Monday, December 24, 2012

Little Brother Was Here

When Mike and I first started dating, I didn't care too much for Christmas. For me, the holiday season brought with it a slow nagging wave of depression. One that no matter how well I was doing, seemed to leak out from my bones. Every Christmas was an unearthing of Christmases past and the feelings of loss and absence and anger were just as familiar as the crappy carols that came on the radio. The only thing that ever brought me joy around Christmas was watching Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation and the couple of hours we spent Christmas Eve at one one of my aunt's houses. I usually woke up Christmas Day with a pit in my stomach wondering if the phone would ring, nauseous if it did ring, angry if it didn't. While Christmas Eve was filled with cousins and laughter and one of my uncles or even my father dressing up as Santa and making each nephew & niece sit on their laps and say what they want for Christmas and if they had been naughty or nice that year, Christmas Day was just the three of us - me, my brother and my Dad and our dog, Max who frequently knocked Christmas ornaments to the ground which usually meant glass in someone's feet at some point.

After enough awkward Christmas mornings, my Dad started his own traditions with us. Occasionally we went to my Uncle John's, but mostly I remember having breakfast at a Jewish deli, usually Solly's on Van Nuys, followed by whatever Spielberg movie just opened Christmas morning. If we didn't go to John's, we ended up back at our house around 3p.m. and Christmas Day was over, which for my brother and I, was usually just fine by us.

In 2007, I decided to fly to New Jersey to spend Christmas Eve with my new boyfriend and then fly to Colorado for Christmas Day with friends while he was vacationing in Puerto Rico with family. Without knowing it, this trip changed everything about holidays for me. For one, it was kind of nice to be with Mike, who was and still is, Mr. Christmas, not to mention his family who are big on gifts and big on food. Every Christmas I have spent with Mike's family I have come to the dinner table full because I overdid it on appetizers. But that 2007 trip also meant trading off holidays. In 2008, he came home with me to California and we had Christmas Eve at Aunt Rose's and Christmas Day at John's where he cooked Alaskan King Crab and three different kinds of birds.

In 2009, we were back in Jersey and in 2010, the first Christmas with my mom in 18 years. Last year, we were cozy in Jersey once again but my brother came out with his girlfriend a couple days before and then we parted ways so they could be with his girlfriend's brother in Philly for Christmas. This year, we should be in California, but Mike couldn't get the time off of work and after getting married, it's hard to muster any motivation to do anything when peace and quiet is so welcomed after all of that planning. But my brother and his girlfriend came to town again but for a much longer visit and I realized that us two kids have kind of started our own tradition. That despite our years of difficult Christmases, we have gravitated toward each other once again for this holiday. My brother brings with him the care-free attitude of California I never really had and all of the loving traits that remind me of my father - candy, fart jokes, stories about trials and errors with electricity. His girlfriend, Lauren, brings with her the animation of a Lucille Ball type of woman only with brunette hair she is considering dying red and a heart three times the size of anyone I ever met. This year, we all went to Ann Hamilton's Event Of A Thread, a multi-media art installation that invites the viewer to swing on swings attached to a common piece of silk hang in in the middle of the Park Ave Armory.
As people swing, the chains tug on the fabric, giving the fabric an ethereal continuous flow reminding us all just how connected we are, but also allowing viewers the space to be free, the reminder of childhood - the good parts. I got to push Shaun and Lauren on a swing, a cathartic feeling or perhaps a release of some guilt for being such a tough bitch of a sister when we were teenagers. In turn, Shaun pushed me and Mike and for a while, we were cruising to the point where a little shriek of fear escaped my lungs. We were also surprised by Lauren's sister and her fiancé who joined us for a surprise visit at the Armory once they got wind of our plans. The afternoon was filled with laughter and shrieks as we adult children used an art installation as a playground and followed it up with pizza and soda.

Before my brother left for Philly yesterday, he put his empty candy box on my Christmas tree, his ornament gift to us.  Every time I see it, it makes me smile. It reminds me of the kid brother who kept a piece of our dog's fur in a special place after he passed away. The brother who brings up the other sides to stories that I never heard. The brother who has become such an impressive young man and built a home with a woman who impresses me more and more every time I see her. The brother who laughs with my husband and together, the two of them, seem like a bit of trouble.

This year, that old familiar wave started to knock me over again, but I realized that this year, another wave came - joy - 'cause little brother was here.


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