John and I were away for about ten (10) (ten?) (TEN!!!!!!) days around Christmas, and with all of the days off of work, etc., I feel like things are just starting to get back to normal. Plus, I finally did laundry this past weekend so nothing smells like cigarettes anymore – a sure sign that the holidays are over, thanks to my faux-in-laws. I mean, smell is supposedly the most sentimental of all senses, so now when I think of Christmas, I’ll think of trees, freshly baked cookies, & tobacco. It’s new, but I’m trying to be very Euro and play along like it’s as second nature as, I don’t know, an uneaten fruitcake.
People tell us that we’re lucky because Christmas-related logistics seem easy for us: John’s family celebrates on Christmas Eve in the German tradition, so we’re able to fly to DC on Christmas morning to celebrate with mine. No hurt feelings, no one sad about missing their own traditions, easy peasy. Right? I guess, but it was definitely more convenient when we lived near my parents, and going to DC from Florida was the same as going home. Exhausting. I think it’s probably the reason most people end up having kids – to have something to blame. “Oh, yeah, you know we’d love to visit, but man, this kid is REALLY high-strung. I read it has something to do with mercury in fish? I don’t know, but we have her in a therapy group/meditative yoga class for newborns so hopefully next year she’ll have worked through her issues.”
I love John’s parents (and I certainly can’t complain about getting to visit Florida) but like any family besides your very own, they just do things a little bit differently, and unlike most “other” families, you can’t just leave their house after an evening. You’re there. For life. I’d just like to say up front that the only reason I’m even writing about this is because I think it’s entertaining and harbor absolutely no ill-will. I think it’s funny, plus John doesn’t read my blog, and I should probably take advantage of that sometimes.
Anyway, so John’s parents are a bit older than mine, are retired, and living in Florida. John is an only child (which, honestly, is just flat out weird) which means that all eyes are on him. He knows it no other way but I feel badly for him. No offense at all to my parents (or other only children, sorry), but I’m glad that I have siblings (and tons of cousins for that matter) to take the focus off of me and my issues most of the time. Plus, there’s hardly any yelling or crying or insult-slinging in John’s family . . . I mean, what kind of holiday is that? My cousin is in town from California this week, and we were laughing about how she and her siblings will regularly tell their dad to shut up or tell him that he’s bipolar or their mom that she is acting like a total bitch . . . you know, at the dinner table. That’s just the way our families work – we’re extremely close and therefore loud, rude, and insulting to one another. Maybe it’s because the kids outnumber the parents. Any “normal” family who “respects” each other (such as John’s) might find this unbelievable – I find it comforting.
Ok, so maybe I’d find that in most homes I’d visit, but the other main difference in my family and John’s is what exactly constitutes a day – like, as in the hours one is active and/or constructive. Since John’s parents are retired, they have the added luxury of basically doing whatever they want, whenever they want, and however they want, and for them this means that cocktail hour starts at midnight. It’s five o’clock somewhere? Eh, all I know is that it’s a sad state of affairs when your retired “in-laws” can party harder than you. I’m not new anymore so I’m not shy about calling it a night and going to bed alone at the pitiful hour of 2 or maybe even 3 AM , but they’re Lionel Richie-ing it up and partying, Karamu-ing, fiesta forever-ing, all. Night. Long.
Ok, it’s not like they’re exactly doing lines off the coffee table, I’m exaggerating slightly, but they do stay up all night and therefore sleep through a pretty good chunk of the day . . . like until 3 PM. You can imagine after you get used to that schedule how INCREDIBLY LOUD my dad’s singing along to whatever ridiculous 70s song he’s currently revisiting at 9 AM can be, hence, exhaustion.
Normally when we visit his parents, John and I will plan little day trips or go to the beach so as to not disturb them, but on this trip John had to continue his latest hobby of working 18-hour days, and so I had to (ever so quietly) entertain myself. For an entire week. Without TV. Or WiFi. That probably sounds like bliss to lots of people, but I can only read for so long. I felt like Anne Frank, tip-toeing around, cautious of every noise I was making . . . in a house full of Germans.
Though it’s different, a quiet Christmas is kind of nice, and for some reason things seem a bit more meaningful. With my family, it’s meaningful, but more than anything, it’s fun. It’s about family and eating and drinking and doing fun things with each other. So after a week of quiet European time, we crammed in about two days of good old American insanity.
And I think that maybe it’s true, and that everything does happen for a reason. John and I were meant to be together because we need a good, solid week of quiet rest, slow and steady, in order to prepare for my family, the last leg of the race, when the adrenaline starts to kick in.