Plays Well With Others

Another Christmas Down …

Sometimes it feels like I’m on the game show Survivor when it comes to making it through the holidays. You know it’s coming, you do all you can to prepare for it, but when it finally hits you, you have no clue how to handle it. Ugh.

Here’s the week in review, so far:

December 21, 2002
We’d agreed to meet some friends for lunch to celebrate Wifey™’s birthday, which was on the 20th. I’d already done my celebration for her a few weeks earlier by taking her to see Cirque Du Soleil in San Francisco. We had fun. This day was for some friends to celebrate her birthday with her.

Through email, this friend had mentioned wanting to go out and asked me for suggestions on where to have lunch and what time would be good. I replied that we’d eaten at a place called PF Changs and thought it was pretty good, so maybe a 1 o’clock lunch there would be good. I also made the comment that if they had a different idea we were open for it. She reponded that what we’d chosen sounded great and so the date was set. Again, let me repeat, she had NO problem with my selection.

So, Wifey™ and I head out of the house around noon and head over to the Stanford Mall, located on the Stanford University campus, where PF Changs is located and initially we only see a bank where the restaurant is supposed to be located. Erm. Ugh. A little more detective work revealed that the restaurant was located on the other side of the bank with hardly any signage from the entrance we were coming in at. We later found out that we were entering from the rear of the restaurant. Regardless, withing five minutes we found it, and after circling the very crowded lot, we found that the bank parking lot we virtually empty and headed over there to park. All in all, we were parked and in the restaurant within ten minutes.

So Wifey™ and I sat down and waited … and waited … and waited. After about twenty mintues of waiting we decided to order an appetizer. In the next ten minutes, Wifey™ and I nearly finished the appetizer and still no friends. And so as Wifey™ and I were getting ready to order our lunch, Wifey™ sees the male counterpart walking up towards the restaurant. Ugh. Only half an hour late.

He enters and immediately tells us that his wife is pissed. Great. So she enters the restaurant with this pissed off expression on her face. Like fuming pissed. And without even saying, “Hello”, says “Nice choice” to me. And then goes on to complain about the fact that the restaurant is hard fo find, is located in a mall at Christmas time and that there is no parking. Erm. I found it, and I found parking immediately, so shut up bitch.

She mellowed out as lunch went on and in the end we walked around the mall looking for a Kate Spade purse that Wifey™ wanted. We never found it.

December 23, 2002
I used some comp time on Monday, so that I wouldn’t have to work the day before the parties. Pretty relaxing day spent at the apartment taking care of miscellaneous projects. The last time I’d be relaxing for a couple of days.

December 24, 2002
Ah Christmas Eve.

06-1d50-01-0006-0600dt.jpgWifey™ and I woke up early to open our gifts to each other, since it was the only time available where we’d have some time alone. We’d both agreed ahead of time on a limit of $150 to spend on each other, and she stuck to it, I went slightly over.

Wifey™ bought me alot of stuff that I really needed — new pants and shirts and really nice letter opener. If she didn’t buy them for me, I’d probably never have new clothes. I bought her a new winter jacket, a robe, some sleepwear, some jeans and a new wedding ring set. The ring pushed me over the limit. Basically we’d been talking about upgrading her rings anyhow, because they weren’t fitting properly and the style wasn’t something either of us really liked. The new ring set, shown above without the diamond, is closer to our tastes. The place that sells it will also replace any diamond if it were to fall out, and will upgrade the center diamond at any time for 100% of what I paid towards the new one. Pretty good deal. All in all, we were pretty happy with our gifts.

This is also the day my mom’s side of the family gets together to have their Christmas celebration. Having experienced my mom on this day, Wifey™ and I chose to arrive only an hour ahead of time. Just enough to help out a little, but not quite enough to get our heads bitten off in her yearly Christmas rampage.

See, my mom works herself up into a frenzy the day of the big party. I guess she thinks everything has to be perfect and so if it isn’t she gets irritated. And when she gets irritated, anyone within reach is going to hear about it. So, after years of learning this, my sister and I have learned to stay clear until the guests arrive.

Regardless, this is the more fun party of the holidays. The more fun side of the family and the better food. Also, with the new addition to my mom’s house, this was the first year we all got to have a sit down dinner, rather than eating on TV trays all over the house. An interesting experience, but a nice one.

Over the summer, looking through my tapes, I found a tape containing Christmas 1994, so at some point of the night, I played it for everyone, which they thoroughly enjoyed.

Gift giving is somewhat traditional, yet also non-traditional. Years past, everyone bought gifts for everyone else. As the family grew, it got more and more expensive to find gifts for everyone and eventually, the gift giving began to get skimpier and skimpier. A few years ago, it was decided that the adults would pick names and the kids would get gifts from everyone. So now, we all email our list of gift ideas (things we want under $50) to my aunt, where she types it up and emails us all back with a master list. At Thanksgiving we pick names and buy a gift from the list for that person. Fairly simple, fairly straightforward and we are only out $50, rather than $500. Everyone gets something they want and there are no disapointments. And the kids get gifts from everyone.

