I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the holidays. Love the traditions, hate the commercialization. Love the excitement, hate the crowds. Love the time with family, hate the time with family. Let’s face it, that one is a double-edged sword. I learned a long time ago that there ain’t no holiday crazy quite like Greek family holiday crazy.
Growing up, the Monday after Thanksgiving was always a source of unparalleled stress. Every year, at the start of the day, the teacher would ask who had eaten mashed potatoes and candied yams for the holiday. My hand was always the only one that never shot up. No teacher ever asked how many of us had eaten spaghetti in lamb sauce or spanakopita. Not once! (And candied yams? What the hell was a yam??)
So, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that before the boys came along, Kelly and I didn’t do a whole lot to observe Thanksgiving. In fact, one year we had Chinese take out! As I recall, it was actually really tasty. But upon hearing our culinary choice, my mom laid on the guilt. And there ain’t no mother guilt like Greek mama guilt. Next day I made a more fitting feast.
Christmas wasn’t ever much better. Same ethnic cuisine, but this holiday meant the rather liberal Greek interpretation of what constitutes family was in full swing. Of course your high school English teacher is family! Add to this shots of my dad’s home brew, and yeah … there ain’t no home brew like a Greek baba’s home brew.
With that history in mind, I hope you can see why the upcoming holidays have me a little stressed out. See, before I became a dad, I could cruise through the holidays playing the gay card: eating Chinese food on Thanksgiving; staying out until 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve. But the boys mean I have to rethink my take on the holidays.
Luckily, Kelly understands how the holidays impact my psyche, and works to make sure my holiday neurosis doesn’t rub off on the boys. To counter my crazy family’s Greek food Thanksgiving, we always have dessert with his family — pies with whipped cream and not a baklava in sight. And Christmas? Well, he doesn’t so much decorate as Christmas throws up all over the house, violently so.
What I’ve come to realize is that the only way for me to truly shield my sons from the crazy dysfunction that comes with being members of my extended family is to keep them away from that family. But then they’d miss out on all the fun that comes from that craziness and dysfunction.
And after all, isn’t embracing the craziness, the dysfunction, the best part of family?
So what if during their Papa’s first Christmas at Dad’s parents’ he witnessed a rather heated argument between your great aunts over the words to “Jingle Bells” in Greek? And so what if he thought the loud thuds meant they’d come to blows, instead of their stamping feet doing a traditional dance from their father’s village?
Those are the funny, wonderful memories that make the holidays special.
And why shouldn’t a couple of little boys already possessing a truckload of dysfunction from being raised by two gay guys in the suburbs of Salt Lake — enough dysfunction to ensure they’ll always be the funniest guys in the room — add a few more loads of crazy courtesy of family holiday traditions?
Because their ain’t no crazy family holiday dysfunction like a crazy Greek family’s holiday dysfunction.
From our dysfunctional family to yours, Happy Holidays.