Holidays challenge the modern family |

Holidays challenge the modern family

Sally J. Taylor

The Normal Rockwell painting of aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins gathered around the grandparent’s table at Thanksgiving is fading into legend along with dirigibles and the Pony Express.

More and more Americans are working service jobs with odd schedules. The trend is magnified in Tahoe where there are 1.5 times the number of service jobs as the rest of the nation.

With both parents often working odd schedules and often a teen-ager or two, plus aunts and uncles to coordinate with, it’s getting harder and harder to mesh schedules for family gatherings.

The Santanas of South Lake Tahoe are one of many families who fight to find time for family celebrations.

“Appreciating the holidays with friends and families, that’s what it’s all about,” said Bernadette Santana.

Both Bernadette and her husband, Dave, work variable shifts at Lucky Food Center. Thanksgiving Day, they’ll work an early shift.

“We work hard at it to have a calm day as if we’re not working. It’s hard to achieve. Sometimes we don’t feel normal because of that,” Bernadette said.

“In the grocery industry around the holidays, the stores are the busiest and we work the most. It’s also the busiest at home.”

Besides work and school, the family of four at home and two adult daughters living out of state, enjoy delivering food baskets and rehearsing and performing in holiday concerts and plays.

This year, Araine, 27, living in Boston, and Rachel, 25, in Salt Lake City, are not expected for Thanksgiving, though they plan to make it for Christmas.

Victoria,17, a South Tahoe High School senior, works two jobs and also takes classes at the Lake Tahoe Community College. Hillary, 7, “does a lot of jobs around here,” Bernadette said.

Because of this year’s work schedules, the Santanas won’t be getting together with family in Reno, either.

“We decided to celebrate just the four of us here at home,” Bernadette said. “Victoria will be watching the turkey and doing more cooking than usual.

“I haven’t checked her schedule yet,” she said, noting an additional complication.

When schedules are scattered, traditions help hold the holiday together.

“It’s nice even within our erratic schedules to have family traditions we stick to. It creates nice moments as a family.”

A little before Christmas the Santanas have a crab and French bread dinner. To work around schedules, however, the special dinner is sometimes late.

“If you like doing them, you just fit it into your schedule.”

To make time for everything the family wants to do, organization and simplification is also needed.

“We’ve learned not to expect perfection,” Bernadette said. “We’re not baking a lot of pies (even though we enjoy cooking). We do some things a little bit ahead.”

When family life gets really crazy and important things get missed, Bernadette advises, “you don’t need to feel bad about it. Things change. We’re adapting to it.”

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