One of the results of kids growing up and going to college or getting jobs is that it becomes pretty difficult to get everyone together for a holiday. Add to that working parents who need a whole weekend day to prepare the necessary food and cake, and you have an almost impossible situation. In my family, we long ago decided to time shift to extend holidays or to find another time to celebrate when it’s convenient for everyone.
I recall being very stressed out, as the only out-of-town relative, when I had to leave work and zoom down to Philadelphia to my parents’ house for a holiday dinner. I didn’t want to do that to my kids, especially now that one of my sons lives in Rhode Island and has to travel 2 hours. The rest of the family members have jobs, some with unpredictable hours. We have adopted the tradition of famous Americans and created the Birthday Holiday Weekend. If Martin Luther King, Jr. is okay with having his birthday not on his actual birthday, so am I.
This year is the first time we have shifted Mother’s Day. Because my son’s birthday is May 20th, and because I didn’t want to interfere with all of their other M’s Day obligations and celebrations, we are going to celebrate both Mother’s Day and A’s birthday on May 17th, when everyone is available. The only down side to that was that Mother’s Day itself was super low-key and felt a little odd to me. The Rhode Island son called me, another son got me a card, and another one posted a Mr. T video on Facebook, in which Mr. T. sort of sings an homage to his mother, complete with background singers. Check it out — it’s great!
So that was fun, and next week should be even more fun. Several Jewish holidays span 8 days, so they lend themselves quite well to this technique. We do that all the time, by getting together on one of the 8 craaazy nights.
I am both a nervous entertainer and a person who remembers with distaste all the obligatory family dinners I was forced to attend over the years. So as the event approaches, I am certain everyone is dreading having to come over, and I am equally certain that the food I am preparing will taste awful.
This is my internal issue – no one has ever said the food was bad, and recently my older sons told me they LIKE getting together, especially because my sons don’t typically see each other outside of my house (sad, but a topic for another week). I feel I must produce food they love, but I have to confess we have resorted to pizza or deli meat on occasions.
The one food item I produce with confidence is cake. Typically we have chocolate cake from my grandmother’s recipe, which is truly amazing. I love making it because it is met with great appreciation, and a lot of sighing and moaning. For this next gathering, I’ll be making lemon cake with lemon frosting, the choice of the son whose birthday we are celebrating. Everyone loves this too, although not quite as rapturously as they greet the chocolate cake.
I know it’s hard for all of you young moms to imagine your kids will ever be anywhere else other than in your house and under your feet. But they will! Being flexible about the timing makes for a better, more relaxed celebration. I hope you will consider remembering this and make it easy on your far-flung family when that time comes.