I cherished the time I got to spend with my family this Christmas. My brother came home on the 20th and left today. I’ve also had an honorary family member staying with me for the past week. On the 19th my godmother’s dog came to stay with us while she’s on vacation. He’s supposed to go home on the 29th but he’s so cute I don’t want to give him back. He gets along great with everyone including my dog and cat.
Since my brother was home early this year that meant we had more time to shop for gifts for the family together, which translated in to us shopping two days before Christmas rather than one day before. My father often takes care of the family gifts for us but in previous years gifts he’s given have included random junk he found lying around his house, a magnifying glass and gifts that have previously been given to him by people who are present in the room (including my brother). My brother has been so embarrassed by some of these gifts that he’s found an excuse to leave the room when they’re given out. While he hasn’t enjoyed his medical residency, it has provided him with a good salary. He decided that since he had some extra money and time this year we should splurge on gifts.
I consider malls a few days before Christmas to be the eleventh circle of hell. The crowds, the noise, the bright lights, the struggle to find the right gifts-it all adds up to an unpleasant experience. Since a lot of people are out shopping shortly before Christmas there’s a high probability of encountering someone you know and if you’re an introvert as my brother and I both are, that only adds to the unpleasantness. My brother made me go in to a certain store alone when he noticed a certain acquaintance of his was there.
We also argued over what gifts to get. One of us would think we’d come up with a great gift idea only to have the other one say it was a stupid idea and veto the gift. At one point my brother told me to knock it off with the smug comments, which of course only served to increase my smugness.
Then there were the times we agreed on certain gifts but were unable to find them. We wanted to get our sister a mug with the initial of her first name on it but apparently there are no stores in New Jersey that carry mugs bearing the initial I (but it’s probably only a matter of time before Apple releases an iMug.) I imagine Iris, Ivan and Irene are indignant about that.
Still, in the end we did manage to find good gifts for everyone and in the end it wasn’t really about the general unpleasantness of Christmas shopping but the time I got to spend with my brother working together towards achieving a common goal. We did however, keep score of how many successful gift ideas we each came up with. I won.
On December 24th we loaded our gifts in to the car and headed to our sister’s house in Connecticut along with our father and his girlfriend, Gabrielle, who flew in from France for the holidays. Being European, we open our gifts on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning. Before doing so we gathered in the living room and sang Christmas carols. None of us have singing careers in our futures but we had fun.
The next morning we opened our stockings and had Christmas dinner. The food was delicious and the conversation was lively. For the first time in forever I got to say I was actually doing some things with my life. The discussions about politics and the merits of affirmative action got a bit heated but in my family that’s only to be expected.
After Christmas dinner we decided we better head home because we actually had a second Christmas dinner scheduled. My father had invited my mother and her boyfriend who had flown in from Chicago for the holidays over to his house for a late-night meal.
My parents and their significant others gathered together in the living room of the house my brother and I had once shared with our parents, laughing and sipping red wine. More food was eaten, more gifts were exchanged and more pictures were taken.
I received some great gifts including clothes, a trampoline, a massage device (that looks rather satanic), a breed DNA test for my dog and a book titled Grammar: Know your shit or know you’re shit.
Then there were some things I received on Christmas day that weren’t intended as gifts but were gifts nonetheless. Blogmutt sent me e-mails saying that a post of mine had just been sold and that I had advanced to level 2 in their ranks. When I ventured in to my father’s attic I discovered a bunch of charming old family photos.
But of course the greatest gift of all was another Christmas memory for me to cherish.