My parents recently moved from a big (for Rhode Island) city, to a small (for Rhode Island) town -- one that’s actually on an island, go figure. Now that the last of the four kids has moved effectively out, the house they moved into has downsized along with the location. It’s a bijou place, more suited to the two people and two cats residing there. It’s their own corner of heaven -- which must make for a rude awakening come the holidays when all of their kids descend to eat them out of house and home and criticize their life choices -- you know, like we know anything at all.
This Christmas was no exception -- me, my brother Jesse, and my brother Sam came home to celebrate by mainlining eggnog and having ham induced mood swings. My sister wisely stayed in her home-of-choice Chicago -- she and her man-friend alternate years for holiday visits, though she seemed to be almost present with the amount of “hanging out” we’ve done via Google at my mother’s less-than-tech savvy behest.
We’re a pretty close bunch. I see nothing abnormal about the amount of time I spend on the phone with every member of the family, minus my dad who views all telephonic communications with the wary mistrust of a true luddite. If you do get him on the line you can expect the strange sensation of not being listened to by someone who is engaged in a task that typically leaves them with no alternative. He will then end all conversations by screaming, “I WON’T KEEP YOU!” and abruptly dropping said phone without actually hanging it up.
Close or not, the holidays don’t bring out the best in us. I’m starting to feel like this warm and fuzzy, goodwill towards man garbage is propaganda promoted solely by this Jesus guy and also a Muppet Christmas Carol. The close quarters, freely flowing vodka, champers, and (strangely) cream soda bring out the beast in all of us.
Apparently, this is the norm. I should take comfort in this article promising me that I’m not alone in fighting with my family. But even in light of all the research, I can’t quell the feeling of chagrined shame that erupts each time I abruptly storm out of a room after my dad yells at me for singing aloud and dancing (like a goddamn boss, I might add) to the newly purchased Les Miserables soundtrack he’s bought for my mom. “YOU’RE RUINING IT!” he howls, “RUSSELL CROWE RUINED IT FIRST!” I retort before skulking off to the basement to feel as deeply hurt as I did about most things at the age of 15 or so.
We can’t just blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol -- sometimes just being at home for a period of longer than 24 hours is enough to make us revert right back to old roles. For me this means a lot of hanging out in the basement writing in my journal and occasionally taking walks down to the ocean to contemplate my mortality -- you know, generally upbeat, group-friendly activities. For my youngest brother this means a lot of following everyone from room to room waiting to be included in anything, and for my middle brother it means lots of high-octane outings (“WHO WANTS TO GO ICE CLIMBING?”) paired with seeking out the fleshy underbelly of anybody who won’t join in his reindeer games.
In general as adults, we’re awesome, and we can party together as though it were 1999. With no other group of people could I spend several hours playing dice games (Shut the Box, anyone?) or kicking a soccer ball aimlessly around town like a posse of ne’er do wells. But the combined forces of close quarters, a shared history, alcohol, sugar, and too much time on our hands produces something alchemically wicked, and someone getting hurt-feelinged is inevitable. It’s as much a tradition as my mother’s Christmas morning coffee cake.
Even my much-loved and absent sister couldn’t escape -- and she is not even actually here! On Christmas Eve she called my cell to try and get me to set up a video chat session for her and my mom. “I AM WORKING,” I snapped, and probably through a mouthful of candy canes. Normally she’d snap back and just as sassily. But this time she was peaches and cream, leaving me with no other option than to handle her request with basic decency. Yeah, so she was totally calling to show my mom HER NEW ENGAGEMENT RING AND I WAS THE CRANKY ASSHOLE WHO WOULDN’T SET UP SKYPE. (#bestmaidofhonorever)
The best part about going home for the holidays is knowing that it isn’t a permanent condition, and that in a handful of days we will all slip back into the daily routines that make up our normal, mid-winter lives. Luckily, the blitz of food and booze only gets this intense once a year. It’s been designed this way deliberately to give us all just enough time to romanticize the madness so we’ll be looking forward to it by the time next time December comes rolling along.
Do you guys fight like cats and dogs when you’re at home? Do you play dice games? Does anyone else’s family maybe eat their weight in ham? DISCUSS.