"It can be easy to take words as the true feelings because they're easier than actions. So, you see, "I want marriage and children," and you think, okay, the person honestly wants marriage and children but lacks the strength or will to take the difficult steps in that direction. However, people who really want something tend to move the earth to get it--no doubt you've seen this yourself--so that complicates the words-prevail interpretation.
What has come to make sense to me over the years is that people do want what they say they want, in most cases, but their actions tend to betray when there's something else they want more. I'll use me as an example: I genuinely want to be more fit. But when it comes down to it, I want my comfort and down time more. I guess you could say that words reflect our wishes but our actions reflect our priorities."
Okay, after that, the second hour was the Holiday Hootenanny, in which holiday horrors are described.
- My in-laws have always been controlling and inappropriate. But the worst example was a Christmas a few years ago after my mother had died. Against my husband's wishes, I invited my in-laws over for Christmas dinner, thinking they'd be kinder since they knew I had just lost my mother. I told them to bring nothing, as I would do everything. But true to form, they showed up with a whole Christmas dinner, including paper goods etc. They said they didn't think I'd have everything and didn't trust that I'd do dinner right. Then when I was serving an apple pie made from my mother' recipe, I announced how special it was as it made me feel like my mother was there. At that point, my father-in-law put his hand on my son's arm and said loudly, "Why don't you come to our house this week and Nana will make you a REAL pie." We've never invited them back.
- For some reason my dad decided to break out the old videocassettes of my childhood holidays. He used to set up a tripod and just leave the video-camera running for hours upon hours, so we had lots of boring footage UNTIL the nearly 30 minute clip of baby me, left alone in the room except for the video-camera filming me, systematically pulling ornaments off the tree and eating them. Like, swallowing chunks of non-edible semi-poisonous choking hazards. Magically, the esteemed parenting advice ended. And we no longer have to sit through hours of grainy footage of a Christmas tree. Win-win!
- I hadn’t seen anyone in the adjacent kitchen for a while, but something smelled different, so I asked my MIL if she had started cooking Christmas dinner (thinking she might need some help in the kitchen). After a long pause, she indicated that the cat had just used the litter box and she wasn’t cooking anything yet. Fortunately, she took it in stride.
- One year, my FIL was getting on his son (my husband's brother) about his weight. It was relentless. I could hear it escalating from my hideout position in the den. My SIL stepped in to defend her husband (very unlike her), and my FIL said to her, "It's okay if you're fat--you just had a baby." Her "baby" was 6. My husband and I call it a Christmas miracle because that shut them all up for a blissful 15 minutes.
- But, our dad came out of his room in his tighty whiteys and started yelling at us. He then yelled,"Christmas is cancelled! Everyone get your shit and go home!" I started laughing and my sister and her family left. Once they were gone, we had a nice quiet time. We do not have a family Christmas anymore. No matter how hard we try to behave around each other, old issues pop up and new ones take place. Sad really. But, now when things get crazy I yell, "Christmas is cancelled!" And it breaks the ice!
- My in-laws are less than creative people. All their gifts to me -- holidays, birthdays, whatever -- are variety packs of beer. They're coming to visit for the holidays this year; would it be inappropriate to have their variety-pack gifts in the fridge for them to enjoy? I'm not much of a beer drinker and am somewhat particularly when I do drink, so I really haven't touched their gifts at all.
- Many years ago, when my now-ex-husband and I visited his family for Christmas, we were given a present by his older sister who happened to work in a local pharmacy. It was about 12"x12"x4" and ... soft. When I unwrapped it, we found a 4-pack of pharmacy brand toilet paper. While he and I were trying to process this (thinking maybe it was a joke gift), she cheerfully piped up with something to the effect of: "It's something that everybody needs!" So we said our (mildly bewildered) thanks, and moved on. Later that night, my then-husband developed a case of food poisoning. Luckily not due to Christmas dinner, but due to the sandwich he'd picked up on our trip there. It turns out that she was quite correct about her gift, and even better? We had one less thing to pack up and take home with us. I'm pretty sure he'll always be grateful that she chose the "quilted" kind.
