Bent Words

Bent Words

December 29, 2006

I missed my father’s family Christmas party this year. It’s the first party I have ever missed. I missed the fancy hors d’oeuvres at one of Pewaukee’s best restaurants, my cousin’s giant, impregnated belly (due any day, now), my second cousin Jimmy’s return from an eight-year hiatus, the gay, twin bartenders downstairs who hand out smiles for free when I’ve had enough of my family and suddenly need to chain smoke and my mother’s willingness to hand me a twenty for drinks at the bar. I missed it.

The Boy and I had gotten into a fight the night before. It had something to do with ordering pizza and appropriate bed times after having consumed too much alcohol – but I cannot quite recall WHAT it was that set me off so terribly to make me think that I could drive out to my parental unit’s house an hour away just to sleep in separate corners of the world. It must have been more consequential than pizza but my sober mind draws a blank.

The morning of the party, I woke up in my parent’s spare room sore and puffier than a cat fresh out of a whirling pillow case. It was not pretty. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror without retching and, despite the overcast Sunday, I made sunglasses a permanent fixture to cover my swollen lids. I knew I wasn’t going to feel up to a party that day and I also knew I had finals the next morning which I had not properly studied for – all in all, it was the worst near kick-off to the Christmas season I had yet experienced.

It all began, I suppose, when The Boy murmured,

“I think I’m going to say ‘fuck it’ to Christmas this year.”

It came out of his mouth so easily as though he were saying “fuck it” to extra fries. I looked behind me at the stack of presents piled high on a chair in my living room. After having travailed for over two weeks, making bows out of ribbons and even buying extra Scotch Tape, I was certainly not prepared to say “fuck it” to Christmas. Even if all I could afford to give my family was used tissue paper, I would still wrap it carefully in a much-too-large box and present it to them with a wide grin plastered across my face – I simply love giving gifts. I simply love and appreciate being with my family.

Plus, we had plans for a gift exchange for his side of the family. We couldn’t just bail on that. His mother had pulled me aside a couple days before and said, “I certainly hope you two can make it for Christmas.” And all I could do was shrug my shoulders. I wanted to be there, I wanted to appreciate all the efforts his family had made but what could I say?

On Christmas Eve Eve, I had to give my mother an answer as to whether The Boy would be there or not – she needed to know about parking arrangements and seating arrangements and how many forks to pull out of the drawer. I told her, quite simply, in an e mail that he would not be present. He just “wasn’t up to it,” he had told me. My mother replied, in jest with hopes of perhaps making me feel better, that I could have his gift, then. I didn’t want his Kohl’s gift card – I just wanted him to sit beside me as I presented my eldest niece with her tea set. I just wanted him to share that moment with me because, even if he wasn’t nuts about the holidays, sometimes you just have to suck it up for those you love. It’s not like I was asking him to clean their toilet or to make a pretty piece of pottery with happy flowers encircling the base – I just wanted all the people I love to be in the same room while the opportunity still existed.

After all, you never know when giant space monkeys might descend and take one of us away in their banana-shaped ship, leaving us to regret all the time we didn’t get to spend together. Or something like that.

We were almost finished opening up all of our gifts when The Boy arrived at my parent’s front door on Christmas Eve. Everyone was a little more than shocked but greeted him with all the heart they had. I was happy and thus, so was my family.

The Boy smiled and sipped hot cocoa, dipped his fingers in the snack mix and sat through three family picture sessions by the fireplace. He did not grumble or pout, fall asleep in another room or chat on his cell phone with his buddies – he was there, all the way. I gave him two of mother’s homemade rolls in appreciation.

The next morning he called his mother or his mother called him and we were off to brunch with his family for Christmas. Cheesy potatoes were on the menu, among a million other delightful food items, and so I was extremely happy. He was a little gruff with his own family but at least he was there and at least I was there with him.

Although we had fought and struggled and whined, we each decided to say “fuck it” and have a fairly good time. That, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas. Well, that and Mom’s pink cookies…

Written at 9:06 a.m.