• Peggy Pepper

Another Perfectly NORMAL Holiday?


Bill and Beth Normalson look forward to every holiday, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. Beth sorts and sifts through all the twinkling lights and homemade ornaments, taking her time to organize them into a new holiday theme each year.


She has already created her holiday menus and has gifts wrapped and stashed away, waiting for the excitement of Christmas morning. She has even planned her tablescapes for every special meal so she can be fully present to the many memory-making moments ahead.

Their three children, Becky, Bob, and Ben have all chosen to live close to home, now that they are grown. Being more than an hour away from such a loving family would cause unbearable sadness for each of them.


Becky, the oldest, is married to Lee and they have three children of their own, all of whom eat their vegetables and make straight A-s.

Bob and Ben, the twins, are attending a nearby college on full scholarships: physics and AI for Bob and double-sports athletics for Ben. Bob and Ben are not only Eagle scouts but also mentors for a group of young men saving themselves for marriage.


Becky, Bob, and Ben never forget to send their mother notes of love and appreciation throughout the year. They remain keenly aware of the many sacrifices both parents have made on their behalf and only hope, that they will be the same, selfless role models for their own children as the years roll by.

Because The Normalsons enjoy the benefits of a family average of 9% body fat, they have all agreed, once again this year, to continue their healthy daily regimen by preparing their holiday meals using only the Weight Watchers and SugarBusters cookbooks.


To honor this special time together, everyone has also agreed to suspend cellphones and texting. A special basket has been placed at the front door for everyone to make their deposit of all devices. Rather than the cacophony of multiple channels of football, the family gathers by the crackling fire to just spend their time together reminiscing about holidays past. Such a happy family time.


Are you ready to throw up yet?


Do you find yourself believing, even a tiny bit, that this might be close to what other families are doing for the holidays? Do you believe, in your heart of hearts, with a secret sigh, that your family is not even close to normal? Normal? NORMAL?


Norman Rockwell painted the picture eons ago. And, we have overlaid it as some kind of template of serene, bountiful, loving family perfection, ever since. Each year, we can make ourselves so unhappy, doing this comparison, in our own minds….about the ease with which everyone BUT your family seems to have it together with a plan for their holiday. Wishing it were different—-knowing that it must be so precious and special at “their” house is the fastest way to render our own holiday anything but merry and bright.


So, here’s the truth.


During the holidays, our deepest feelings seem to surface. Our personal remembrances of holidays past are sure to present themselves. We find ourselves stirred to our depths like no other time of the year.


So what to do?


First, we can resolve to solve those thorny things or we can decide to let them ride. Take some advance time to envision the upcoming season. So much of our family “traditions” are predictable aren’t they?


Our family used to spend Christmas nearly every year, at my Grandmother’s country house in Mississippi. After a stroke, she was cared for by her loving but loud, behemoth of a sister, Aunt Ethel. We would always take bets on how long it would be before Aunt Ethel told us for the umpteenth time, in minute detail about her gall bladder operation. It used to drive my parents insane, but we decided to turn it into an eye-rolling inside family joke. And that shifted everything.


Secondly, figure out which route you will take when the inevitable comes up… ahead of time. When the “here-we-go-agains” happen, you will have a plan. It’s a great way to stay in the driver’s seat when the going gets bumpy. It will help you feel more positive and on purpose and in charge of your feelings.


Every family, each one, is uniquely its own unit. We are bonded in the casseroles and the arguments, in the fall downs and the get up’s, in the yell-fests and the hugs, in the tender times and the tug of wars, in the history and the mystery of what it means to be family. In all its frailty and its frankness, our DNA is here to stay.



It’s the holidays. The holy days. The reason for both seasons is to give thanks. To BE LOVE to one another.


It could be a time to savor another year gone by….that we have all made it through.


It could be a time to share our hard-won wisdom with one another…what we loved and what we learned from the things that did not love us back.


It could be a time for great gratefulness that we DO have one another.


We ARE family.
No. Matter. What.

Remember this: The Normalsons don’t exist. Anywhere.




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