Monday, December 07, 2015

Day 7: You had to go there

I always wanted to spend Christmas with Andy Williams

December 7: Your Most Memorable Christmas

Unfortunately, my most memorable Christmases were the bad ones. The tense ones. The worst one was when I was in high school.

My icky grandmother was an alcoholic. It would be easy to attribute all of her bad behavior to booze, but that's not accurate. She was a brittle, angry woman before she drank, and a brittle, angry woman after she got sober. But this story happened to take place while she was drinking.

She had to host a sit-down Christmas Eve dinner at her home every year. My mother offered to have a buffett at our house, but Grandma refused. "Tradition is important." OK. As far as I saw, the tradition was that every year she resent how hard she worked to prepare food for us ingrates. Also, when I tried to help, she scolded me for my ineptitude and shamed my mother for neglecting to teach me domestic skills.

The previous Thanksgiving, just weeks before, I tried to help with the dishes after dinner. My older sister scalded me with the sink spray hose. I screamed (in pain) and my dear, sweet Grandma said, "For Christ's sake, Gal, aren't you EVER quiet?"

So now it's Christmas Eve. I remember the dress I was wearing (green, boatneck). I was sitting on the floor admiring the gift she'd given me: a big, potted jade plant. I was very into plants at that time.

"Thank you, Grandma," I said to her blissed out form. Really, she was loaded. Not present at all. "Thank you, Grandma," I repeated. She never looked at me. I gave up.

Then, when the dinner dishes were cleared, I went into the living room to sit with my dad and uncle. None of the menfolk ever helped in the kitchen ... Grandma had just told me barely a month ago that I was noisy and inept ... and she didn't seem to notice I existed anyway, so why bother?

The next day -- CHRISTMAS, mind you -- she called and tore into my mother. Who turned around and tore into me. I was rude. I never thanked Grandma for the plant (which she "paid good money for"). I didn't help in the kitchen. I'm ungrateful. I don't care about anyone or anything but myself.

Thank God we didn't all have to gather together again until Easter.

This was not an isolated incident. As the old comedians liked to say, "I got a million of 'em." So now you know why I am very happy to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with friends, not family. Being with my friends in the Keys is like wrapping myself up in an eiderdown quilt, whereas being with family feels like being scraped with sandpaper.

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