Christmas Part I: Family Fun

One of the most enjoyable* parts of traveling around Christmastime is spotting all the holiday decorations people apply to their cars. The beloved tradition of hanging a Christmas wreath on the grille of a minivan is still going strong, but this year I also saw several cars with reindeer antlers attached to the side windows in some kind of misguided effort to make their cars look like Rudolph’s giant mechanical head.

Although it was the trip up to my hometown that had the most unpleasant driving conditions (torrential downpour the entire 400+ miles, construction and delays in every major city on the way), it was the trip back down to New Wye when I almost died. In the middle of heavy traffic just north of The City, a giant commercial-sized garbage bag full of stuff fell off someone’s truck. The driver in front of me swerved and avoided it successfully; I swerved and avoided it successfully, but I only just missed hitting the cement barrier in the median and then careened wildly from side to side for a few seconds; the driver behind me swerved, careened wildly, lost control, flew sideways across three lanes of traffic and T-boned a sedan in the right lane — all of which I watched, breathless, in my rear-view mirror. It took a while for my hands to stop shaking.

So I have narrowly survived Christmas Part I (a.k.a. Family Fun) and, more importantly, my family has survived having me around. This means I humanely managed not to murder anyone with my Deadly Death Glare of Pain and Death after one too many hilarious* comments were directed at me purely for their amusement.

Did you know, for example, that: “Democrats are all fucking socialists who want to redistribute the wealth” (this according to my brother whose salary is paid straight out of tax money, aha ha ha HA); “Goddamned book critics always have to find something to pick apart,” and my personal favorite, “Those who can’t do teach”? Oh yes indeed. Actual quotes.

Staying with my family is sometimes a challenge to my sanity, because as much as I love them, I get The Anxiety in a major way. A diplomatic person might call them consumers; a less diplomatic person might call them pack rats; someone else might use the word hoarders. Use whichever term you like, but know this: the expired mouthwash I photographed three years ago is still sitting on the bathroom counter along with literally (literally!) forty-seven other unused/expired bathroom products, the shower head from the non-functioning shower, the stopper from the sink (pulled out of its housing for what reason I know not), a case of 100 twelve-gauge shotgun shells, a first aid kit, an empty gift box that once housed a teapot, and several snowdrift-like formations of shaved-off beard stubble. And that’s just one bathroom counter. My inability to find a horizontal plane on which I can set down any items kind-of-sort-of-mildly* stresses me out, is what I am saying.

Nonetheless, I had fun seeing my family. My brother showed me how to change the fuses in my car; my stepmother (& sole political ally) told me that during the election season she had ended political fights in the house by telling the boys that every time they started an argument with her about politics, she would donate $100 to the Obama campaign; My dad (in addition to being generally a cool dude) took us out to a very excellent Thai restaurant for dinner; my dog loves them all to death. They’re good people — good people who keep the latest issue of American Rifleman near the toilet for your bathroom reading and edification.

*I’m not sure I’m using these words correctly.


  1. I am so glad you are still sane (after family Christmas headaches) and alive (after the terrifying drive). Here are the words I might be using incorrectly (in context): I think it’s charming* that my mother uses the same tone of voice to talk to puppies, grandchildren, and her 31 year-old daughter; it’s such good experience* to first drive my new car on ice-covered streets in single-digit weather, especially when I can’t see any of the lines on the street because they are covered in week-old snow. On a less tooth-gritting note, I had a great time hanging out and watching movies with D, and tomorrow I will have lunch with J.


  2. I am not sure if my favorite part is the “*” at the end, or if it’s your step-mom’s idea of donating money every time someone picks a fight, which I am TOTALLY filing away for future use.


  3. Rest assured, you are not alone. I, too, am about to experience such interesting* family fun-times. There are plenty of copies of magazines with guns, knives, and boats on the table in loo, but I’m certain my mom gets rid of mouthwash before it becomes fifteen year old mouthwash. That stuff expired the year I graduated college the first time!

    The specific joy of my Christmas visit is that I’m bringing my in-laws to my mom and dad’s. It should be interesting.


  4. G – Who got the puppy voice? Did you get the puppy voice? Did YOU get the puppy voice? OH YES YOU DID! I have noticed that Jillian Michaels also uses the puppy voice on her 30DS DVD. She actually calls one of the ladies “buddy,” as in “that’s a hard one, isn’t it, buddy?” Anyway, glad you are surviving the treacherous driving! By the time you get back you will be a better snow driver than I am, for sure.

    S – I am going to have to tell my stepmother she has fans on the internet! I am filing that technique away, too.

    R – Thanks, and good luck with your Family Fun Christmas! I hope the in-laws will all get along.


  5. A job opportunity!

    Highly experienced snow-driver willing to provide snow driving lessons in exchange for food or money. Inquire within.

    Black-ice driving lessons are available at additional cost.

    Happy/Merry Christmas! (well, in 2 days…)


  6. Despite the many things I love about this post (one being that I still very much remember the holiday-time we spent there just a few years ago), I have to say that Swistle leaving a message thrills me. Also, I wish I was there to spark an argument every few minutes. Except that now the “socialist” is our president-elect. Woot! Oops. Am I arguing with P and E now? Merry Christmas!


  7. If it makes you feel any better about family members inserting their feet in their mouths, the ‘those who can’t do’ crack comes out for editors too. I’ve already lost count of the number of people who’ve asked, right after ‘So, what do you do?’, some variation (tact optional) of ‘Oh, so you weren’t good enough to be a writer, then?’. Yes, that’s right, the two skill sets are mutually exclusive. I usually grit my teeth to avoid saying something I shouldn’t, hoping they’ll mistake it for a smile.

    Lucky the doers and writers have us teachers and editors, no? 😉


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