So I’m back home after a whirlwind trip to Hometown for the holiday. I have to say, in spite of my grinchiness heading into the trip, and in spite of a horrible drive on the way in (rain + fog + hideous traffic + assholes who like to go 45 in the fast lane and/or brake on the highway and/or use their brights because they don’t understand those don’t do shit in fog other than blind other drivers), I had what might have been the loveliest Christmas ever.
The highlights of my visit:
- First, there was lovely wine and catching up with A. and J. and H. I have amazing friends, and it was so good to see them.
- Then, there was quality time with the parents, and especially quality time with G., who was actually around for the first time in years for quality time because he and his brother sold the family store.
- On the night of Dec. 23rd, my mom and I did what I suppose is now a tradition, in which we go up into the attic closet and my mother unearths the many and various crappy gifts that she has accumulated over the course of this year (and last, and the year before, for she buys multiples) and decides what people in her family “will get for Christmas.” I think the most awesome moment this year was when she found a cake knife that she’d tried to give me a year or two ago and she tried to give it to me again, and then decided to give it to my Aunt Betty instead when I rejected it again (I don’t make cakes). But no! The most awesome moment was when she decided to give my cousin some random boots she’d bought, and when I questioned whether they would actually fit my cousin, my mom said, “One size fits all, Crazy! Don’t you know that by now????” At which point we dissolved into hysterical laughter.
- On Dec. 24, I actually did what little Christmas shopping I had to do (for my mom and G., because I don’t really do the “shopping for Christmas” thing for all the extended family) but with my mother in tow, so she actually picked out her present (an awesome purse that was on sale, marked down from like 150 bucks to 40! Huzzah!) and she told me what to buy for G. since he refused to give me any ideas because he said all he wanted for Christmas was me at home (a new dark gray dress shirt, which incidentally he loved).
- Then, our socializing on Christmas Eve involved two opposite experiences. First, we went to my Aunt Betty’s house, which was… well, chaotic and stressful and really sort of terrible. I love my family, but, well, I don’t come from some sort of Norman Rockwell painting. I won’t get into the details, but you know something’s wrong when the most “normal” people at the gathering are your cousin with a neck tattoo who is in trouble with the city because of his many snakes (and other assorted animals) and your alcoholic uncle who is in terrible health and who was given 6 months to live like 3 years ago. At one point my Aunt Betty retreated to her bedroom to dissolve into tears. Awesome.
- But THEN. Then we went to my (step)cousin I.’s new house for Lebanese Christmas!!!!!! It was, without doubt, the most awesome party ever!!!!! First of all, it’s the first time in at least 20 years that we’ve been able to have the entire family in one place for Christmas because it’s the first time there was ever a big enough house. You don’t believe me? Well, here’s the thing: I. is one of 6 kids, and his dad was G.’s eldest brother, and then there’s his wife. They were the last ones to immigrate from Lebanon. Once they immigrated, Christmas was no longer the “whole family” but instead there had to be like 3 different Christmases, because between the grandchildren, and then the great-grandchildren, there wasn’t room for everybody. This year, EVERYBODY was at I.’s gigantic house. There were no outsiders – just the family. (Tayta – grandma – stayed home because she doesn’t leave the house anymore really, but we went to visit her before going to I.’s) So you might think I’m exaggerating, but the headcount was this: somewhere around 60 people. And that is our immediate family. Three generations – grandparents (those of G’s generation), people my age through college-age, and the little kids of people my age. No boyfriends or random friends. And there was drinking (all the people my age and the college-age people were under the care of our parents who were the designated drivers) and dancing (arabic-style only! in the kitchen! which yes is big enough to support dancing!). And the food. A Whole Freaking Lamb! Stuffed with awesome rice stuffing!, plus: lamb chops, at least three different kinds of kibbeh, chicken, octopus (my favorite!), shrimp (cooked), shrimp cocktail, salatet fassolyah (lima beans), avacado hummus, hummus, tabbouleh, chicken, fattoush…. and I feel like I’m forgetting 10 things. And the desserts! (plus more besides) And apparently now I’m going to Canada with my cousins some weekend in March (but no parents!) and it was so fun! So great! Huzzah!
- And then Christmas day, I started off the day at A.’s house, for she was having her family over and I hadn’t seen them in a long time and her mom had specially requested that I come. And so that meant I got to see A.’s nieces and nephews, and to visit with her siblings (and let’s note I’ve known all of them since I was like 14) and then from there I went to visit with my dad’s sister and my cousins on that side, which was awesome and ended with my aunt and I doing “Just Dance” on the Wii that my cousin T. had gotten for her kids. (I will never feel the same way about Katy Perry’s “Firework” again. Also, I really want a Wii of my own.)
- Today, I decided to come back a day early because the weather is supposed to be shit tomorrow, but before that I saw my godfather (who is riddled with grief because his wife just died) for breakfast, and then my mom and I went to my Aunt Kathy’s house and I gave her the most Polock gift ever, in that I’d knitted her a scarf and a head-wrap ear-warmer thing but had forgotten to bring my yarn needle to finish things off so she has to finish them herself. And then I drove home.
You’ll notice I haven’t talked about presents. I did actually get some. My mom bought me some baskets, a little thingie for the kitties, some wine glasses…. George bought me (the first present since before the store!) Alien perfume by Thierry Mugler (which I LOVE! and almost bought for myself this summer! and which is amazing!), and some other odds and ends from family, which are all great (some nice stuff for my house), but the greatest was this horrible bell from my Aunt Kitty which apparently everybody has been rejecting for years but I’d posted on Fb about my mom’s “gift closet” and she thought that I’d appreciate it :)
So now I’m home and Fb chatting with my Aunt Sue, so I suppose I’m done for tonight. Point is? Best thing about this visit was all the visiting. Screw all this present nonsense. I don’t need presents: I need quality time with my family.