The Pilgrimage Of Biblical Proportion

In case you didn’t notice, I  can’t draw.

Thus the cut and paste and the rudimentary line drawings rather than real family photos.  Besides, I don’t take family photos. I leave that up to my siblings who are a really good at it.  My talents are better suited to ransom notes.

Since I haven’t kidnapped anyone lately, I’ll stick to The Pilgrimage.  I toyed with calling it The Hajj but I always try my best not to shark terms from other cultures to use as my own. It’s an annoying American habit that I think is born of being a young country without a lot of history and what little we have is based on creepy religious dogma and puritanical repression.

But I digress…as I often do.

This year, all I wanted for The Holidays was my family.

I got them.

Damn near all of them. My brother’s family managed to dodge the bullet.

They came from all over the place…in waves. Like a prolonged human tsunami.

They came. They partied. They ate. They plowed through 3 whole turkeys, 2 hams, 6 pounds of breakfast sausage, 3 dozen eggs, 5 gallons of milk, a big-ass crock pot of turkey chili, more bottles of wine than I can count, dozens of cookies, boxes of chocolates, dips and chips and crepes and Quiche and lions and tigers and bears, oh my!  It was glorious!  Romanesque! Feasts worthy of Cesar’s blessing!

Pure heaven!

I like nothing better than feeding people. It’s in my genes. I get it from my grandmother. I also got her overactive sweat glands which is another story for another time but the feeding thing…yeah, that’s definitely what I got and damn proud of it.  What I didn’t get was patience. Or the ability to move at any other speed except full tilt.

This can be problematic during family get-togethers. I’m like a mutant jack-rabbit born into a family of lovely brown bears. They eat, they hibernate, they lumber along at their own pace never bothered by much of anything.  I, on the other hand, flit around like my ass is one fire all the live long day until I collapse into bed without much recollection of what I did for the last 18 hours.  I don’t know how my family puts up with me. But they do.

I worry that it’s out of fear. I see them whispering and pointing as I roast a turkey with one had and buy movie tickets on-line with the other.  They stay a safe distance away when speaking to me. Perhaps to keep their limbs out of harm’s way. What I want to say to them is….

I am not a cyborg! I am a human being!

Of course, I’m kidding.  They love me!  And I am deeply in love with each and every one of them. They are awesome. We don’t fight. We respect each other. We all have a sense of humor and no one takes offense when I say things like “Get your asses in gear! We are leaving. Right. This. Minute! And rinse out that glass and put it in the dishwasher while you’re at it.”

I really can’t help myself. I’m an extreme, dyed-in-the-wool neatnik in a family of not-so-neatniks. A radical. A rogue member of my own tribe.  My niece described it perfectly when she said I was a person who “didn’t like things on surfaces”. I don’t. I believe everything has its place.  I just want everything to be good and right and….organized. I don’t want to find a harmonica in the kitchen.  And why the hell do you insist on this urban sprawl of belongings that stretches from room to room? And if you ask me one more time if I have enough toilet paper in the house, my head is going to explode.  Did. You. Just. Meet. Me? I’m a professional hostess for fuck sake! And YES, I do!

Sorry…..

Then I remind myself to breathe. I stop and remember that not everyone is a rigid as I am about certain things like obsessive neatness, having enough paper products to last through a nuclear winter and putting all the pointy silverware downward in the dishwasher to avoid gnarly jabs when emptying.  Who the hell cares, anyway? It’s what they make Band-aids for, right?

Yes, that’s right, goddamn it! Go ahead, family. Put those steak knives points up from now on!  Patience and understanding are virtues I am determined to master and it’s time for this anal retentive to get her boot camp on!

So, I didn’t explode when someone, yet again, said that they’d lost something. I calmly went outside and hacked at a sapling while they searched. They just hollered for me once they felt safe enough to let me back inside. Easy peasy!

I even managed to remain calm when my niece told me “the spell must be broken now” in the rented Suburban crammed with luggage, car seats and two kids on sugar highs.

“What is this spell you speak of, young niece?” I asked….patiently.

“My kids have puked in EVERY rental car they’ve ever been in. But so far, so good,” she says with a nervous giggle.

