Monday, January 17, 2011

Christmas: Part 2

(My apologies for the delay between parts being posted, I've been sick and remain internetless. I'm working on that though - and by "working on that" I mean, I'm working on not being so poor.)

Archer is six. We let him stay up fairly late among all the bustle and visitors on Christmas Eve, it was of no matter, he was up at eight Christmas morning and ready to open presents. As we each made our way to the living room, we noticed that Laiene had not joined us. Joseph explained her fear of the dog, and I went upstairs to tell her that Biscuit had been put in the basement for the time being. She claimed to be jetlagged and to have a headache. I left apologetically and rejoined the rest of the family downstairs.

It was a small Christmas. We’re all grown now and gifts don’t excite us the way that they once did. I got a crock pot and a waffle iron while April got a toaster. Santa “forgot” Archer’s Packers helmet and jersey, but left a letter assuring him it would arrive soon via his elves at UPS. Archer is also the age at which it’s acceptable for him to express disappointment with his gifts – he did not like the array of books and crafts I got him; he made a blatant frown and questioned them. Apparently space origami and Nate the Great aren’t cool anymore. My bad.

My thrift store finds were better received. My dad seemed pleased with his framed picture of John Wayne, and my mother unsurprisingly forced a smile upon opening the painting I gave her. August’s welded peacock hangings apparently match her bedroom theme. April’s candles and salt and pepper shakers are at use. Steven (bro-in-law) filled his Migo mug with instant coffee. Joe seemed amused by his beer mug (he brews his own).

I spent the time after present opening attempting to find someone to take Biscuit, just for the day, just until we could find a kennel. While I was holed up texting people who had dogs in the area, August lost her cool and started yelling about how Laiene was being “irrational” and how Joe shouldn’t “allow his wife to behave that way” while stomping and slamming doors. Growing up, having holes in the walls wasn’t unheard of, but we’re adults now and there is now a hole in the newly painted wall behind the door of my old room. Additionally, the new latch has come loose.
I tried talking to August, but it was about thirty seconds before I was being “condescending.” I’m not sure why I even tried, there’s no reasoning with unreasonable people.

August and Laiene later apologized to each other and we all made our way to the Kennedy Center to see Shear Madness. The show was cute, a murder mystery, the babies slept through it (thankfully), we had a great time. We walked through the building afterward for dinner at the terrace restaurant (banquet hall). Dinner was delicious and the babies managed to stay quiet – somewhere, someone was looking out for my family’s sanity that day. Lord knows what kind of drama would have occurred with impatient parents and crying infants to deal with. It was the end of dinner that caused some friction. August and my dad have very similar ways of dealing with everything, they are both impatient and loud and have a complete disregard for causing a scene in public places. FUN!

August had asked for boxes for the leftovers and my dad wanted to leave them.

“This was expensive, I’m not going to waste it.” August began.

“It’s really not necessary…” My dad continued.

“Well, we’ll eat this later.”


It’s getting heated, so I interject, “it’s not a big deal.”

“Do you think we look poor or something?” August quipped.

“Yeah, I suppose I do,” my dad said sorely. “Poor” is something my parents grew up in and have made every concerted effort to not appear that way in their adult lives.

“Well I’m not wasting it…” And she finishes filling the boxes with leftover lamb and mashed potatoes.

By the time we made it home the tension had settled, but I was close to losing my cool so I changed and made my way back into the city for a friend’s dance night – by myself. Though, I wasn’t really by myself, my friends were DJing and others had managed to escape their families too and we all celebrated the birth of Baby Jesus with shots. I spent that night dancing spinning, literally. Play me Blur, New Order and Arcade Fire – in that order, and I will spin forever. Christmas night was like that. After such a stressful series of events I needed that, the music, those people, that venue – DC.
I crashed at a friend’s house that night, and managed to make it to church the next morning.

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.

Christmas: The Introduction

There are a lot of people in my family and of the fifteen immediate members, eleven of us were home for Christmas this year. To make it slightly easier, let me introduce them. We’re really spread out and getting this many of us together is very rare. So here’s a brief outline of my family so that you can have a better understanding of the distance and age. We’re all over, everything, all the time. And we keep reproducing. Chances are you will eventually meet one of us and you may or may not develop an opinion of all of us based on that particular member. Don’t. We are the most grab-bag bunch of people to be called a “family.”

Mom – Annise (it’s French, but we aren’t) – 62

Dad – Leb (it’s Russian, but we aren’t) – 62

They reside in Northern Virginia.
Joseph – 35

Laiene (wife of Joseph) – 31 (I think, I’m not sure)

Ibai (E-bi, Joseph and Laiene’s son) – 4 months

They live in San Sebastian in Spain. Laiene is Basque. They met in DC about eight years ago.

August (changed as requested) – 34

Archer (August’s son) – 6

They live in North Carolina.

(Steven – 31, but he and his wife Lessa and their kids Ella and Rocket weren’t here this year so don’t worry about it. They live in Utah.)
April – 28

Steven (April’s husband, not to be confused with our brother or uncle named Steven) – 28

Olivia (April and Steven’s daughter) – 4 months (she is three days older than Ibai)

They live outside of Richmond, Virginia.