Portland is a city filled with transplants. So many of us have moved to the PNW from other states and countries, making this corner of the west coast a unique and, in my experience, a welcoming place for “the new people.” But, as my fellow transplants will likely agree, holidays can be lonely for those of us now living away from our families. Here are some of my thoughts on helping to make the season a bit brighter by extending the gift on an invitation this holiday.
My childhood holiday memories are about as quintessentially perfect as they could be. Cousins, aunts and uncles, and neighborhood friends all piled into my grandparent’s house for hours of eating, watching football, and jumping into the piles of leaves in the back yard. Growing up, the holidays for me were a Pillsbury commercial come-to-life.
Fast forward twenty-plus years and our family holidays now look a bit different. Since moving to Portland we are states away from extended family, and are still getting to know our neighborhood. Now, our holidays are often quiet, consisting of our family of five eating out at a restaurant rather than cooking a massive, elaborate meal. We’re creating new traditions, which is wonderful, but there are times I ache for the good ol’ days of cousins battling on the Nintendo while my uncles try to beat each other on the “Simon,” and my aunts shuffle around in the kitchen trying to keep things warm before dinner. It was loud and predictable and safe and precious. And, though I love the life we’re living, I often wish my kids could have similar memories to reflect back on.
This year we are blessed to host family from out of state for the holidays. I’m thrilled to know we’ll have a full house with aunts and uncles and grandparents to add noise and laughter to the special day. But as I’ve begun to prepare for the Costco runs, the guest towel laundry, and all of the things that go into hosting, I’ve found myself wondering if there are people around me who will be spending the holiday alone.
I’ve started listening in on the daily conversations happening around me regarding plans for the next few weeks. Instead of assuming, I find myself asking if they have a place to go for the holiday. If they share that they are headed out of town or meeting up with friends or family, I wish them a wonderful time. But if they don’t have plans this year, I extend an invitation to join us for the holiday. As of now, our family table will likely also include a grad school classmate and a cousin’s husband stationed in Seattle who has been away from his wife and kids for months. We’ll find more chairs and set up another card table, and I’m going to keep extending an invitation to others, even if it means the kids eat on a picnic blanket on the floor.
As I create space in my brain to think about who else might be alone this holiday season, I wonder about local collage students, unable to get home because of finances or work schedules. What about single parents, or widows, or other families who have recently moved to our neighborhood? I bet that there are plenty of people in our communities who would be so blessed by a simple “we’d love to have you join us” invitation as the holidays approach.
There is beauty in both the loud, family-filled holiday and the quiet, small gatherings. People have their preferences based on their experiences and traditions. My hope is that this year, those around me will at least have the option to choose and, if they are aching to be with family this holiday season, they will find an invitation for a seat at our table.