Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting a jump on trying not to hate Christmas this year

As dedicated CBRATsters know, I have issues with Xmas. Big, hairy ones. Big, scary ones. We won't get into the reasons right now, but I will say that it's a wet paper bag I'm always trying to fight my way out of, because I used to enjoy the season.

And the season it is, with the sparkly lights all over Clark Street in Andersonville and the shop displays fulla tinsel and GLBT/Communist-friendly, secularly flashy displays of all sorts. So ... for the nth year running, here goes ...

Let's go back to the early '80s ... probably 1982 or 1983.* That year, we traveled east to Pennsylvania to spend the holiday with relatives, which I don't think we did any year before or after. We stayed at my aunt Carolyn and uncle Clair's house, which was full of humanity, since they had five kids ... which ... arithmetic, arithmetic ... added up to 11 people in one house. Plus half a dozen or more other relatives visiting at practically any hour of the day or night. This was a strange world. I grew up in a cold, antiseptic, WASPish nuclear family environment, with tons of personal space and tons of distance between kin.

So this was not what I was used to.

But my dim memories of that Christmas are mostly pleasant, mainly because of one evening in that house, a few days into the trip, when we had all seemed to settle into the rhythm of the dynamic. Everybody milling about, doing their own thing. Very raucous, but somehow relaxed at the same time. It was one of the few "big family" moments I've ever enjoyed.

My favorite thing about that night was the hour or so I spent with my mom at the kitchen table, taking a cartooning lesson from her. I was always too clumsy and too easily frustrated to get much from her drawing lessons (I'm a fair doodler and that's about it), but I enjoyed the experience.

We were working on caricatures, and I said, "Draw David Bowie!" And damned if she didn't do an excellent job, a properly spacey profile from around the "Diamond Dogs" era. Without any reference -- from memory. That was impressive. I wish I had saved that drawing.

The other thing that I remember fondly about that same evening is pissing my uncle Dave off with my Dungeons and Dragons dice, which I'd actually dragged all the way out there. Dave is ... well, Dave is the black sheep uncle in my family, although he hadn't yet been fully ostracized at that time. Dave has had some longstanding drinking problems, and spawning random children across the hills and vales problems, too. Anyway, for some reason, I was showing my D&D dice to Dave, and he was particularly pissed off by the four-sided die. As in, the whole four-sided die concept.

"You can't roll that!" You have to imagine a thick, Allegheny Mountains accent, if you can. "How can you even roll that?!"

I tried to explain that you can still toss it in the air and generate a random number with it, but he just (dryly) spat a curse and headed wherever, for more booze, or, I dunno, annother incubator for his copious sperm.**

Yeah. So, ho ho ho and batten down the hatches, er, topsail the mistletoe there ye scurvy bosun, er ... whatever.

Holiday season. Here it comes. Let's pray we get through it again.

*Actually, come to think of it, this may well have been 1981, and it probably was a visit of over two weeks in duration. Because I distinctly recall watching a Muhammad Ali fight on TV at that place (I was and am a huge fan of his), and Wikipedia sez Ali fought (and lost to) Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981 -- Ali's last fight). Earlier Ali fights don't fit the date profiles of other visits, so ... could be.

**There, maybe that will raise my masculinity quotient. Easily that gets me to 63, 64%.

BONUS GEEK ANECDOTE: On that same trip, my dad had neglected to carry sufficient reading material. So, about midway in, I lent him a book I had with me, one of the "Elric of Melniboné" novels by Michael Moorcock. Which he read.

"Weird," was the gist of his review. "That book was really weird."

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