Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family at Christmas: The ties that bind... and chafe -- Part I

Before she married Hank, during their seven-year courtship, Older Daughter was apparently indifferent to our Curmudgeon family holiday traditions. No, Older Daughter wanted to spend time in Indianapolis, with Hank and his family. We rolled our eyes a bit, but went along.

Now, though, things are different: Older Daughter and Hank are married and living in Indianapolis close by Hank's parents. And all of Hank's friends from grade school and high school. And close by Hank's church, too, where he's sung (with his parents) in the choir since he was a boy.

It's an impressive choir. They sang at Older Daughter's wedding, naturally, and they were quite good. Of course, Hank's family church was remodeled with the choir in mind: The choir dominates the sanctuary, surrounding the altar. I have wondered, from time to time, whether that church has any members who aren't in the choir. I have kept these musings to myself, however.

Anyway, Hank has a great singing voice (so I've been told -- I've never actually auditioned him) and he's been hired on by the congregation as a singer. I'm not exactly sure what his title is; I've checked the church website this morning and he does not appear to be individually listed. However, I have it on good authority he is paid to sing at his church. (He also earns extra money singing for an Indianapolis synagogue's High Holy Days services, but that's another story.)

Naturally, as a paid singer, Hank can't miss Christmas -- right?

Well, insists Older Daughter, he'd promised to tell the choir he'd be unavailable Christmas Eve this year so that he and Older Daughter could spend that time with us at my mother-in-law's home for Nochebuena. (Why Older Daughter would want to do this is beyond me -- for reasons I'll probably explain eventually. If not today.) But, apparently, Hank 'forgot' to tell the choir director and, before you knew it (probably by Labor Day) rehearsals were so far advanced that Hank couldn't possibly back out.

So Older Daughter says she wants to come up for Christmas Eve on her own. Sitting in her husband's church by herself, watching him sing for hours on end, does not strike her as a lot of fun.

Now, when Hank and Older Daughter were courting, Older Daughter was a member of the choir herself. She does have a nice voice and she sang in high school and in our church choir at one point. She took at least one voice class in college, too. I remember because Hank just had to be her accompanist for her final. And they had to rehearse together, too. For long hours. (Yes, I'm gagging, too, just typing this.)

So why doesn't she join the choir now, you ask?

Well, she did -- sort of -- but, unlike our own parish choir, where (as I understand it) many of the members show up on Thursday evenings for rehearsals if they're not otherwise engaged, these Episcopalians are dedicated Artists. Older Daughter, a nurse, had to miss a couple of rehearsals because of work obligations and the choir director sniffed at her about her lack of commitment. She took offense.

Well, that's what I got out of the conversation. Anyway, she's not in the choir for Christmas. And maybe not at all.

So, yesterday, Older Daughter called me at work to tell me about the outcome of her latest doctor visit (for her knee) and, later, about her trip to the dentist, and in the course of these interruptions asks, "How would you and Mom react if I came up for Christmas Eve alone?" Hank, she assured me, was totally fine with this plan.

This was no time to sugar-coat, I thought. "We'd be furious," I said.

Now that's probably an overstatement. But I was trying to make a point: When you marry, you and your spouse have to work things out between you. And going your own separate ways is not the same thing as working things out.

Because Older Daughter too often hears just what she wants to hear -- and nothing else. Hank says he's "fine" with this plan? When Long Suffering Spouse tells me everything's "fine," I usually start looking for places to take cover. And what about Hank's parents? Hank's mother is apparently not "fine" at all with this plan and has made unspecified "comments" about it. (I learned this from Younger Daughter. Older Daughter has used her sister as a sounding board, trying to figure out a way to make us agree to this plan. Younger Daughter ratted her out.)

So I did not waver. "We'd be furious," I said again.

"Fine," she said (there's that word again!), "I won't bring the subject up again."

And she might not. But the odds are 50-50 she'll show up anyway.

1 comment:

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

you know i never heard of paying the choir until about 20 years ago i did accounting for an Episcopalian church and almost everyone in there got paid for something or other! it seemed so strange to me.

smiles, bee