Last year a new tradition began, because people felt that the $50 gift wasn’t very exciting. Most people ask for a gift certificate, which, although nice to buy whatever you want, is pretty unexciting to open up. The new tradition is a white elephant gift for about $10.

Basic rules: Choose a number. Number one chooses first from the pile of gifts and opens it. Then number two has the option to steal the gift from number one, or open from the pile. If number one’s gift is stolen they choose from the pile, but can’t steal back the gift that was stolen from them this round. Then number three can steal from one or two or pick from the pile. If three steals from one, then one can steal from two or choose from the pile. And the game goes on with people either stealing or choosing from the pile. When the gifts are gone and the stealing is over, the game is over. Oh, and no gift can be stolen more than three times. After three steals the package is retired … or the game would go on forever.

December 25, 2002
Finally, Christmas Day.

Wifey™ and I got up early again to head over to my mom’s house for breakfast and gift opening, before heading to my father’s house and then on to his side of the family. Not exactly a relaxing day.

After breakfast at mom’s house, we opened gifts to and from my mom, my sister and her boyfriend and Wifey™ and I. I got clothes, shoes and a baseball hat, along with a gift card to buy more clothes at Old Navy (Is someone hinting that I need clothes?). Wifey™ got some clothes, an Italian charm bracelet and her favorite item — a Kate Spade purse, from my mom.

We would have loved to spend all day there relaxing, but almost immediately after opening gifts we had to hit the road to head to my father’s house for a second round of gift giving, and we were already about half an hour behind.
So after the long drive to get there, I pulled into their driveway and since there are already two trucks parked in there, I have to pull up close so I don’t stick out into the street. Unfortunately, I misjudged the space and hit the gas and then slammed into my father’s bumper. Insert loud thump here.

Neither of them came out and when we went up to the door we told them. My stepmother just said, “I heard you guys drive up”. My father hadn’t even heard it. No dents, no visual damage, so everything was great. At their house we got a load of cash and a really neat framed wedding montage with all the little memories from our wedding.

And then we headed to the family party, another half an hour drive. We decided to follow my father, since he said he’d probably drive slow. Of course, once we hit the freeway he gassed it and we were up to 85mph at one point just trying to keep up. Ugh. Nice way to caravan.

We ended up getting there right around 2:30PM, where we were promptly greeted by the family. This side of the family is sort of the disfunctional side. They all hate each other, make up stories about each other and then spend Christmas pretending to be a happy family, all the time backstabbing and making snide remarks. It’s a blast … really, it is. NOT.

In fact, prior to going, my father gets a call telling them that the family isn’t exchanging gifts because not everyone can afford it. Okay, no problem. My stepmother suggests a gift-exchange where they draw names to my aunt. My aunt calls my grandmother and tells her that there will be no gift exchange because no one can afford it. My grandmother calls my mom and tells her that no one is giving gifts this year. My mom calls me and says “Grandma said no one is giving gifts. I don’t know why she told me because I don’t even celebrate with that side of the family.” So a couple of days later, my father calls my Grandmother to find out who is unemployed, since my aunt mentioned that someone can’t afford to buy gifts. She then tells him that HE’S the one my aunt was talking about. Erm. Insert flames on top of my father’s head here. Pretty funny since he’s worked for the same place for over 35 years and has done about 80 hours of overtime in the last week due to the storms. If anyone can afford to buy a gift, he can.

Anyhow, we get there, have some appetizers, engage in some small talk about work and such and then sit down to dinner. The mashed potatoes have chunks of potatoes in them and the stuffing/dressing tastes like that boxed stuffing-a-roni stuff. And we are forced to do a before dinner prayer holding hands. Ugh. Pretty funny seeing as how the only religious one there was my aunt and her family, the closest the others come to a church is when they drive by one on their way to somewhere else.

After dinner we almost immediately started the white elephant game, in leau of a formal gift exchange. My grandma still gave me and Wifey™ gifts, just because she couldn’t give a damn about my aunts rules. My other aunt gave me a big pink piggy bank with some cash in it.

The white elephant game started out with a dispute over the rules and how to play. Then midway, my cousin took control of a wine bottle opener and claimed he’d get to keep it, even though he was the second person to steal, not the third. After throwing a hissy fit over it, I stole it from him. Wifey™ was the last person to pick, and chose a backgammon game in a leather case, which she stole from my uncle’s sister. She in turn stole something from her bratty 20-something year old daughter, who in turn stole back the backgammon game from Wifey™. Wifey™ ended up with a nice candle.

With the game over, we made small talk again, got to hear the backstabbing and snide remarks about how my aunt stole everything from my great grandmother’s house when she died, and then went on to steal everything from my grandmother’s house when my grandfather died. Ugh. Family drama. And with that Wifey™ and I booked it out of there at about 7PM — without even having dessert.

Merry Fucking Christmas. And with that, another Christmas under our belts. We’ve both agreed that we’ll be skipping this family get together next year.

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