The First Celebration
Though my fraternal grandmother has not lived in her house for quite some time, my father still insists on holding the main events there. I entered and turned towards the coat closet, five steps ahead and to the right of the door, mostly out of lifetime habit. I was dreading this particular get-together more than any of the others. As I reached for a hanger, my eye was drawn towards an unearthly red glow emanating from the nearby living room. When I discovered its source, my jaw dropped.
Where the Christmas tree should have been, there stood a giant. It was glowing. It was nylon. It was kept inflated by a humming fan. It was Homer Simpson, empty bubble-eyed gaze aimed towards the heavens. He was attired in a Santa outfit, though his hat was slightly crushed by the ceiling as he was never meant to stand indoors. A part of my heart died when I realized that my father had committed this decorating atrocity. Another part choked and keeled over in shock when the rest of the participants found it amusing. Pride killed another heart segment out of sheer mercy when I observed that my aunt and uncle found humor not in it being a "Homertree," but it being crassness committed by my father.
I have subsequently realized that when it comes to holiday decorations, I am very much a traditionalist. I like lots of greenery, shinies, and ribbon. There's something in both my father's humor and his decor that repulses my deepest senses.
The Second Celebration
I endured the lawn-decoration-turned-tree-substitute and my grandmother's "20 Questions 20 Times" for what felt like an eternity. We finally moved on to the second house late that night. My father had been drinking a lot, and his conversation was growing increasingly loud and rude. Remarkably, when I expressed my displeasure and pointedly asked just how much he had imbibed, he stopped his intake of alcoholic beverages.
There's really no way to phrase this other than to say for Christmas, he gave me a roll of toilet paper, in which he had rolled money (he had taped every bill together). He thought this hilarious. I was dumbfounded. Had there not been cash as a saving grace (remarkable what one will stoop to when money is involved), I probably would have cried right then and there. Spirit of the holidays be damned! Toilet paper??
The Third Celebration
In stark contrast to the prior two events, the third and final was with the family that I actually enjoy being around (even if they did get me up waaay too early in the morning).
I had told them not to get me anything, for they had already contributed so much to my attempt to live a life in a far distant state. That was their gift to me, I said. I was subsequently floored when they gave me Marvin's replacement, a new CPU. His name is Ackmoo Norbert the Mariner. You can just call him Ackmoo for short.
"You can't pick your family, but you can pick your friends," said my mother. If I cannot avoid my blood bonds, then I am thankful that I have at least two sane relatives who keep me from going homicidal each holiday season ... and who are sensible enough to have a nice tree. And who agree with me in saying that the holidays are a fine time to be blind, we take off our glasses and stare at all the little lights.