I was 23, Jewish-ish and tickled hot pink that my friend Jordyn
invited me to my first-ever family Christmas celebration. The shenanigans
were to be held at her Aunt’s home in Tampa, a quick 45 minute jaunt
along the Interstate in her pickup truck.
I learned backstory about the Aunt. She had a gambling problem and
would disappear to Indian casinos or Atlantic City without telling a
soul, including her heart-conditioned husband. One day a year ago she
MIA’d off to Atlantic City and her husband plopped dead of a heart
attack. Luckily she learned her lesson — now she only gambles on the
We parked outside the Aunt’s house and I walked inside to Home
Shopping Network guys screaming about Ginsu Knives through a large
television in the dining area: I could slice my wrist with those, I
thought. Jordyn’s Aunt, a jolly,
ample and amplified 50-year-old woman bounced towards me. After
attempting to exchange cordials with the Aunt, I politely inquired if
it were possible to turn the TV down so we could hear each other. “What
did you say?” She screamed at me. I repeated my question fourteen
decibels higher. “Oh no, of course not,” she replied with no sense of
irony, ushering me to the dining room table.
Sitting at the table were two ruffians who had enough ink tattooed
throughout them to make a squid explode with jealousy. They were drunk
and making out. Jordyn explained that the male slice of this couplet
was her cousin, the Aunt’s son. He had gotten out of jail earlier that
week; Jordyn didn’t know what he was in for. The girl he was lip-locked
to was his girlfriend; Jordyn said he also had a wife and kids. Like any
good guest, they brought their own case of Budweiser which they were
already midway through.
There was second cousin, a paraplegic, who lay in a bedroom
adjacent to the dining area. I try to give people a benefit of the
doubt that they are decent and worthwhile beings – especially those oppressed
with disability — but this cousin made it difficult, angry and bitter, yelling at the Aunt to bring him thinly-sliced potatoes
and carrots, calling her a god-damned bitch. Without hesitation, she
brought him the veggies. This behavior continued throughout dinner.
It was time for dessert, and, as I was told is tradition, the Aunt
baked a birthday cake for Jesus. It was filled with candles, but not
2000+. I pondered asking about this but my question became lost in a
rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to
you!” Should we take the cake outside and let the Godly winds blow it
out (it was nearly hurricane season). “No, cutiepie,” the Aunt said cheerfully,
and blew it out herself.
I hope Jesus got his wish.
Then we all got gifts, fruit cake. “Hey you useless slut, give me
some fucking fruitcake,” the cousin screamed from his room. The Aunt
obliged while the other cousin smushed beer cans on his forehead.
I can’t imagine a more perfect first Christmas. I hope there are thousands more on my horizon.