration of the ritual. But what I can say, with great certainty, is that the two play off one another perfectly. Each allowing the other to further marginalize and alienate with little concern for conviviality and sharing. Left this way, the rituals will seem dated and their constituents atomized, each pursuing his or her own individual celebrations denuded of any greater importance. All for the sake of simply marking off the days till the next holiday arrives. And with that said, I may just be home for Christmas.