My oldest daughter was adopted by my current husband shortly after we were married. And while I am made up of German, Russian, perhaps British and perhaps American Indian and who knows what else, Avery also comes from a good bit of Italian blood from her biological father’s side.
Not to get too deep and personal, but the summarized backround is this: We split up, rather unexpectedly, just prior to her birth and it wasn’t pretty, to say the least. She never knew her father, but because I had a longterm and healthy relationship with both his mother and his first born daughter, I made it a priority for them to always have a relationship with her.
All that being said, despite the difficult circumstances, she is in fact, Italian.
We’ve never made it a secret that Dad isn’t her bio-dad. She knows the gist of the backround and she does have relationships with Grammy and her older (half) sister. And we don’t feel that any part of her or her make-up, should be hidden or forgotten. She has nothing to be ashamed of and she deserves to be celebrated.
She’s also seamlessly blended into my husband’s mostly Irish family and has grown up celebrating all holidays with fairly ordinary American traditions. My own mutt mix of a family is also pretty darn typical Americana. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that.
But last year, as we were planning the trimming of our tree, my husband decided he wanted to make an Italian feast and invite close friends and family in honor of Avery.
He wanted to do something that was unique to her. Something to celebrate her. Despite our outward appearance of a fairly normal family, which recently became a family of four, a situation like ours always leaves a teeny, little elephant in the room.
Not unlike a zillion other families, we were also dealing with integrating our youngest daughter without making the older one feel left out or less special. I think most of us worry about that on some level and others, like us, have it exacerbated by extenuating circumstances. Ours being that he was the bio-dad of the younger one and not the older one.
And so it was decided. We’d decorate our tree, while watching Home Alone (a looooong running Christmas tradition for me) but have our family and a few friends over while noshing on an Italian feast. Avery’s Italian Christmas Celebration.
All to honor Avery and the unique trait she has that the rest of us don’t. (okay, so there might be a few other unique traits but that’s a whole other ball of wax)
My husband also happens to be a kitchen kaiser so he was heading up this shindig while I worried about the stupid Christmas lights and which way to turn our lopsided tree. This was his idea, afterall.
We invited people in an open house fashion so we opted to do appetizers instead of an actual meal.
He put out an incredible antipasto platter because this is one of Avery’s favorite things and it was an easy thing to nibble on throughout the day. He also made meatballs, bruschetta, Italian sausage and prosciutto wrapped pears (okay, I put those out because they rock and I felt they were necessary for me). And shrimp. He seems to sneak those suckers onto the table for every occasion. Funny how no one ever seems to complain.
This will now be an annual celebration for our family. It won’t really matter if there are 4 or 40 people. It’s just to celebrate one incredible daughter and to make good out of something that didn’t start out as such.
My husband has bigger plans in store for this year’s feast. He’s determined to serve lasagna and linguine vongole along with the antipasto and lord knows what else.
I’m sure we’ll incorporate new things each year as we discover more Italian traditions along the way. It’s already added an extra dose of fun to our family’s holiday festivities and can undoubtedly only get better.
Since this will be an official Gilbert thing, and I am the queen of invitations (an obsessive thing I’m sure most people wish I’d take a pill for), here’s what I whipped up using PicMonkey.com.
I should also add that Avery is a party nut as well. She thinks I’m nuts but gets all excited to send out invitations. And decorate. And plan the food. The nut doesn’t fall far…Italian or not.