December 26, 2005


My family is pretty fucked up, I'll be the first to admit. Other questions, like just how white trash we probably are (check!) are usually vaguely coded, but fucked up? Most definitely.

I wish I could remember exactly how we determined this, it's days like these I wish I had a wire tap to recall the dialogue verbatim. I ended up summarizing a lot, especially near the end. You should be able to get the jist, anyway.

At any rate, we all gathered around the Christmas tree, doling out the various lowkey gifts we were given. Since my father's operation, six month medical leave of absense, and the accompanying minutia that went along with it were more expensive than people would have liked (e.g. motel for my mother to stay at during the operation, which she only used to drop off a change of clothes and then return the next morning to change, the gas needed for doctor's visits around the midwest, spoiling the emotionally fragile youngest sister, trying to eat organic for the week or two following the procedure, etc) we decided to keep Christmas fairly low key.

Fuck, we didn't even have lights on the tree, just some garland.

At any rate, even though we don't really celebrate Christmas (I'm not sure anyone in the nuclear family has any particular feelings for Jesus Christ), we don't really know how to stop. It just ends up being awkward, with some relatives super-religious, and talking with other people, and stuff like that. The whole concept of Christmas and Santa Claus is fun when you're dealing with little kids, but when the youngest is 15 with no cousins or relatives knocking out new babies, you're still expected to put out gifts and put on a big show because no one really knows how to say no, or tone things down multiple notches.

So there we were. The nuclear family, Ma and Pa and Bro (me) and two younger sisters, all around the dim, Charlie Brown-esque Christmas tree, very much an off stade of Norman Rockwell, like a screen printing that had seen better days. We tried to determine who would open gifts first, and then go in a circle, or whatever. Growing up it was always the oldest or the youngest who went first, which made the middle sibling always very upset as a toddler, and so we still try and mix things up on occasion. Sometimes we'd pick numbers or roll the die, or play a little "Name that Tune" sort of thing, or I don't know. They were always pretty dumb.

My mom's suggestion, which we ended up taking: Let's let your father go first, he's had the most traumatic year.

Which led to debates as to who had the most 'traumatic' year.

Yes, the word is 'debates.'

Dad: Had a heart attack this summer, which proved too much for his nervous system, causing digestive problems, and going in and out of the hospital for most of first semester. He then had a gastric pacemaker put in at the end of October, and now is on a completely restrictive diet: low fat, low fiber, low salt, low etc etc.

Littlest Sis (age 15): Is manic depressive and will probably be on welfare for the rest of her life. She was pulled out of school her freshman year, and has been 'homeschooled' ever since. (The scare quotes indicate how little 'schooling' is actually going on.) After tweaking with her meds in April, she went a little off the handle, and was institutionalized for a weekend, eventually released.

Mom: In addition to dealing with Dad, she's going through the menopause.

Middle Sister (Age 18): She's my favorite out of the family. Most of the stories that come from these next few weeks before spring semester starts up are going to be about her. She went next because she's a senior and hasn't made up her mind where she wants to go yet next year. She didn't really make that big of a case for herself.

And then me. I didn't make a case, so I ended up last. For what my family knows, I had a fairly quiet, easy year. At least in contrast to everyone else, and also due to that I don't really tell my parents about a lot of things, like how Heart broke up with me in an AIM conversation while Dad was prepping for surgery, or how my best friend moved to Kalamazoo one weekend and forgot to call me, or how your estranged grandfather, who got out of prison next year and now works in a suburb of Madison drunk dials you and asks if you can hook him up with some hot pussy, or just how painful the single life can be when you're not exactly the most emotionally-confident person on earth, or how you're not quite out to every relative, and this is the season for uncles and third-cousins on your mom's side to be asking if you've found 'the one' yet, and just what exactly do you want to do with a BA in English?


Establishing just how much you've suffered over the past year, and then ranking your pain against your family to get to open your presents; I'm sure Jesus would be proud.

My mom's side of family is pretty conservative Lutheran, and my dad's side comprises of staunch atheists, and we're a pretty mixed bag of agnosticism, deism, and humanism. But it still seems to me that we sure came up with one Jewish Christmas.
Here lies a most ridiculous raw youth, indulging himself in the literary graces that he once vowed to eschew. Now he just rocks out.