Thursday, January 6, 2011

Christmas: Part 1

(Read the previous post and this will all make more sense.)

I am the youngest of five children by eight years. Given that I had the house mostly to myself after the age of ten, save for those occasions when a sibling would move back home for a short period of time, I never had the house to myself when one would really like to have space – any amount of space, the holidays. Because my siblings range from eight to fourteen years older than me, the amount of space has gotten smaller as they have adopted significant others and started reproducing. There are fifteen people in my immediate family – FIFTEEN PEOPLE. That includes three spouses and five grandchildren – all of my siblings are parents. And I don’t have two parents, no, I have at best six, at worst nine. That is nine people who think that they know what’s best for me in this life. I am forever at the bottom of the totem pole.

I had to work Christmas Eve and spent as much time as I could at home, in my studio apartment, by myself, in solitude, before I had to face Interstate 95 and head North to the wasteland that is Northern Virginia. There were ten other people, including two infants, plus two dogs, waiting for me and I wasn’t quite ready to deal. When my mom called to see what time I would be arriving, I only told her that it would be later rather than sooner, I think she understood.

When I was a kid (though that’s relative, because I’m pretty sure the majority of my family still thinks I’m five) I always had to give my bed up to accommodate the adults. I would sleep on a pallet set out for me in my parents’ bedroom as my bed would be occupied by Joe’s girlfriend, August’s boyfriend, Uncle Keith, etc. It was never really a choice, I had no say in the matter, and I didn’t mind too much. I would create a nest of sorts between the pallet and the area that I could fit into under my parents’ bed. But I’m not five anymore, and I prefer beds. So when I heard that my eldest sister, August, wanted to put me on the couch so that she and her son could share the guest room with two twin beds, I was happy to hear that my mother refer to me as an “adult” – so Archer got to sleep on a pallet in my parents’ room.

This is how my relationship with August usually goes. We do not get along. We never have. She dismisses me as a human being and considers me to be pretentious, snobby, rude, condescending, spoiled etc. which is interesting, because we rarely speak to each other. I don’t think we’ve had a two-sided conversation in my entire adult life. This isn’t just my relationship with her, she has regarded my brothers as “detached” and “estranged.” Of all our siblings, August really only likes April. August and April are complete opposites – August made a point to be obstinate. August is more impulsive than I am and lives in a world with very few consequences. April lives for those consequences; she is cautious and has boundaries; she is the closest to what our parents hoped for in all of us. I am somewhere in the middle, not as reckless as August – I have a plan, and I’m doing my best to make what I want in this life to happen independently of say, oh, I don’t know, my parents; I’m not nearly as cautious as April, though. August is far left of everything, and April is far right (mostly), and because I’m in the middle, they both regard me as being much like the other.

So, I got to share a room with August, and her dog, Biscuit, an 18 month old, male Pitbull. Yeah. Now, we grew up with dogs, and there are only six months of my life that I remember not having a dog – that was the time between having to put one dog down and adopting another. Our sister-in-law, Laiene, is Basque (look it up, I don’t feel like explaining, but do not call her Spanish, ever), and she has never had a pet and is afraid of dogs. Sure, she’s been around my parent’s beagle/lab mix, Emmy, but she’s mostly deaf and blind now, and in no way compares to a puppy Pitbull. April had told August not to bring the dog, my parents had asked August not to bring the dog, and I didn’t have a say, because as I previously mentioned, we rarely speak, and Joseph and Laiene had no idea about the situation. So August brought her sweet, but unwelcome dog.

I arrived on Christmas Eve around 9 pm, followed shortly by my uncle Keith and his roommate David. My mom prepared some leftover spaghetti for them, and not me because there was not enough left over for me too so I had some leftover salad and bread. Keith isn’t a fan of crowds, none of us are, but he has a choice in the matter and only stayed for an hour or so before going home. We exchanged gifts and hug and made small talk upstairs while my dad and Joseph fell asleep in front of the TV – typical.

The amount of eggshells we tip-toed around that evening was unlike anything I have ever done. Despite my direct (read: blunt) nature, I do what I can to keep the peace, especially at home. I don’t need to partake in any more family brawls than necessary. I have learned this, and this is why when inundated by family, I tend to hide wherever I can.

Laiene’s family is smaller, and from what I can infer, much less loud and boisterous and generally not as confrontational as we are. I was able to talk with Laiene for a good while and meet my nephew Ibai (E-bi) for the first time. Ibai was asleep and Laiene was hiding from the rest of the clan. She is much more cool-headed and shy than the rest of us, though just as stubborn.

That night when we finally went to bed, August and I fell asleep discussing our respective love lives. I find it troubling that they seem so similar. We’re thirteen years apart. My life is supposed to be messy and busy and troublesome, but hers is even more so. I date guys that are closer to her age than mine, and she dates guys that are more age appropriate for me. I prefer something to balance my mess with something stable, and she manages to find something just as messy. So I listened to her, and I tried to tell her about my life, but it was useless. As soon as I began she claimed to be too tired to continue the conversation. Typical.

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