While opening Halloween candy, my 12-year-old daughter asked, "Is anyone coming for Thanksgiving?"
Not "who" is coming over, but whether anyone would join us at all.
"Just the three of us," I said, cheerfully. She was quiet, thoughtfully chewing a bite-sized chocolate.
"And Christmas?" she asked.
"Just the three of us in Florida," I said, and then to sweeten the deal, "presents by the pool!" She smiled.
We go through this every year as soon as the detritus of Halloween is swept away, this eight-week holiday season marathon when everyone else has grandparents flying in, aunts and uncles an hour's drive away, cousins to play and fight with, houses filling up with love and chaos, or at least chaos. At least that's how it is in our leafy, affluent suburb where many nuclear families are not only still intact but thriving, with functional extended family relationships.