Traveler’s Tip:  never speak of anything you don’t want to happen while traveling, lest you cause it to happen by speaking of it. Trust me on this

Our time together was chaotic madness. It was epic in its revelry. It was us. Together. We laughed until we cried, teased each other mercilessly, ate until we doubled over and drank until our teeth were stained purple.  Damn the calories and pass the cream cheese. We had a blast!

Ah, yes. We had a blast!

And we missed our mother…

…but didn’t speak of it.  Perhaps there was just too much chaos. Perhaps we thought it might be too emotional. What I like to believe is that not talking about it was natural.  Natural in a way that she would have liked. She was practical. She wouldn’t have wanted a fuss.  Loving each other was what she taught us and that was what we were doing.  We paid tribute with our actions. And that would have been enough for her.

It was more than enough for us.

I could go on and on ad infinitum about the good times had by all…but everything comes to an end eventually.

Regardless of the stress of hosting an army, I am sad when everyone goes.  Truly sad.  I call upon my California soul to soothe my corn-fed heart which breaks a little each time I have to say goodbye.  No matter how long it’s been since I left home, my roots are firmly Midwestern.

I’m okay with that because it’s who I am.

And just in time to save me from reminiscing to the point of longing…..my sister sends a text from home:

I think I left my suitcases there, hahaha!

I reply….

You people would lose your heads if they weren’t attached. Wait….I just ran across one beautiful, brown eyeball and possibly someone’s kidney…or it could be a spleen. Hard to say. Looks like it’s been here a while. 

And we both send back LOLs.

It is how we do in this fam damily!  And I love it!

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Kitty
January 2, 2013 7:05 am

Knowing both you and Ben, I’d guess your mom knows how to raise damn good kids who know how to raise good kids.
What an ache I had reading how you all missed her but didn’t speak of it. You just know everyone feels it.

Three Turkeys???

Jane
Jane
January 2, 2013 8:49 pm

Little Sister: Thank you. You had me crying with laughter. Then in a nanosecond I was crying with the reminder that our mother always wished that she had laughed more with her family. I’m thinking she’s getting her wish. By the way, have you found my lost earring yet? It’s gotta be somewhere in the upstairs guest room.

Benjamin
January 2, 2013 9:45 pm

Brilliant.

Grandma would have been proud indeed. Loads of smiling and cooking that would have made her happy and proud.

Kitty, you are spot on! My sister was at least able to achieve raising some pretty fantastic kids. Mine will probably be born with accompanying mugshots…

Joanie
Joanie
January 3, 2013 12:50 am

I had to drag my sick butt out of bed to read this. It may have taken me an hour to get to my computer, falling a few times because of feeling dizzy and running to the “powder room” a few times, but I have to say it was worth using up every bit of strength I had left in my body. We love you for putting up with us – wait, we all put up with each other! I would rate our visit as perfect. If you look on one of the family photos, you will see there is… Read more »

Joanie
Joanie
January 3, 2013 4:33 am
Reply to  Jules Howe

You didn’t say if Eric found his keys.

Sean
Sean
January 3, 2013 9:51 pm

I do remember comparing your fridge to Noah’s ark, with two of every animal inside waiting to be consumed…

Sara Jane
Sara Jane
January 6, 2013 1:53 am

When Sean came into our family, he just about lost his mind with our slothness. (Google does not like the spelling of my made up word). He started calling us “The Hurry-Up and Wait-ers” He would be up, ready and half out the door when one of us decides we need to knit a quick sweater before we go. We truly push the limits of a type A-personality’s ability to remain sane, but we are so fun. So laid back, loving, truly caring, and the perfect family! My 5 year old cried for two nights when we got home because… Read more »

Jen
Jen
January 6, 2013 2:09 am

I’m just surprised you only went through 3 dozen eggs. . .Anytime we would invite your parents for dinner we would tell them an earlier time than we were actually eating so they would be on time. Unless of course my dad was barbequing, your dad was always on time those nights.

Honey Badger 4136
January 9, 2013 4:22 pm

OK….OK…The family came, they ate, you hugged & kissed & I know you had the time of your life, but the real unsung hero in all of this is ” C “, he stayed, he drank, he ate, he laughed at ALL of you, & also had the time of his life…from what I hear. J.Ho. you are one lucky, special,corn-fed midwestern gal & I am so happy to call u my friend..xoxo HB 4136 over &out!