- Then, I leaned down behind my boyfriend and whispered in his ear that I was looking forward to having some of HIS Hungarian sausage that night. When I stood up, everyone was staring and my sister was trying to control her laughter. I learned the hard way that I do not know how to whisper.
- One particular friend, a tiny, talkative, wild-haired lady, kept marveling at how much weight I'd gained in college (in her defense, it was about 50 pounds). So throughout the day at various intervals (in between talking about her husband, who she kept referring to as "my daddy") she would randomly interject in an amazed tone, "Wow, you sure have gotten fat!" Incredibly, she had no malicious intent at all. Which I knew. Plus she wasn't wrong. I had gained a lot of weight. J. was a sweet lady, just obviously struggling with the weight of her astonishment. It was clear to all that my transformation had dumbfounded her. Finally the party had wended its way towards dinner and many of us were sitting at the table eating and conversing. At one point, an Aunt or another friend turned to me and said "So what have you been up to at college?" This cued J., who just couldn't help herself, to pipe up yet again and say with fresh awe (and perfect timing), "Just getting fat!" Well, that was just too much for my German step-mother. She, as calm as you please, turned to J. and said, in her German accent, "J, since you've been so blunt vish our daughter, I will be blunt vish you: YOUR HUSBAND'S A BUM." She then went on to matter-of-factly describe all the ways in which J.’s husband wasn’t keeping up his end of their marriage. The husband, also a good friend, was in the next room with my dad and the other guys drinking and being jolly. What was remarkable about this whole exchange (now legendary amongst our friends) was that no one seemed to get upset or hurt by all the honesty and frank talk. J. just simmered down and the party kept on rolling.
- For me, no Christmas will ever compare to the year the septic tank backed up.
- I was seven. Two days before Christmas, one of my uncles visited. He told me he had a surprise in the back of his truck and I should come out to see it. Once there, he pulled back a tarp to reveal two dead deer in the bed of his pickup. "I got Santa's reindeer!" he gleefully laughed. I was inconsolable for the next two days, thinking Santa wouldn't be able to deliver the presents and it wasn't until Christmas morning when gifts were under the tree that I finally accepted that my uncle had just been a jerk.
- One year at either Hanukkah or Thanksgiving, we were sitting around in my grandparents house and they were talking about traveling they'd done when they were younger. And my grandfather is going on in great detail about the hotel they'd stayed at in Montreal and how the club next door kept them up because it was so noisy for all hours of the night and they never gave it rest. And my diminutive Jewish grandmother pipes up and says "Oh please, Will! It was a whorehouse!" There was some debate about how she knew that and grampa didn't.
- every Christmas in college and several years after, Mom broke down into hysterical tears and screamed that I'd ruined everything. The first was because I went to my then-boyfriend's family Christmas party on Christmas Eve for a couple hours. The next year, I finished the Traditional Christmas Potato Salad when my older sister was called away. The year after that, terrible gifts. After that, I had a cold. After I realized the pattern, I jokingly refer to myself as the Ruiner of All Things -- and skip Christmas at Mom's house.
- My husband and I have been together for 17 years, married for 14. Every year his parents send out a Christmas card with everyone in the family in it, everyone except for me. Never once have I been in it, though various girlfriends and boyfriends of his siblings have as well as spouses and children. My kids started noticing I wasn't in it year after year and when they asked why not, they were told it was because I wasn't pretty enough.
- This time we planned to bring along our 25 year old daughter, who had at the time a 4 year old (but no husband), assuming she and our grandson would be welcome. We were wrong. They decided on the morning of Dec. 24 to uninvite us. BIL called and said, "Sorry, we've decided to just have Xmas Eve as a family so please don't come." I was destroyed. My husband just laughed. It turned out later they didn't want their kids exposed to our wanton daughter and her illegitimate child, especially on Christmas as they were all going to church and it wasn't seemly. I had presents for them all. I threw away the gifts I had for their kids, gave the BIL's gift to to another guy, and still have the Nordstrom's gift card I got for his wife.