Family and other F Words

My family occasionally reminds me why I moved to the other end of the state.

That “occasion” is every damn time I have to interact with them. 

Christmas this year was no exception. Is it too soon to wish for the good old days of 2020 when we had baked-in excuses to avoid travel and gatherings? Sure, that excuse still exists. It’s just sounding more like an excuse.

The Boomers who have ruled my extended family with an iron fist since the moment they clawed their way out of war-weary wombs are dragging everyone into their self-centered black holes. They never doubted their infallibility over the last seventy years, why should they start now?

My parents generation wrested Christmas and other holiday celebrations from their own parents in the so-called Greatest Generation while in their thirties and forties. Meanwhile, I’m pushing fifty, but so far they’ve allowed ONE member of my generation to host ONE holiday. And it’s Easter, which no one gave a shit about. You can take Charlton Heston’s gun easier than we can take a Certified Family Gathering(tm).

I mean, come on, if they were the “Greatest Generation,” why would they let other generations take things from them? Don’t they know that greatness means grabbing everything and holding onto it with a death grip? Otherwise the fascists win. Not that the Greatest Generation would know jack shit about standing up to fascists. They didn’t have Facebook OR Twitter in 1941. How could one possibly stand up to fascism without changing the font on their profile picture? “Greatest.” Pfft.

For the past thirty-ish years, Christmas dinner has shifted between my mom, my aunt, and their cousins. As negotiated in the Great Treatise on Holiday Celebrations reached during the Clinton Administration, right up there with the Good Friday Agreement and Oslo Accords., my mom and aunt hold the Christmas festivities in even years, while the heathen side of the family got the odd years. 

Not that they’re heathens. With an Irish last name, you might think I’ve got a protestant/Catholic thing going on. The two sides of my family, descending from my grandpa and his sister, are quite agreeable. It’s the generation gap that gets a bit hairy. In case you hadn’t noticed.

As with everything, Covid kinda fucked up that whole arrangement. Nobody held Christmas in 2020. There was quite some consternation, and many negotiations back and forth, as to whether 2021 should go to the person who was skipped in 2020, my aunt, or the original 2021 designee, a cousin. I can only assume both sides sent pawns to a neutral location with missives and salvos before going to the mattresses.

Enter my niece, who graduated college in December. Because no story about obtuse Boomers is complete without a it’s-all-about-meeeeeee Zillennial. I’m not sure whether she was demanding a graduation party or whether my mom, her grandma, insisted. Probably a bit of each. Grandma uses any excuse to throw a party, not because she enjoys company, but so she can prove she throws better parties. But niece was the one who didn’t want to wait until spring or summer for her party. Granted, it’s taken her seven years and at least three locations to finish said college career, but now that she’s finished, dammit, gotta throw the party ASAP.

Seems a simple pickle, yeah? Just cancel Christmas and throw a graduation party instead.

I wish I was being facetious. 

Step one. Niece can’t make it to Grandma’s house for Christmas because of, I don’t know, work or friends or bong hits. So they planned her graduation for the middle of January. What’s better than one Awkward All-Family Shoutfest over the Holiday Season? That’s right, two.

And okay, not to throw everyone else under the bus without acknowledging the grenades I lobbed. Because if we’re lumping people into their generations, then how does Gen X play out?  “Yeah, I ain’t fucking doing that.”

Did I mention that my students asked if I was a Boomer? I was incensed. After I explained I was Generation X, they responded that they had never heard of that. So right on par.

In this family issue, I feel I made many concessions. In fact, I was willing to fly to Southern California for both events, Christmas and the graduation. What I refused to do was make my daughter schlep her ass across the state twice in a two-week period. Especially with one being the day after Christmas and the other being at the end of her first week back at school after two weeks off. To say nothing of the $500 I spend each round trip. 

I thought the most logical trade-off was both of us come for Christmas but then it’s just me for graduation because, honestly, why does a 7-year-old care about college? Like most 7-year-olds, she has a natural aversion to festivities where everybody’s gushing over someone else instead of her.

Naturally, nobody gave two shits if I was going to be there. If I don’t bring Daughter, then I might as well sit my ass back at home and save five benjamins.

Regardless, I set out the plans. Both of us would pack everything up the day after Christmas to come visit for a few days, then I would fly down solo in January. 

As an aside, I’ve hated with a passion, since my earliest days, the whole visiting grandma after Christmas. Even when we only lived an hour away, the trip to Grandma’s house lasted from 10:00 am on Christmas morning through at least the 27th, usually the 28th. What’s more fun than opening a bunch of gifts then leaving them behind for three days? And sure, I could bring some of the new stuff, but it’s torturous when you get the hot new video game from Santa, but Grandma doesn’t have an NES. Some years I brought the case and read the instruction booklet.

One “Yeah, I ain’t doing that shit” I carved out years ago is not flying down until the 26th. Of course, we spend most of the 25th at Wife’s family, so there’s still an element of never getting to play with your new shit, but welcome to the holidays.

