Dear Annie: Every year, my grandmother and I go to my cousins' house for Christmas. This year is different for me. I have had the miracle of God helping me overcome some major addictions in my life.
I've expressed to my uncle that I do not feel like I know who my cousins are now that we are adults and have lost touch to some extent. There are also economic differences. My income is near the poverty level, and I receive government assistance. My cousins, however, are financially successful. I have made attempts to meet with them, but it never happens.
They are not into religion, and I believe they are controlled by materialism. (My aunt and uncle give me cash for Christmas.) I also notice that they do not open presents in front of us. I feel like a stranger who just shows up for a free meal and to get "paid." I think that going there cheapens the importance that this day has for me. I would rather go where they feed the homeless and be an example unto them.
- Trying To Keep my Dignity
Dear Trying: While we agree that the holiday season includes rampant materialism, you are being awfully harsh in your judgment of the relatives. The meal and exchanging of gifts is traditional in most families. Not opening presents is sometimes a way to avoid embarrassing someone whose gift may not be as fancy as someone else's. Giving cash is a way of providing a gift when you aren't sure what the other person likes and you want to please them.
These are all kind and thoughtful gestures, and we aren't sure why you don't harbor more charitable thoughts toward your family. However, if going to your cousins' makes you miserable and you would rather spend the holiday feeding the homeless, we certainly wouldn't try to dissuade you. We wish more people would lend a hand to those in need.
Dear Annie: I have a suggestion for "Thought I Was Part of a Large Family," who feels distant from her siblings: Go to the reunion with a different focus. Take along family group sheets, which you can get at your local library or through Ancestry.com. Distribute one to each family to fill out, and have them return the sheets to you during the reunion. That way, if you never go to another reunion, you still will have a lot of family information. Be sure they add their email addresses.
This could bring the family closer together. It is a beginning, not an ending.
- Retired Genealogist
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.