I come from a pretty good size family, a family that spent a lot of time together. My parents taught me family was always first. My second marriage was to a man who had a family just like mine, so if we weren’t with my family, we were with his. Holidays were large gatherings filled with food, laughter, games and some very loud moments. I have wonderful memories of it all! When all our kids were small, my parents owned a little cottage overlooking a lake and we spent every weekend there making memories. It was amazing, but as my parents got older they had to sell it so it fell on my sisters and I to be the ones in the family who held these traditions together. I’m a planner, this definitely has its downside in a world of a spontaneity. If I was hosting a holiday I needed to know who was coming a couple weeks in advance so I could plan the meal, make lists of what I needed, even take some time off work to make sure the event was memorable for everyone. It came naturally for me to organize Christmas Eve, with the same traditional meals my twin sister and I came up with the first time I held it. If I veered off course with the meal choices, my kids would let me know they wanted to hold on to the tradition of our first Christmas Eve together right down to the food we ate. This made me happy. I was also always the one making the “pasta” dish (just like my mom) to bring to a holiday where the turkey or ham should have been front and center, but my kids expected that little bit of “Italian tradition” in any holiday meal. As my kids got older, along with my nieces and nephews, things started to change. People moved to different cities or states, but we still tried to hold on to the traditional family holidays, with my nephew stepping up to host in his new home, a pretty convenient location for everyone. Sadly, in the past few years our holidays have started to shrink a little. In all fairness, jobs have interfered as well; my niece’s husband, a correction guard and my son-in-law a pharmacist in a hospital, two jobs that don’t take a break for holidays. When I moved to my little house on the river, I longed to share what I thought was a little piece of heaven, by having picnics on the river with the whole family, and the first few were wonderful . Everyone came, we ate, laughed, sat by the fire pit in the evening, recalling memories. Then as I tried to “plan” subsequent get togethers, it became more and more difficult. My “planning” became an obstacle, it seemed no one but myself knew what they’d be doing in a few weeks. My twin sister’s husband owns the Marina I live in and given the choice to sit in my backyard or go boating, boating usually won out. Maybe her family would pop by for a burger or a drink, but they’d be off again shortly with friends to enjoy the river from a different perspective. I understood, but it was hard. It was hard to watch traditions slipping away. With most of my family living on opposite ends of the state, and watching the kids grow into adults where priorities often change, I find myself “alone” a lot. There wasn’t a Saturday in my past, that I didn’t spend with my twin sister, shopping, running errands anything just to be together and get the chance to see each other once a week. That tradition has also slipped away. In fairness to her, I’ve had a few tough years with pretty severe disk degeneration in my back and neck and it put a lot of limits on what I was able to do for quite some time until I found a way to manage it, but it never stopped me from hosting my family! Almost every weekend after Memorial Day, I loose my sister to boating as her and her husband go from Marina to Marina enjoying the short boating season and no one deserves it more! I’m so happy she gets the opportunity to do this, but year after year, it’s taught me to be alone. At first, I cried a lot, I missed her, I missed her kids, I missed our picnics, shopping trips, pretty much everything about being together. I’d sit home alone (with my husband of course, but we kind of exist in parallel universes) and follow her on Facebook, devouring the details of her day, her dinner spots, her kids boating out to meet her etc., feeling happiness for her and loneliness for me. I’m not sure she ever “got this,” after all she’d never been on “that side” with me and she is far more independent than I am anyway. I wanted her to understand so badly, but I never wanted my feelings to come off as jealousy, I love her and she deserves this time with her husband, owning a business like his, she rarely sees him during certain seasons. I needed my family though, they were my world and for good or bad, what I lived for.  I guess I finally realized that things change, people change, kids grow up, everyone pursues different interests and that’s okay. I learned to be alone and to embrace it as much as I could, no more tears, no more disappointment. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t miss the big family get togethers or the Saturday’s hanging out with my sister, the laughter, the bonding. I thank God I have such great memories, but most of all I thank him for teaching me it’s okay to be alone. I’ve learned to let go, to tell myself everyone has different lives and it’s really okay not to tie my happiness to my expectations of what I think “should be”or “what was.”