The Agricoli are, we suspect, like many other family groups living on the fruited plain. With parents in different time zones, and siblings scattered even wider, hewing to the Christmas tradition of a ‘shared Christmas’ is increasingly difficult. It seems to be an experience that increases exponentially in importance the further apart are parent and child.
Agreements to share the experience amongst various departments are sacrosanct.
With negotiations more delicate and difficult than those between, say, Sunni and Shi’ite, any understanding that accords with most participants is treated as something like the Declaration of Independence, or the Magna Carta; that is, an immutable agreement that transcends time, distance, and change.
So, for the past 10 years, we have known where and with whom we will share the Christmas experience. Whether in the frozen Midwest, or in the temperate clime of the Southeast, it has been a predictable experience.
Like the European Powers of the late 19th century, our family had grown comfortable with the complicated web of understandings that seemed to keep peace between the parties. We had achieved our own balance of power.
This year, we had our Balkan moment when various family members chose to violate the agreement. Instead of a local event, some were implored to void the agreement and travel this year…..a gross violation of the agreement. Not only were they willing to throw out 10 years of peace, they recruited other family members to travel with them. Such a thing has never before occurred in our family….leaving the Agricoli home alone.
Because of the complicated weave of other agreements, which are unknown to the violators, we cannot travel to the other side of the family. They are committed to other people. It is too complicated, and would cause too much confusion and disagreement. It would cause further disagreement among groups that have coexisted peacefully for many years.
We will not be the agent of war in our family. To prevent the destruction of our greater whole, we will suffer this wound silently.
In the words of Agricolae, we will be together, alone.