Except not this year. Cause my mom told me that if we were only coming to one of the two celebrations, she’d rather it be the graduation. She talked about how everybody I’d want to see at Christmas would also be there at graduation. And they’d cook the same dinner, if that’s what I was worried about missing out on. And the baby (there’s a baby in the family) might not be there the day after Christmas but would definitely be there at graduation. 

The first thing I asked before deciding was if my aunt was okay with it. After the prolonged negotiations, this year’s Christmas was gifted to my aunt, who missed her turn last year, instead of her cousin, who was originally slated for this year. I wanted to make sure she was okay with me not showing up for Christmas. My mom thought this was an odd request, because who gives a fuck about other people’s ideas and emotions? But she acquiesced and (allegedly) got clearance from my aunt, and then we were set.

Well, not really set, because now that my mom has us all coming down for a graduation on a Saturday in January, why not stick around all day Sunday to open presents and eat quiche and drink Bailey’s, basically the full Christmas bacchanal. Then jam all those presents into an extra suitcase that we pack for a 36 hour turnaround and hope it isn’t over fifty pounds on the return flight.

And again, maybe I’m the asshole here, but I said no fucking way. If you want us there for the graduation instead of Christmas, you get us for graduation, not Christmas. You know what’s great about opening presents on the 26th or 27th? I don’t have a brand new term, with new subjects and new students the next day. So sorry, but I’m not flying down on a Saturday in order to do a full extended family party followed by a present orgy the following morning in order to fly home late on Sunday to get both Daughter and I ready for school the next day. If you want us there for Christmas, we’ll come for Christmas.

That’s an asshole hat I’ll proudly don.

Not that I went scrooge or anything, I bought everybody gift cards I could easily hand to them during the festivities so as not to take the focus away from the graduating Zillennial. I sent presents to those who wouldn’t be at the graduation.

Who wasn’t going to be present, you might ask? After all, one of the selling points was that “everybody who would be at Christmas” would also be at the graduation. Except for my aunt. 

Could you guess that was coming? Turns out my aunt wasn’t quite so thrilled at her sister telling people to skip her party for the much cooler one in January. My uncle thought my mom was trying to replace their Christmas with the graduation which, of course, “never entered” my mom’s mind, except for yeah, that’s exactly what she fucking did. So whether to placate my mom or stop hearing about it from her husband, my aunt finally canceled Christmas. 

Well, she didn’t cancel Christmas. Hallmark wouldn’t allow that. But she tapped out of the family bullshit and gave the annual celebration back to the cousin who would have been scheduled to have it during this odd-numbered year if not for 2020. So all is right with the world. And my mom was happy to note that none of this drama would happen next year, because it’s her scheduled year. And if my aunt goes six or eight years between hosting, who the hell cares, right? Seventy-year-olds regularly wait around eight years for shit to happen. Just ask Joe Biden.

So fine, I’m staying home for Christmas, Aunt is miserable, but Mom gets her precious all-hands-on-deck celebration. All is right with the world and if it’s not, at least the repercussions shouldn’t last longer than a decade anyway, right?

If only someone had asked Mom to clear it with Aunt first. Oh right, I did.

Except don’t forget, these plans are being made in the joyous 2020-2022 corridor, so you know Covid is going to rear it’s ugly head. Earlier this week, I got a text that, due to the recent Covid spike, the graduation party is canceled. Postponed until spring or summer when we can festivate outdoors. It was surprisingly thoughtful for my mom, until I inquired further and one of those “spikes in Covid” was her husband. Had it not affected her household personally, I’m sure she would’ve thrown caution to the wind.

But wait, there’s more. Don’t cancel your flight yet, Mom implores! Maybe I can still fly down and we can open Christmas presents. In mid-January. Because I skipped Christmas at her request. For a graduation that isn’t happening.

Just so long as Mom gets her “Christmas” photo of all her grandkids and her one great-grandkid. Except one of the grandkids and the great-grandkid won’t be there, because husband of said grandkid (and father of said great-grandkid) just got Covid. Oh, and the one other cousin near my daughter’s age won’t be there either. Her mother has Covid.

Far be that from convincing my mom to put a cork in her fantasy of creating a holiday celebration better than her sister’s holiday. And if we all catch Covid from each other, than maybe that old “I’m in my seventies, this might be the last…” will come true. 

So now I’m schlepping my ass t Southern California for no reason other than to open presents. And I’m not giving presents, I’m only handing people cards.  Like a typical self-centered Gen X’er.

Present at this function will be my mom, my sister, the niece who just graduated college but isn’t getting her party, and my aunt. 

Yes, my aunt. Because my mom’s husband has Covid, these festivities have been moved to my aunt’s house. 

In economics, we call that an equilibrium.

A miserable, pain-in-the-ass equilibrium. And just like the ones in economics, the only ones who it benefits are the Baby Boomers.

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