Irreverent Mama

Monday, January 01, 2007

I hosted the Family Christmas Dinner this year.

Conversation with my brother, who lives in town, three weeks ago, in which I volunteer to host Christmas this year because his wife, the previous host, has pneumonia. I called to speak to the wife, of course, but she was sleeping, because, hey, she has pneumonia. "That would be wonderful!" he declares. "She's been wondering for weeks how on earth she'd cope this year, she feels so weak."

Chat with my sister two weeks before Christmas, asking what she might bring. Since they face a six-hour drive, I pick something simple. Christmas crackers. Simple and dispensable. "Great! We can do that! No problem!"

Two days later, a call from my brother, feeling patriarchal. His wife is upset. "This is her contribution to the family, and she feels like it was taken from her."

"You do know," I observe to my baby brother, "that your wife enjoys being the martyr, don't you?"

"Now, now, now." He'll get burn marks on his butt, he's backpedalling so hard. "I'll just leave it between you girls. Just don't tell her I called you! She'll be mad at me for interfering." No trouble. If she doesn't call me and you haven't called me, I don't know there's a problem, do I?

(Girls???)

She didn't call. No problem.

Call from my sister, on the 29th, two days before the event. "I won't be bringing the crackers. I went shopping for them yesterday, and you can't find them anywhere."

Imagine that.

The preparations for The Meal started early in the week, each day with its household chores and dishes to prepare, leaving only mashed potatoes and turkey to prepare on The Day. Nonetheless, every minute, from 7 a.m., when I popped the turkey into the oven, till 1:00, when dinner was to be served, was carefully mapped out. The family was to arrive no sooner than 12:30.

11:30, I get a call from my sister and her contingent. They are en route, about 45 minutes out. Perfect, say I! You'll be here right on time!

"Yeah, but we were only an hour out of town at 9:00. We were going to surprise you by dropping in early!!"

Because that's how my family thinks. Or doesn't think. And don't YOU be thinking an early arrival means that they'd pull up their sleeves and plunge right into the preparations, either. Oh, no. Arriving early is so that they can visit. "Visit" means "sit on our asses and talk your ear off while you bustle around us". (But if you "ignore" them in your bustling, they, particularly your mother, will be offended.) Indeedy.

"We thought we'd be there by ten, but there were a couple of accidents on the 416, and traffic was crawling. Thirty km/hour, if we were lucky."

Thank heavens for small mercies, say I.

All guests have assembled by 1:00. My sister's small grandson (he's three) opts not to eat, seeing terrorizing my poor old 15-year-old cat as a preferable activity.

"Isn't he so cute, the way he loves animals?" my sister gushes, as wee Brennan grabs fistfuls of the cat's fur and hauls skyward.

"Isn't he so observant, the way he catches sight of small details?" she coos as the little man hauls ornaments from the tree.

"Isn't he so clever, the way he figures out mechanical things?" she bubbles, as Bendy-brendy bypasses the latch on the piano so as to pounds on the keys with gravy-spattered fingers.

My mother tries to remonstrate. My niece leaps to baby's defense. My sister leaps to baby's defense. My niece objects to her mother's interference. My mother subsides into silent dudgeon.

I start to slice dessert, provided by SIL - three-layer black forest cake. "I wanted four layers, but your brother wouldn't let me." She offers him an arch smirk, me a superior "the-things-we-girls-have-to-put-up-with-from-our-men" sneer. "He thinks he knows so much about cooking." More smirking. The top layer of the cake suddenly gives way, and slides in an avalanche of whipping cream to the tablecloth.

Small silence, into which my brother leaps. "I guess you forgot to slice the third layer flat, dear!" His voice rings triumphant.

My Zoe fills the gap before outright war breaks out. "Isn't this great? It'll be one for the family history! 'The year Aunt J's cake went skiing!'" Nice try, but not good enough. Aunt J. the Martyr joins my mother in silent dudgeon - whereupon mum promptly hops out, proclaiming that "Not to worry! It'll look worse by the time we're all done with it!"

Next Christmas, I'm sure my SIL will reclaim the Family Dinner.

Thank God.

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9 Comments:

  • Awesome! Oh, good times.

    My in-laws think arriving early is a nice surprise, too.

    Great use of the word "dudgeon"--you don't see it used often.

    Welcome back, by the way.

    By Blogger Denguy, at 7:30 PM  

  • Oh, good God. SIL. What a _____. Yikes. I'm sure she's nice and all. But . . . ____.

    Three? And taking oranaments off tree? Terrorizing cat? ___ __ ____!!!!!!

    You know how to fill in the blanks, I'm sure.

    You know me well.

    By Anonymous MIM, at 11:17 PM  

  • denguy - Good times, indeed. The rest of my vacation was quiet and happy, but this, of course, made the best blog fodder.

    "Dudgeon" - Glad you liked it. Isn't often to get to toss in a goodie like that!

    Am I back? I'm such an irregular blogger - was I ever here?

    MIM - SIL isn't nice. She's just...smirky. When she's trying to be nice, she smirks. When she's annoyed, she pouts. Urgh.

    Yes, three. To top it off, when chatting on the phone the next day, my sister (with whom I get along very well) said "Brennan was just so well-behaved yesterday!"

    I get along well with her, but there are certain things I Just.Don't.Say.

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 7:52 AM  

  • I find it hard enough to attend these things as a guest. Thank god for small apartments, because I will never, ever host this annual exercise in torture.

    Apparently, everyone has a nutjob SIL. Good to know :)

    By Blogger Solo, at 12:32 PM  

  • you girls sure know how to throw a party..

    i mean, whoa, sister...whoa.

    By Blogger jen, at 5:39 PM  

  • oh my. I will have to start a secret blog so I can post about my mother. Mama mia. I'm glad somebody else had relatives like this, though.

    By Blogger Jenorama, at 7:17 PM  

  • I volunteer to have Christmas at our house every year because I hate having it somewhere else. When it's at MY house, I get to decide what's on the menu. And since I cook better than anyone else (I have very few points of pride, and that's the big one), we're guaranteed to eat well. This year I went the easy route because of the surgery: nothing made from scratch. It wasn't quite up to snuff, but it was good enough.

    And your SIL? I think she and MY SIL should get together. They'd fume together in martyr land allllllll night.

    By Blogger Candace, at 10:14 PM  

  • Solo - The Family Dinners at my brother's house are worth a post to themselves. At least, when we go there, we can decide when to leave!

    jen - it's quite the party, yes. Eesh. Families are complicated, aren't they? I love these people (well, except the SIL), but...

    Jenorama - I think the people who love their relatives with no qualms or quibbles are few and far between. You are Not Alone!

    Candace - The food preparation part, I quite enjoyed, and the meal was great (though my SIL does a fine job with the food, come to that) so I'm with you in all that.

    The advantage to its being at someone else's house, see, is that you can leave when you want to. When it's at your house, it's harder to get them gone...

    By Blogger irreverentmama, at 8:47 AM  

  • Lord, how did you keep yourself from starting a shooting spree? You're a saint.

    By Blogger Karl, at 9:35 AM  

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