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!


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… 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!

Peace Out, Gisele

This is Gisele. The real one.

In our house, however, Gisele is a christmas tree.  I bought her years ago…on sale. No one wanted her.  Can you believe that? She was eight feet fall, thin and lithe.  She wasn’t wearing a Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bra much to my husband’s chagrin but rather green leafy polyvinyl chloride from top to bottom.  Perhaps that’s why she was passed over. People tend to expect so much from a super-model christmas tree.

She fit neatly in one corner of the living room, occupied  little space.  Super-model christmas trees are rarely obtrusive. They require little care, not even water.

But it is time for a change.

Alas, after eight years of stuffing her in a box, she has become unwieldy.  Dare I say…out of shape? Her delicate arms so flexible in her early years have become rusty and arthritic.  Gone are her perky branches so taught and alert, replaced by the sag of age and inevitable gravity.  Her green has dulled, her shine and luster long gone.

It makes me sad to retire her but I must.

I manhandle her down from the garage pantry, her box torn and dusty. A lone spider peeks out from its winter nest, sees what’s happening, abandons ship, skitters across the floor in search of another host.  How soon they forget!

Gisele will go to another now. A family who will care for her in her aging years.  I, however, must move forward. Return to my roots.  Rekindle the joys of past seasons.  I have so missed watching my dog suck down the tree water as if it’s some kind of canine fountain of youth, wadding the folksy tree skirt into a tangle of damp velvet. Ornaments crashing to the ground. Oh, how I’ve longed for the pine needles and droplets of sap that stick to the bottom of everyone’s shoes and coat every last, m-effing square of tile in my entire house.  The memories come flooding back now like a long overdue tsunami.

I am overwhelmed with joy.

Yes, it’s true. The REAL tree makes a triumphant return to our family home this season. Just in time for the arrival of the pilgrims and their offspring.

I am sorry, Gisele. Truly sorry.

With time….you’ll understand.

Peace out.