For the first time in years I'm going to be celebrating Christmas in my hometown, the place I spent the first 18 years of life and frankly couldn't wait to leave after graduating high school. Now I'm absurdly excited about having Christmas there with my English family and also seeing my siblings and their families as well. But the other day at lunch I heard the first indications it might not be such smooth sailing with my posse.
"You know there won't be roast potatoes," I said matter-of-factly to my husband and the kids.
A stunned silence.
"What do you mean, there won't be roast potatoes? There will be! We'll make them," husband insisted. Step-son nodded vigorously.
Sensing a need to back-track, I responded, "Oh of course, you can make them." Then, because I never know when to quit, "But you'll be the only ones eating them. Everyone else will have mashed potatoes and sweet potato casserole."
"Don't be silly!" husband scoffed. "Of course, they'll eat the roast potatoes." He took another bite of lunch. "Will there be Brussels sprouts?"
Oy vey, as we used to say in New York. I can already tell this will be the first year of full-on friction between the Howze family way and that of my British family.
Since moving here I've pretty much adopted all the holiday traditions of my husband's family. It made sense as his parents would host, and his entire clan would converge for their favourite Christmas foods, the traditional pre-dinner quiz that decides who does the washing-up, the afternoon walk to the pub, the tabletop fireworks (real ones, I'm not being metaphorical here), and then presents. The only real mark I've made is with the practice of allowing the kids to open one gift on Christmas eve.
But with other Howze traditions, it's been a struggle. The annual decorating-the-tree session tends to devolve into shouting matches and broken ornaments. My insistence on my grandmother's cranberry relish last year resulted in 2-litres of overage in the freezer.
Now, we're going to be on my home turf. That means the annual drive round the fancy parts of town to see the Christmas lights, the candlelight service at the childhood church, all the cousins bringing THEIR favourite foods, and the tree decorating done the way it should be, dammit.
My Texas family has already adopted some of our British traditions, including the afternoon walk, which is lovely and refreshing, although since there are no pubs to visit we drift aimlessly around the neighbourhood until it gets too dark to see the black ice. My husband loves our truly American Christmas day tradition: going to the movies.
For me, it will be a bit like returning to childhood, and then sharing that experience with my children. I'm hoping that it's not too foreign for them. I'm hoping they embrace the Little Smokies at breakfast and sausage balls before Christmas lunch and the visit to Santa Land to see what Santa's grotto would be like if he lived in a municipal Texan park in a semi-arid desert.
Realistically, I'm probably going to be the one enjoying it most of all. But, hey, I'm letting them make the roast potatoes, aren't I, and that's in the giving spirit, after all.
Expat Mum, aka the Brit Toni Hargis, writing about whether expat kids miss out on traditions
Picture: Texas Tech University during the Christmas Carol of Lights, courtesy of TTU