Compare and Contrast

That’s what we’re told to do in the middle school years when writing an essay. Compare this to that. Show how they are the same. Show how they are different.

A Tale of Two Christmases by daisyfae

For the Trailer Park Christmas, i was invited to the home of my brother, T, and his wife, K, on December 26th. Conveniently, i also scammed an invitation to drop by a family party with old friends later that evening – a mere five miles from my brother’s home. KMD and her brother, B, were friends of mine back in the teenaged years – and we’ve remained close over the past three decades. KMD hosted an extended family party, which i’ve crashed before – mostly when B has been in town for the holidays.

The Trailer Park event was fairly low-key. Starting around 2:00 pm, i was the last to arrive – slip-sliding to the door at 2:30*. Rather than prepare a formal meal, T and K opted for a spread of fruits, veggies, dips, breads and snacks – suitable for grazing. KMD, having prepared a more traditional family meal for Christmas day, had arranged a similar spread that evening. Within moments of my arrival, she let me know “I’m off duty tonight. Help yourself to whatever you’d like. Questions? Ask the under-aged staff**”.

Attending the Trailer Park fest was my mom, my oldest sister, S, her husband, J. DQ, and her two daughters, DQ, Jr (15 year-old) and DQ, III (3 year-old) were there, along with T, K, and their 10 year-old son, Little T. BJ, DQ’s husband, was working on renovations to Mom’s house. My daughter had to work, and The Boy was staying up north with his Dad. A fairly small gathering.

At the KMD gathering? Almost twenty-five people. Perhaps 8-10 young ‘uns (hard to count, because they were moving targets), another dozen ‘cousins’ and spouses (age range 30’s-50’s), and KMDs divorced Mom and Dad – along with Dad’s second wife. The beauty of this is that both parents can all be in the same household, seemingly without much discomfort.

With the Trailer Park Gang, there really aren’t many traditions observed, unless you count the ritualistic “Bashing of the Exes”. My brother didn’t waste much time poking sticks at his second wife and bemoaning the status of their three sons – and their varying drug addictions.

We also got an update on his second oldest daughter – who is only going to have to serve about five months for an assault conviction, stemming from a shoplifting incident in October. She’s apparently skating on the charges that were brought for her meth lab operation in her children’s bedroom, discovered when she was investigated for another series of thefts…

Over at KMD’s, the tradition is poker. This goes back to Grandma B, who loved to play cards with her children and grandchildren. It was clear they all missed Grandma B, who died in her 90’s just over a year ago, but it didn’t take long before the poker game got going in full swing.

An 8-seat “Dealer’s Choice” event, the cousins save up all manner of pocket change for the entire year in preparation to play. Empty seats are coveted early in the evening. Happy banter, mostly good-natured tweaking, and some cut-throat gamesmanship characterized the game early. Spectacular displays of creative obscenity came into play later.

Once the game got started, i wandered off to chat with KMD. Spent some time talking with the wife of one of the cousins, and she shared some of her “divorce family mash up” issues. Also some time with KMD’s mother – a sweet woman, who may be slightly more functional than my mother, but perhaps just as crazy.

Conversation with my Mom during the Trailer Park party centered on how Christmas used to be better, how the family has fallen apart, and her current living arrangements***.  Both women aren’t particularly happy with life, but Mom’s got her on ‘bitter’…

Happy children playing with new toys in both households! DQ, Jr. was sweet about all of the gifts she received. DQ, III was a happy, bouncy critter – mostly content to play with boxes and wrapping paper. Little T excitedly shared his new science kits with me, and eventually curled up in a corner with a set of books.

At the KMD place? Joyful children, dancing with the new Wii game, using Uncle B’s new iPad, and scurrying off into corners with this toy or that one. Although it wasn’t a textbook Norman Rockwell event – i was thrilled to see one cousin ask his 10-year old son “hey, where’s my vodka tonic?” The young man expertly mixed up a fresh drink, and delivered it to the poker table, receiving a hug and a smile for his efforts.

Some similarities, some differences. The biggest difference is seeing the awkwardness in my own clan, and the over-arching tendency to constantly pick old family scabs and gnaw on ancient bones. Knowing KMD’s family for so many years, i am quite aware that there is a fair ration of dysfunction there – no one tries to hide it. But the love, comfort, and genuine joy at being together, is tangible.

Unlike my clan, KMD’s people don’t seem revel in the old trash.… Maybe that’s something i can work on with my folks for the coming year… Or i can continue to push for formal adoption.

info on the Dysfunctional Family Circus found here.

* Perhaps due to the gentle hangover i carried from the day before – watching movies in footie pajamas, while doing my best to rotate the stock in my liquor cabinet with some friends…

** That would be her two delightful children, who worked their magic helping out at my garage sale a few years back.

*** After DQ’s clan, and my sister S left, Mom went on to complain about how she has to hide food because it all gets eaten if she leaves it out. She complained about a few other things, too. We noted that she is in no imminent danger of wasting away, and suggested perhaps her own mini-fridge – with a lock – until her new place is finished. She THEN launched into a rant about how we shouldn’t judge DQ’s family – that caring for her has been a hardship on their family. i just shrugged and said “OK…”