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 Internet.

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.

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