This post took a ton of revisions. I kept reading and rereading and editing and adding. I was running the fine line of making my family and myself sound like a bunch of raging lunatics who depended on Budweiser and Bailey's to make it through the holidays. In all actuality, and to any outsider looking in, that's exactly what we have been for years, were this year, and will continue to be for every single Christmas to come.
I left Jambo in TN, and trekked up to Michigan for the holidays. I absolutely love being at my parents house during the holidays, and I try to spend at least a week back up in The Mitten. My parents go all out on the holiday decor. Think of the Griswolds. My dad still painfully selects an 8 foot tall, live, tree to display in the front room, spends hours perfectly arranging multicolored C9 bulbs along every edge and angle of the house, and my mother's Christmas village is quickly turning into a booming Metropolis. Of course, my childhood stocking, along with those of my three younger sisters, are hung by the chimney with care, and every nook and cranny is filled with some sort of Nativity scene, nutcracker, and/or mechanical candle wielding Mrs. Claus.
With all that being said, my family is also NEVER prepared for the actual day of Christmas. It is not uncommon to be scrambling around as grocery stores are closing on Christmas Eve to pick up a ham for dinner, a few last bottles of wine and Bailey's, and a case or three of beer. My grandmother's (mom's mom who has been lovingly dubbed as "The Widow" by my father) birthday is also on Christmas day...and we are always just as unprepared for that as well. So not only do we need to scramble around to find a suitable dinner to cook, we also need to scrounge up a cake and a card.
Christmas Eve rolled by rather uneventfully. Of my three sisters, 2 of them were unable to spend the holiday in the Mitten. It was just I and the youngest of the group, Karl (clearly her name is not really Karl, but she'll understand and love the nickname) celebrating the birth of Jesus and The Widow. My family is actually not rich with too many traditions, we just do whatever feels right at the time. However, one family tradition that will never die is the naming of the Dudes. Years ago, my sisters and I would pick one other person we wanted to sit next to and we would call that person our "Dude". I cannot explain any of the rationale behind this, it just is what it is. This year, by default, Karl was my Dude and I was hers.
On this particular Eve, and this is probably the next closest thing to tradition we have, Karl and I headed out in a light snow fall to drive around and look at Christmas lights. We quickly got bored with the lack of effort other people had put into decorating their abodes. Nothing could compare to my father's finesse anyway. so my Dude and I headed home to drink.
My parents no longer have cable television or an Internet connection. My mother has become quite found of tuning into some obscure Canadian station to watch the news and their version of 'The Today Show', and Karl often stocks up on whatever movies and TV series the local library has to offer. Going to my parents' house now requires you to create your own entertainment. Aforementioned entertainment now comes in the form of myself performing a dramatic reading of all the Christmas letters we have received in the mail. Whoever started the idea of a Christmas letter should be shot. I do not care how fabulous you think your life has been for the past 12 months, and I don't need to see a picture of your cat in a Santa hat tangled up in tree lights. My neighbors' letter has to be the lamest of all, as the most excitement they had in 2012 was having a bunion removed and meeting Paul Ryan.
Fast forward to Christmas morning.
Much to Karl's chagrin, we no longer wake up at 4:30am to open gifts. If she had it her way, we'd probably actually not go to sleep at all and wait up to see if reindeer really know how to fly. She was quite annoyed that gift opening did not commence until about 8:45ish. The morning scene usually plays out as such; the kids wake up and start a pot of coffee for our mom, then we are allowed to only open our stockings until our parents roll out of bed. All of us have developed a knack for being overly excited about the trinkets in our stockings and gush with "oooohs" and "ahhhhs" just loud enough to be heard down the hallway and through a closed bedroom door. This acquired talent is annoying enough that my parents soon wake up to join us in the front room.
