Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Done For Another Whole Year

Every year our little family does the same thing for Christmas: we do Santa at our house, then travel for the day to either my folks' or my in-laws'. I have been married for 11 1/2 years, and we have been doing this routine for 14 1/2 years. We live smack in the middle of either of our families: mine is an hour west, his is an hour east.

14 1/2 years. That's a long time. Apparently it is not enough time, however, for my MIL to figure out that there Might Be some sort of pattern here. Every year (generally the day after Halloween) she calls JeepMan asking if we are going to be at her house for Thanksgiving. Every OTHER year, the answer is, "No, we will be at your place for Christmas; we did Thanksgiving at your house last year," spoken slowly to encourage understanding. And every year, without fail, there is silence on the other end of the phone, then a dramatic sigh, and then a, "Well, I don't know when we will be able to get everyone together, then..."

Let me illuminate what "everyone" means: MIL, FIL, JeepMan's G'ma R (who lives 6 blocks away from the in-laws), Uncle Mike (who scams disability off the government and has no actual job), and us - our family of four. That makes four besides us and two of those four are the host and hostess of the shindig. Now G'ma R is not a traveling motivational speaker or international bonds trader. Her occupation entails sitting in her apartment chain-smoking and wallowing in the despair that she has created for herself through 78 years of her own nastiness. Uncle Mike (who I like to call "UnClue Mike" as that is how he signs his name - oh yes, did I mention that he is an undiscovered candidate for Mensa?) only comes for the free meal, scavenged leftovers, and some doobie if his own drug-dealing son decides to show up....believe me, Unclue Mike will be there whenever.

What it boils down to is that JeepMan is an only child and that after nearly 15 years of us being together it still burns my MIL's biscuits to have to share him or her grandkids with anyone else ("anyone else" being my family).

This year it was Thanksgiving at my folks' and Christmas at the in-laws'. And so it was that yesterday we packed up the posse and headed out. Christmas is never great at their house...we expect that. But this one really took the cake.

We got there and there was the usual: MIL and FIL in the kitchen, cooking. Good smells. The incessant yapping of two ill-behaved Shih-tzu's. The tree so covered with ornaments and tinsel that I couldn't swear that there even IS a tree under all that stuff. No place to put our presents either since each of my kids has between 15 and 20 from the in-laws. The kitchen peninsula covered with appetizers - easily enough for 40 guests. Not sure where the other 32 were coming from but hey, that just means lots of free leftovers for Unclue Mike. The entire buffet table in the adjacent room is always dedicated ONLY to cookies and candy - interestingly it is always placed at a very convenient height and in a relatively secluded location. Perfect for carbo-crazed polysaccharide-plundering 3 and 6 year olds. Unclue Mike with his feet up in the sunroom watching football, snarfing free appetizers and soaking up the free heat.

When what to my wondering eyes did appear? A suprise Christmas guest, holding a beer.

Yes, Grandma R had decided to fly her other son from Phoenix to Iowa for Christmas. Yippy. Skippy.

This is Unclue Tim. He is referred to in a previous post: Quiet House/MIL Rant #2 as the father of LT. He is still a drug dealer, though obviously out of jail. Turns out his parole officer had to be petitioned to get him up here for the holidays (call me discriminatory, I take this as a bad sign).

He and Unclue Mike are still embroiled in a mostly passive family feud stemming from at least 20 years ago when allegedly someone sold someone else's trailer out from under someone and didn't give someone the money.

LT is doing as well as can be expected up here in Iowa. He hates his dad. I can't blame him when I hear about his sucky childhood.

MIL hates Unclue Tim because he is steadily sponging "her" inheritance money away through loans from Grandma R.

So here he shows up and all of a sudden a tolerably crappy Christmas just morphed into a Jerry Springer Christmas. No there were no fistfights - although the day might have been more entertaining for it. We got stuck at the loser table (which one you might ask? - the one with Unclue Tim and G'ma) listening to G'ma R regale us with, no, not "tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago." We got to hear how many of her friends have died or are dying, and how she fell off a chair onto her butt bone whilst trying to reach something heavy from a high shelf.

Why do old people do that? Remind me when I am old not to climb on anything higher than my floor. My grandpa was seventy-something years old and my Grandma came home one day to find him on the second-to-top rung of an extension ladder that was leaned up against a flagpole. On a hill. Well, the flag was wrapped around the pole and not displayed properly! What was any self-respecting WWII vetran expected to do? Mayhap 'tis honorable to die adjusting a flag...

While you're at it, remind me to not talk constantly about who died and how. But I digress.

LT got the honor of sitting across from his beloved father while G'ma R badgered him about how many times he was going to be able to come visit before his dad left in a week. The rest of us ate in silence. My kids didn't eat squat. Just bounced around uncontrollably having binged on the refined sugar extravaganza on the buffet table in the next room.

In the end, gifts were exchanged and my kids reaped a sickening amount of Crap-They-Will-Never-Miss-If-We-Can-Get-It-Straight-To-Goodwill. My MIL has been aforementioned as a compulsive shopper; Christmas is the ultimate showcase of her...ah, disability.

We had planned to do a White Elephant gift exchange, but as only 4 of the 8 people participating had gifts (me, JeepMan, MIL, FIL), and as we KNEW what we had brought and what my MIL probably wrapped up, we decided to skip it. So we are a $25 gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings and a $25 gift card to Menards richer, when we could have been a pair of earrings and a pair of pajama pants poorer.

After Unclue Mike scrounged all his leftovers and Unclue Tim slithered silently out the door to G'ma R's, we said our goodbyes. We forced the trunk of the Focus down on that great pile o' crap, and hit the road.

JeepMan headed straight to the fridge for a beer when we got home and flopped exhausted into his recliner. "Well, my white-trash Christmas is over for another year, thank God."

Note to self: Next year is Thanksgiving with the MIL, Christmas at my Folks'. Don't know when we are going to get "everyone" together for Christmas....but I am sure we'll figure it out.


Monnik said...

Oh dear... What an interesting gathering!

But you get another 364 days of relative freedom. (ha! get it? 'relative' freedom??)

Merry Christmas! Loved your cards this year, by the way. I'm sending a New Year's letter since I didn't get the chance to send the one I wrote for Christmas.

~SUV Mama~ said...

What wonderful writing.

There should be a place for all formerly jailed, currently paroled, and/or drug-using relatives to gather for Christmas. They could all be together while the rest of us vacation, in say, Tahiti.

Mom In Scrubs said...

Amen, SUV Mama.

And Monnik, you crack me up! Relative Freedom...=P