OK, here's the play-by-play for those who are interested and want to compare war stories.
Christmas passed relatively peacefully. The 23rd began with a knock at the door from the postie and the arrival of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces on my doorstep. Thanks Ragdoll -- I cannot put this book down! I spent Christmas Eve-Eve with my folks, who played with Nate while I got my house under control and wrapped presents. I actually was still wrapping when the Dog got home from work at 1 am! That's what I get for leaving the shittiest part of gift-giving to the end.
Got into a spat with the Dog on Christmas Eve morning. We never used to get upset with each other this often, but since the baby... suddenly all these issues are popping up. I know he wanted to leave by noon, but it became apparent that it wasn't going down like that. So I got all panicky that he was possibly seething downstairs, while I was doing my hair for once. And I got angry with him that he was always rushing me, instead of being proactive and helping by feeding Nate or packing his stuff up for the night. But seriously, why does that always have to be my job? I just want to look nice once-in-a-while! I'd like to pluck my eyebrows in peace and wear a silk top and not get banana hands on it. Once. Please?
The Dog is not programmed to think of what Nate needs past the morning duties of diaper change and banana/cereal feed. After the 9 am nap, the Dog just clues out. Other than feeding him the banana/cereal combo, the Dog has never made a meal for Nate on his own. Not a fresh, warm meal. And considering that he will be Nate's primary caregiver come January 23rd, I just think he needs to pick up the slack a bit.
Anyway, tears gave way to hugs and we decided to exchange our gifts to each other in the privacy of our own home. We bought that huge mattress a few weeks ago and so we agreed to keep the gifts small. I was very excited about the Dog's gift. He actually bought it weeks ago instead of his usual last minute rush job. It ended up being a rather practical mortar and pestle (I like to grind up my own spices), but since he bought it in Little India, the box said Motal and Pestle. Funny. And cute. And sweet that he tried. And that's romantic in a way that only fits my husband. It's not his fault. No one can compete with the master gift giver. No really, I am THAT good.
As long as I have been in the Dog's life, it has become apparent to him that he should learn his mother tongue. My family speaks a hybrid of four languages (English, Armenian, Turkish and French) -- a dialect unique to our household. And when we went to Norway in 2004, the Dog felt bad that is cousins had to learn English to converse with him, instead of the other way around. He's been trying to find Norwegian classes, but has had no luck. So I ordered him a set of lessons on CD. I figured he could load them onto his ipod and listen to them on the way to work and while falling asleep. It's a base, "repeat after me" style, but better than most. Anyway, he was floored and got emotional and said it was the best gift I've ever given him.
We left for his mom's after Nate's noontime nap. The Dog's mom is Norwegian and Norskies take Christmas Eve very fucking seriously. There are about six standard dishes that are cooked on December 24th depending which part of Norway you live in. No matter how modern Norwegians are becoming in their daily cooking life, for Christmas Eve they all go back to the ways of the farmers and fishermen they came from. Gifts are opened on the 24th, stockings (from Santa) on the morning of the 25th. We used to get oranges or clementines in our stockings, but Grandma was pretty sauced and tired by the time she went down to stuff the stockings, so price tags were left on and oranges were left out. Heh.
The Dog's dad is English, so add this to the stoic Norwegian and you get a family who keeps grievances with one another locked away for 364 days of the year. On December 24th, everyone deals by getting hammered and then it all comes out. And boy is it messy. Being from a loud middle eastern family that tell each other to fuck off the second we are angry (and then it's like it never happened five minutes later), this is strange to me. Also, nothing makes you feel like you're not family faster than the actual immediate family getting into a feud in front of your face.
Of course as I've moved closer towards becoming a family member (comes with time I suppose), the heat has also started to turn on me. Last year I was spared due to pregnancy, so this year I was scared.
