Yesterday I was watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in which George’s father said to him, “you’re not like us, you’re a surgeon.” “And,” George’s father added, “you don’t like to do the things we like to do.” It is not easy not being like your family and not liking the things they like. When my mother was alive, she was the glue that held us together. Since then, my sheer presence in the lives of my father and my brothers and their families is disruptive. No matter that I try not to make waves, I make them all the same. I do keep my mouth shut about politics and religion and feminism. Even so, the last time I was home for the holidays my father asked me to stay in a hotel because having me in the house made him nervous and uncomfortable. To be fair, how would you feel if your daughter was 6 feet tall and you weren’t, she had a PhD and you didn’t, and even if she didn’t open her mouth at all, you knew that she didn’t agree with your political views or your everyday assumption that men make the final decisions on all important matters? Or if you were my brother who does not have a college education and who feels that women and minorities and gays have taken something from him? Or if you were my Mormon brother who is trying to keep his three daughters on the straight and narrow and not on the path chosen by their aunt? On the last Christmas day I spent at my brother’s house, I did not mention any of the obvious things, but it was hard to hide being astonished by the number of presents and the amount of money spent on them, and I simply could not force myself to watch football.
My disaffection from my family may be extreme, but it is not uncommon in the modern world. It is one of the fruits of higher education, mobility, and freedom. But that does not make it any less painful. In my home away from home, I create Thanksgiving for group of friends, most of whom are not American, using my mother’s and grandmothers’ silver and china, and making the pumpkin pie from scratch. On Christmas Eve a German friend invites a group of us for dinner, last year we had marinated salmon with dill sauce prepared by a Swedish friend followed by wild boar with mushroom cream sauce. On Christmas day English friends invite another group of us for turkey and plum pudding.
We are creating our own traditions. Still, I remember Grandmother’s laden platters, tables and card tables pulled together for all the relatives, and the stories of the farm told by Uncle Emery. It would be nice to go home for the holidays.
Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement. She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.