Family is all around me. Children screaming. Adults laughing, telling the same worn-out stories they tell every year. A lit tree. Bing Crosby on a radio.
We are celebrating the holiday with extended family. We do this every year. It’s a way to commune together, eat lots of food, and to try to have a good a old-fashioned nervous breakdown.
My elderly aunt made me swear not to use real names if I wrote about these people, to protect the privacy of those implicated.
Of course, she is mainly concerned about my uncle—who we’ll call “Otis.” He worries her around the holidays.
Let’s just say that Otis loves a good party. In fact, he starts practicing for Christmas around early March.
Nobody will ever forget the Christmas he stood before an in-ground swimming pool, singing “YMCA,” then did a belly flop, only to find out the pool had been drained for winter.
This afternoon, my wife and I wandered through Aunt Bea’s door carrying casseroles. We were greeted
with hugs from white-haired women who smell like Estee Lauder and wear polyester blouses.
I brought gifts for the kids, a tradition in my family. Ever since childhood, for as far back as anyone remembers, uncles and aunts have been demonstrating affection for children by purchasing heartfelt gifts that were on clearance at TJ Maxx.
Last year, for instance, I bought my cousin’s kids some patriotic tableware, and gluten-free breadsticks from the dollar bin at Marshalls. They haven’t spoken to me since.
My aunt’s house is decorated to the hilt. In her kitchen, tables are weighted with more food than I’ve ever seen.
This brings back good memories. Memories of casseroles, backyard games of Red Rover, twinkling lights. And my uncle Bill, carrying me on his shoulders, parading me through the house, asking if I’d been a “good boy this year.”