by | Dec 23, 2018 | Chris Goff, The Writer's Life | 2 comments

by Chris Goff

Little bling tree I found at a crafter’s market

The holidays at our house can be a bit chaotic. First off, we have six kids in a blended family. Add six significant others, two grandchildren and a grandpuppy or two, and things can quickly border on mayhem.

It’s long been known that crime tics up during the holidays, with theft, identity theft, drunk driving and domestic violence topping the lists. Experts attribute it to the stress of gift giving, celebrations, and the close proximity to family. Is it any wonder that Rogue Lisa Black found so many holiday murder mysteries? Let’s face it, holidays have a tendency to exacerbate family drama, and bring out the worst in some people. But, while there may be no way around it, there are things you can do to diffuse the tension.

I don’t want to play.

Let me start by saying I was an only child. I do have two brothers from my dad’s second marriage, but the first one came along when I was 21. I can remember my youngest daughter asking me once, “Mommy, what was it like when you were a lonely child?”

Me and Gram at Breckenridge 1963

It was great! I was the center of attention. With only one of me, my parents could pull me out of school and take me skiing for weeks on end. I spent summers at my Grammy’s in Laguna Beach, or at the McKinlay cottage in Friendship, Maine, or at my other Gram’s in Elgin, Illinois. The point is, when it comes to sibling interactions, I don’t quite get it. I’m the one who always wants to try and stop the arguments or squabbles. (Bad idea!) I’ve been told more than once, “Stay out of this, Mom. It’s a sister thing.”

So when I married a man with three kids, two brothers, and numerous extended family, suffice it to say, I had no idea what I was getting into. We had custody of the kids, and I can remember being a little “deer in the headlights” that first Christmas spent at the farm in Michigan. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t the favorite daughter-in-law. I wasn’t the least favorite, either. Recounting—or maybe lamenting about—that fact to a girlfriend, she gave me advice I still use today. She said, “Whenever you feel like you’re being goaded, smile brightly and think in your head ‘I don’t want to play.'”

I laughed, and then I tried it. I told my husband what she had said, and the next Christmas, when the “favorite” (FYI, she did eventually fall from grace.) tried pushing my buttons, I smiled brightly at my husband who mouthed ‘You don’t want to play.’ It became our mantra! Just don’t engage.

Hawaiian Christmas selfie
Stand on tradition.

Just like the other Rogues, I love traditions. Like Robin Burcell, I love my Christmas tree and the ornaments that go back to my great grandmother’s time. But, like Jamie Freveletti, we also like to try switching things up.

One year we took the family to spend Christmas with our daughter who lives on Kauai. We rented a compound. (I’m not kidding.) There were sixteen of us there (including my step-mother and my son-in-law’s father). We ziplined, swam with turtles, and played Goff Family Bingo—a “white elephant” version that’s become a family tradition.

Another year we rented a house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a sprawling five room, adobe. It was agreed: no presents. Of course, I brought some for my grandchildren and got in big trouble with a few of my kids, but what’s a grandma to do? Oh the drama!

That was the first year we played bingo.

Goff Family Bingo – Fa la la la la…

It was also the year of the Band Competition.

The house had Wii Rock Band in a little room off the living room. We divided up into teams (there were enough of us to field four three-man teams) and each booked a practice session. We all laughed when our granddaughter chose her father and grandad to be her teammates, convinced she was down for the count. We should have known better. Team Kayla crushed the competition! Kayla sang her heart out. Her dad was wonderful on the drums. And grandad, he was genius on the guitar—no matter that he played it laid across his lap, like a harpsichord.

This year, we are once more on the go, headed to Salida, CO for the holidays. Everyone but our Kauai daughter and son-in-law will be there (it’s crunch time for Hawaiians.) Sunday there may be tubing and/or skiing at nearby Monarch ski resort. Monday we’re scheduled for massages and some relaxing at the nearby hot springs. And, in keeping with the “fun,” this year the sisters have planned a “Disco Christmas.” They’re hosting a Christmas Eve cocktail party, complete with a 1970s Christmas playlist, disco party lights and fondue. We’ve all been encouraged to come in style. Daughter Mardee went so far as to help with suggestions, putting together a couple of Pinterest boards. I will be wearing a wide-legged pantsuit. Who knows about the others, but there will be pictures!

Disco throwback – 1970 Jr. High Continuation Dance

FYI, I’m bringing a few of my theme-appropriate ornaments (tradition), and there will be Goff Bingo.

Pace yourself.
With all the frivolity, drinking, cooking…don’t forget to breathe and enjoy. So what if dinner doesn’t hit the table right at 4:00 p.m.? Don’t worry if someone drinks a little too much (just make sure there’s a DD or you can call an Uber). Figure there will be a squabble or two, or three, and remember the internal mantra. “I don’t want to play.”

What about everyone else?
There isn’t much you can do about the aggressive driver or aggressive shopper or local Scrooge. But I’m going to leave you with a video that my son-in-law shared. This is one man’s solution to the package theft problem—you know the one, where people are stealing packages right off of other people’s doorsteps. I can tell you. I want one of these!!

Last, go dark.

As family begins to arrive in town, I am about to do what all of us should do—unplug. This is a time to enjoy family and friends, and a break from our daily routines. A time to embrace our traditions and reflect on the meaning of the holidays, and a time to consider what we want for the New Year.

From my family to yours, we wish you joys and miracles of this holiday season. And here’s to a fabulous 2019! Chris

P.S. I’m always in the market for tips on surviving/escaping the drama that surrounds the holidays. Do you have any tips I can add to my repertoire?

Don’t Miss a Thing!



  1. Robin Burcell

    Two things I love about your family traditions. Bingo night and the bravery of packing up and renting a compound somewhere. What a great idea! No house cleaning, etc., etc. Thanks for a glimpse!

  2. Gayle Lynds

    And I also love "unplug!" These days that seems a difficult challenge, which makes it all the more necessary. A very happy and merry to everyone, and thanks, Chris, for a very cool post — what a grand family you have!