So I took the Dog's advice and started pounding back the Christmas cheer. And my sis-in-law and mum-in-law started to love it during dinner, so I realized I had to stop. I am not a good drunk. I have foot-in-the-mouth disease at the best of times. I am loud on herbal tea. "I'd better stop before I turn into someone's mother," I said to my future brother-in-law with a knowing wink. Future brother-in-law! That's right, our very own Paul Bunyan from Newfoundland popped the question before we opened gifts. He had even asked the Dog's dad for permission the night before. It was a Christmas miracle. Something to deflect attention from me. I saw the diamond from across the room and started screaming. This sent Nate and Bex (my niece-in-law) into tears, for different reasons.
Bex dad left 6 years ago. On Christmas Eve. Until Paul Bunyan (PB) came into her life, we all had to relive that horrible night with my sis-in-law each year. I was still the relatively new girlfriend the night he left and it was my first official Christmas Eve with their fam. Whoa. What an introduction. There were tears and fights. I took my usual roll of cheerleader and tried to save Christmas. But really, who could save that Christmas?
Bex was only almost three then. She can hardly remember what her dad was like, or even what he looked like save for some photos. After years of silence, he has been emailing with her. He has a new family now (the reason he left) and though Bex refers to him as her step-brother, she has a half-brother somewhere in Europe, but that concept is too much for someone who is almost nine. PB has been waking up and making her breakfast and taking her to school and being the man in her life for nearly three years now. But he's not her dad.
She walked in Christmas Eve and the first thing she showed me was a set of earrings and a bracelet. "My daddy gave me these," she said proudly. We all cringed. Your daddy was a dick, we're all thinking. He left you, the most beautiful, lovely almost three year-old, on Christmas to go off with his gypsy lover. We can never forgive him. But she doesn't think of him like that. He is her DADDY. It's a magical concept. And her mother's engagement only symbolized one thing: Mommy and Daddy are not getting back together.
PB handled it with the silent grace he always does. He hugged her and told her this doesn't really change anything and that he loves her and will always be there for her. He is a good man and nothing short of a miracle for this family. God bless him. We opened the rest of the gifts and drank some more and I noticed that tension between mum-in-law and sis-in-law was building (because they are both terrible drunks). I tried to ignore it and focused on Nate, who was trying to figure out what all the hype and wrapping paper was all about. I kept him up as long as I could and then took him upstairs to bed.
When I came back downstairs, I was greeted by the Dog at the bottom step. "You don't want to be down here," he said at the same moment I heard the sobbing. Oh fuck, here we go. Sis-in-law sobbing and blubbering and mum-in-law looking somewhat guilty, but for what? She was too drunk to know. I talked them both off the ledge somehow and we finished with the gifts and got onto talking. And it didn't get out of hand. And no one got pissy or overly political or opinionated. (Debating with people who have the wrong information makes me insane) And my sis-in-law complimented me for knowing a lot of stuff ("I really respect you for that") instead of insulting my know-it-all-ness. It must have been the light off that diamond. Thank Christ!
The rest of Christmas was fun and uneventful and peaceful. My family's Christmas sounds like a snooze compared to theirs -- and man do I LOVE my family for that. They provide enough fodder for the rest of the year, so I'll leave it at that. Nate got some sweet booty, but nothing excessive... sorta. I am particularly smitten with the luxe Burberry knickers, care of his Tante. She's making the Burberry gift an annual tradition she says. And you know what? I'm actually diggin' that my son gets to sport some subtle bling. He's no Rocco Ritchie, but if someone wants to spoil him with the things I can't afford, well Ho Ho HO! I'm down with that sleigh ride. The label train is unavoidable at Christmastime. And though I think a lot of it is evil, I am a much better mom once I relax on my ideals a bit. Plus I get to enjoy a couple of Christmasses where my son is totally oblivious to all that nonsense, before he starts asking for things by name.
Anyway, hope your Christmas weekend was fun. Feel free to comment below (ANYONE can comment. You can leave some of the fields blank as you wish) with your horror stories.