If you’re new to Saint Louis—meaning you’ve arrived in the last thirty years—the holidays can be tough. Suddenly you find yourself seemingly alone amidst people engaging in the same holiday traditions, with the same people they’ve celebrated with, for decades.
It’s not you. It’s Saint Louis.
In a town where “what high school did you go to” is asked, straight-faced, to fifty-year- olds, living here without family is no picnic.
Saint Louisans are friendly. They just may not need new friends. They’re shopping with sisters. They’re lunching with friends from elementary school. They’re out Saturday night with high school buddies and brunching Sunday with Grandma. Their plates are full.
Don’t get me wrong. Locals enjoy people from other cities. But locals don’t need these people. Who’s helping with carpool? Who’s coming to “Special Persons Day” at school? Where are we eating the holiday meal? They’ve got it covered: family. No worries.
It’s the needing of friends, not just the liking of them, that changes them from Saturday night buddies to people at the holiday table. NEED is what pulls friends closer and makes them family.
In Chapel Hill, where we lived for eight years, we’d have celebrated every holiday alone if we hadn’t made close friends. Most folks in Chapel Hill are transplants. Transplants need each other. They need each other to show up and cheer at their kids play; help drive when Mom and Dad have the flu; listen to their tot brag about their soccer participation trophy; stay with the toddler when the new baby is born. Without friends, transplants are alone.
Now we ‘re the ones with family in town (if in-laws count for my West Coast husband). Our ER support group is in order. We have back up drivers and Grandparents at the school play. We know where we’re going for Thanksgiving dinner.
It’s the holiday season. It looks charming but it can get really lonely. The non-locals in our midst 1) really need a place at the holiday table and 2) might contribute heartily to our lives if we pull them in.
We locals should call someone who doesn’t have family here. Invite them for a holiday meal. Move grandma down one chair. We might end up making a great new friend, even if we don’t really need to.
Debbie Granick is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and a Therapist in Raleigh providing both counseling and medication to reduce anxiety and depression and improve mental health. She is available to speak about wellness to groups of all sizes.