I suppose I have lived one of those fortunate lives, often more like an old Andy Hardy movie. I suppose we had our little dramas, but the holidays have always been a special time of coming together for us.
On TV and in magazines there are endless experts warning about the stress of the holidays, the sturm und drang of family politics and even outright feuding.
My family has mostly skirted all of that. Of course when the children marry, it requires some adjustment. Whose house will they go to for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Often simple geography will settle the question.
Growing up in the same town, we never split into “our family” and “their family.”
It usually ran to Thanksgiving at our house and Christmas at theirs, or vice versa. I was always content as long as the turkey and giblet gravy held out. Then there is the pleasant post-prandial drowse that comes in front of the TV set tuned into the football game of the moment.
Science explained it as the amino acid tryptophan found in the turkey itself produces sleep-inducing chemicals that make it so hard to stay awake and listen to your brother-in-law. Then, as usual, science shoots a hole in that theory saying it does no such thing and that there is the same amount of the substance in any poultry. In fact there is more tryptophan gram for gram in cheese than in turkey.
All of which is by-the-by to me. I don’t mind dozing after pizza either.
I understand the stress, too. My Lady Wife is hostess this year to dinner for 10, and it has already begun to creep into her conversation.
For instance, we were listening to Rod Stewart’s version of “As Time Goes By,” which is what I have always insisted as to be “our song.” I happened to mention a bit of trivia that the iconic theme song of “Casablanca” was almost cut from the movie.
The Powers That Be, decided they wanted “a better” theme song. But Ingrid Bergman had already cut her hair for her next role in “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” so they could not reshoot the scene in which she asks Sam to play it again (I know, no one ever says, “Play it again, Sam.”)
So My Lady Wife turns to me and says, “How come you can remember something like that, but you can’t remember where to pick me up when I have a colonoscopy? “
I had to patiently explain I did not forget where exactly. It was simply that in this maze of office buildings, they all looked alike. So I had to call and get more explicit instructions, since apparently having a building address is sufficient unto the task and therefore it is unnecessary to actually put the number on said building.
But I digress. I see it simply as incipient holiday stress and not nearly as bad as when we were first married.
Our first Christmas morning together, she had risen early to begin preparations for company and was wound about as tight as a two-dollar watch. I happened to call to her from the bedroom that my ankle injury from racquetball that had been flaring up was now in open rebellion and that I could not get out of bed.
(NOTE: Subsequent medical opinion would discover that this was not the rather glamourous sports injury that I could point to with pride. Instead it was a rather inglorious and pedestrian first bout of gout. And I might add that although it is a more prosaic ailment than a sports injury, gout is much more painful.)
While my intense discomfort would not allow me to put the offending foot to floor, it did not engender the Florence Nightingalish concern I had expected from my loving spouse.
Her words as I recall – and they are burnished into my brain as though with a red-hot iron – were:
“No! No! No! I am not taking you to the Emergency Room. I do not have time for this!”
I was about to reply that I would settle for help just to get to the bathroom, but I saw the way her pupils were so dilated as to be completely black. Instead I refrained from further comment, there being numerous sharp objects in the house.
Fortunately for all, our son-in-law was summoned, and I was transported, treated and released from the ER within a couple of hours. When I returned I saw that the vein in MLW’s temple was no longer throbbing and her pupils had regained their normal azure hue.
I immediately made myself useful peeling potatoes, and dinner went off without a hitch.
So if holiday stress begins to surface between the cracks, just remember Hatcher’s simple remedy. If things get too edgy to nap in front of the television, go hide out in the emergency room until things cool off.
Failing that solution, I hear the Golden Corral puts on a great spread. Take everybody there and you don’t have to do the dishes or even peel the potatoes.