Once we have all woken up, filled our mugs with Bailey's and a splash of coffee, and gathered around the tree - this whole process actually takes about 37 minutes- we are finally ready. Karl passed out the gifts to each person, but it's never a free for all. We all painstakingly pull tape corners and unfold papers as not to rip the wrappings; my mother goes to great lengths to save the paper and ribbons and bows to craft into something later in the year. Only one person is allowed to open a gift at a time, and this attention creates intense pressure to be excited about whatever it is that you've been gifted as everyone else is watching you. Sometimes you open the one thing you had been wanting more than anything else in the world, such as the Detroit Redwings half zip pull over Starter jacket you got in the 5th grade, and your face fills with the joy of every child on Christmas morning, and sometimes you open a pack of plain white Fruit of the Loom briefs and now your sisters have all seen your brand new skivvies.
Now that we are no longer children, the process of gift giving is not as drawn out as it used to be, but without fail, my mother is always disappointed about at least one gift- although she practically handpicks each and every item that is under the tree for her. Once everything has been opened the real games begin...The Widow is never late to dinner, and barrels up the driveway at exactly 2:00pm. Karl and I quickly scrambled around the house to prepare as my mother bitched about not having enough help in the kitchen and my father bitched about my mother's bitching. (To fully appreciate this scene, please play the Russian dance from the Nutcracker in your head.)
Of course The Widow, her boyfriend, and my mother's younger brother arrived promptly at 2:00. Although dinner will never be ready at 2:05, as my grandmother would wish, my parents actually are fantastic hosts. They always make sure that there are plenty of snacks and beverages available to everyone, and never require or expect anyone else to bring a contribution to the family dinner. I personally think this is bullshit, as my parents' house is not the soup kitchen that my uncle treats it as. However, after a brief hiatus of not being involved in any sort of family function, my uncle started showing up again...to get a free hot meal, and started a tradition of his own. This year and last, he has brought a party tray of two-day old bagels and cream cheese, from the bagel bakery he delivers for. Stale Christmas bagels. Yum.
While dinner continued to cook, Karl and I found ourselves with a ton of down time to entertain our guests. I am never one for small talk, not even with family members, but Karl could make friends with a rock. I just continued to sip Bailey's on ice and Karl rambled on about this, that, and the other. It did not take too long for my uncle to become wildly inappropriate, and he wasn't even drinking. My mom's brother is every bit of that weird uncle that perhaps pinches and tickles his nieces oddly and says really off the wall things that have not been politically correct or acceptable since the 1950s. Within moments he was discussing the queer agenda and its takeover of prime time tv via Modern Family, the pros of living in Canada; because the drinking age is 19 and women can walk wound with their titties out, and all the titties he saw during Showtime's free preview weekend. Then he moved on to discuss the shape and classification of my sisters' asses. He probably spent about 11 minutes discussing which sister had a bubble butt or a ghetto booty. There is not enough Bailey's in the world to placate myself when this happens. Surely, my family is not the only one that has this problem, right?!
Finally, dinner was ready to be served, and sure enough The Widow bitched about how late it was. We took our seats around the table, and my uncle insisted on sitting right next to my dad. He thinks the two of them are BFFs, however my dad does not share the same sentiment. We all passed around the plates of food that my mom had so graciously prepared, and before long my uncle was ready to show off his one and only party trick. Every year, my uncle shovels a serving of mashed potatoes into his mouth, says "what am I?!", and proceeds to push on his full cheeks, causing the mashed potatoes to shoot out. Then, with a the joy of a toddler who is using a grown up toilet for the first time, he exclaims "I'm a zit!!".
This is the point in the day where I did not even bother to pour my Bailey's into a mug, I just chugged it straight from the bottle. These people were ridiculous. I needed my other 2 sisters to join in on this ridiculous display of events and this year I only had Karl. Dinner and my uncle's entertainment was tortuously long and it was only about 4 in the afternoon. Unlike years past, my dad, Karl, and I would be leaving the house early to trek over to my dad's mom's house. My Grandma Fred (yes, that is her actual name she goes by in real life) was unable to make it out to my parents' house this year, so we would go visit her. The people sitting at the dinning room table were getting on my nerves, and we still had to sing happy birthday to The Widow. Without going into much detail, The Widow and Grandma Fred are complete opposites, and I'd prefer to spend my time with Fred.
Finally it was time to cut the birthday cake, and frankly, this tale is to be continued....