Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Warm and Fuzzy Family Time

So I was talking to my friend the other day about how impossible it is to buy a holiday gift for your grandparents because they already have everything they could possibly want or need. After 50+ years of accumulating 'stuff', my grandparents at least, are bursting at the seams with stuff they don't even need. My Nanny is a clothes whore, who is continually ordering stuff from the Sears catalogue, and then it sits in one of her 8 closets, usually with the pricetag still on, until she donates it to the a charity to make room for even newer clothes or she offers to lend it to her grandkids, to our very horror. The only stuff that they like is stuff that hasn't been on the market for years...no one sells those god-awful tea towels anymore! Nanny and Pa still watch Little House on the Prairie faithfully; they have no idea that what they are watching is repeats (syndication!), and that the star of the show, Michael Landon, has been dead for 13 years. Last year they bought a new 'lamp', and what it actually is, is a lava lamp. Now picture the typical grandparent living room: hardwood floors, a very expensive and well kept furniture set that may be 20 years old but still looks never sat-on (probably because Nanny discourages anyone from ever entering the room), various trinkets that just scream OLD LADY!, some dried-flower arrangements, and of course, pictures of the grandkids. And a lava lamp. And not just any lava lamp, a CD rack/lava lamp, only don't tell them that, it's a family secret. The rest of us know what those black slats are for, but they have no idea. In fact, they have just recently learned about "the discs", as they call them, because they bought a van this year that had a CD player, and Pa just can't seem to take his agonizingly-slow drives without some good old country western tunes.

Anyway, then my friend C. and I were discussing the differences between her family and mine. Because of the whole gift thing, I told her that people often give my grandparents rolls of quarters because one of their favourite pastimes is to go to the casino and blow my mother's inheritance (haha). C. could never do such a thing because her grandmother is very anti-gambling; she can't even play go fish in front of her because cards are for the devil. In contrast, we often as a family gamble for money after a nice Christmas meal. Pa makes a nice pitcher of Christmas margaritas and we play 31. So far we only play for pennies, though our family is big enough to make the jackpot worth $1 ! My grandparents then spend the entire card game yelling at each other, accusing each other of cheating, and making other similar accusations. My Nanny will get a good hand and say "Oohh, delicious" and Pa will grumble about how T must be feeding her the good cards and how he can never get a break.

So, to sum it up: my grandparents are crazy. Mostly lovable, but totally nuts.
The apple does not fall far from the tree. My mother, their daughter, does not have a passion for lava lamps or Michael Landon. She is quite easy to buy for because there is always stuff she needs, and because of that, her list of wants is just astronomical; she never treats herself. This year, for example, she asked for new tires. She has 4 daughters, so if we all bought her one, she could have a new set. Great, right? Except the situation got dire and she had to get them replaced back in November before she went sliding down into the St Lawrence River or something. So now she's back to driving like a maniac, and my sister has to remind her that the new tires will only do so much since her brakes still suck.

On Christmas day my mother is more excited than you can imagine. On Christmas Eve she would always claim she could see Rudolph's nose in the sky, and believe in it so whole-heartedly that the excitement would get to her bladder and pretty soon she'd have to pee. Strangely, at our house, Santa did not like milk and cookies. We left Doritos and daiquiris for Santa (his habits strongly resembling our mother's...hmm). Then my mother would start hinting that we must be awfully tired at about 6pm because after we went to bed, it would take hours for her to make 4 elaborate displays of gifts for each of us. On Christmas night, she has rarely gotten more than 3 or 4 hours of sleep. First thing when we woke her up at 7 am, she would croak out something about needing coffee. So we would sit on her bed just bonkers with anticipation while she went out to start a pot. Then we would get the present from her. Some years it wasn't much of a surprise though, she would say something like: "Now let's go see the new desk...I mean, the gift..." and obviously she had not had enough coffee yet. Last year she wore a feather boa to Christmas because Nanny is always complaining that her sister's family dresses up more than her family does for Christmas. She has to put in extra effort because her brother's idea of Christmas is sleeping on someone else's barcolounger for the day.

So, to sum up: my mother is also crazy. And has a crazy brother.

Needless to say, I am looking forward to this quality family time again this year. Nanny will make 5 meats and confuse all the boyfriends' names. And she'll act hurt if you don't go back for seconds and thirds. Jan, my sister, despite 5 meats, will again have a dinner roll and a piece of cheese. Pa will remind me how I used to dance with him in the entrance that echoes when I was 3 (he tells this story EVERY SINGLE TIME!) . It will be a great day, and an even better one if I bring home the big dollar jackpot!


Harry said...

Perhaps Jack Nickleson said it best as he entered the waiting room filled with (your relatives? my relatives?)
crazies, and stopped to observe: "What if this is as good as it gets?"

Jay said...

I'm glad you said that, for two reasons, first because As Good As it Gets was the last offering from Mr. James L. Brooks, whose latest movie Spanglish starring my baby boy will be in theatres in just 9 short days! And second, because if this is as good as it gets, I will still count myself lucky. My family is crazy, make no mistake, but I'm happy to have them.

Kris Singleton said...

Jay, your blog is awesome!
I can't relate to your grandparents, but everything else I've read so far is so true
thanks for stopping by mine and for the happy bday :)

amy said...

What a great story! Really, I mean it! My parents were a bit um, "older" when I was born, so I didn't really grow up with grandparents, so hearing stories like yours really makes me all warm and fuzzy, even if it is recounting the craziness that ensues during the holidays. I wish I would've had Christmases like those - so consider yourself lucky (which I can see you do) - and thanks for sharing with the rest of us. :)

Elisa said...

There were always two ways to tell that Christmas was over in my family:

1) After drinking and partaking of various illicit substances all day, my mom and at least one of her siblings would get in an argument and have to "go for a walk". The slamming of the door signaled the moment when everyone headed en masse for their coats.

2) Grandma started playing in the cranberry sauce.

Now I spend Christmas in Georgia with my boyfriend, his kids and his ex-wife and I really miss my family. ;)