Ah, the holidays. A time when we lovingly co-exist under the same roof together, yet again.
Also known as: A time when we are all close enough to choke each other, but thankfully close enough to a refrigerator stocked with wine.
Those hosting the event (in this case: my parents) rush to get extra sheets washed, food taken care of, and arrival times memorized. Those of us traveling (in this case: myself, my grandfather, and my sister-in-law’s brother) rush to get our errands run, laundry done, and suitcases packed with gifts for another family adventure.
However….beware the phenomenon that plagues unsuspecting families on the holidays. No matter your current life situation, once you enter back into the dwelling of your childhood home, you become your childhood self.
Responsible home-owning sales manager, age 31? Doesn’t matter! After spending just one night back home, sleeping in the spare room on Thomas the Train sheets, you suddenly time warp back to your Junior High being. In order to get up in the morning, your mother has to turn on the lights in the room, open the shades, and send in the dog. And threaten you. Twice.
And siblings! The precious beings that share so much of your DNA and have known you, literally, forever! Just five minutes into the festivities age-old antics will arise and you will want to club each other.
We celebrate the holiday on Christmas Eve. Each and every year starts out with a whole lot of built up stress which, obviously, must release itself somewhere. An hour before we leave for church and it’s time to cue the Yuletide Yelling! Things get even better when you don’t show up your usual hour early for Christmas Eve Mass and you have to spend service in the overflow room.
Merry Christmas from...a gym?
Of course, with a pretend plastic baby Jesus, songs, and children
desperatly waiting to get out of church to open presents reenacting the story of Christmas, things calm down for awhile. (sidenote: this also may have been because we were in public and had somehow regained our ability to act like adults for a moment). Once church was over, the plethora of police people directing traffic got us safely onto the roads in time for our next adventure of the day: dinner!
This year we revisited the same nice restaurant where we dined on Thanksgiving. As we were taking our seats, my youngest brother informed everyone that he would like us to take a family trip to Italy. Both brothers quickly decided I was not to be invited. The most recent executive brotherly decision, it seemed, is that I had been “voted off the island.” Somehow, repeating this phrase over and over again made it funnier each time. To them, only (turns out I was not the only one suffering from the Holiday Time Warp Phenomenon). I have found over the years that I have to change-up my reaction to their comments, or they grow immune. A long, simple blank stare did it this time. It was at least a whole hour until my marital status and weight were brought up! Win!
I’m sure no one would be surprised to hear I didn’t feel an ounce bad when my other younger brother then accidentally flung his expensive steak on the floor. Yup. Right there in the middle of eating Christmas dinner. And since he laughed at my being “voted off the island,” I figured it was only fair to return the favor.
I also figured I owed it to inform the rest of the table, seeing as they were inquisitive as to what had prompted my laughter.
You dropped your steak where, dad?! Ha!
My father, not wanting an expensive steak to go to waste on Christmas, flagged down the waitress. He explained what happened and asked if she could take it back to the kitchen to throw it on the grill for a couple of minutes. You know. To cook off the dirt and bacteria and stuff.
My brother was mortified. I was delighted. Take that, Mr. Co-Vote Me Off the Island! The waitress came back with a brand new steak. Turns out due to some sort of “health code violations” they are not allowed to throw expensive dirt-crusted steaks back on the grill.
The rest of the night was spent exchanging gifts and laughing. We missed grandma. We delighted in watching Grace open and play with her mountain of presents. We drank wine. We didn’t club each other. Mostly due to the fact that we were drinking wine. All while moving back and forth between “adult mode” and “time warp mode.”
And we all left even more spoiled than when we arrived. I’ll file that under: A Christmas Success.