The Kids’ Table

Ahh, the blessed holidays are once again upon us. Why is it that we both love and dread seeing our families? Movies tend to depict dysfunctional families fighting over any small incident, yet in the end, loving each other. Perhaps movies in this case really do imitate life.

In our childhood, my sister once betrayed the confidence of my brother and me so it was our duty to teach her the importance of keeping family secrets. We took her to the woods in the dark, tied her to a tree and walked away. She screamed and cried and begged for mercy. We never let her out of our sight, but kept out of hers for a few minutes before returning with the stern warning never to repeat her actions.

I truly love my family and am always glad to return to the mess to see them. We all love each other and spend quality time eating and playing cards. It’s the type of family that can make fun of one another, but when an outsider takes offense with a family member, we are quick to attack.

My sister got over her emotional scars thrust on her in childhood and now has a husband and brand new baby, so things have changed. We now take a thousand pictures of the baby every time he opens his eyes, and we can only play cards between feedings. I don’t mind. I always used to imagine holidays much like this. Only I used to imagine myself with permed hair. (I guess I did a lot of fantasizing in the early 90s.)

The siblings still tease each other, as some things never change. When I was a teen, the three older brothers used to insist on meeting my boyfriends to give their approval and intimidate the ones they disapproved of. I am still single, and they check in on progress to see if I have finally told Nathan that I like him (to which I reply that I haven’t but have left enough clues for him to figure it out). Then they say guys need in-your-face affirmation, and I say I do not have the guts; and then the conversation ends, and we turn to our plans to go to Yellowstone in July.

I am no longer at the kids’ table. I somehow always ended up there no matter how old I got. There were six children in the family, and I was child number four, so I was always grouped with the younger children. I was told I couldn’t go bowling until I got older. Older never came. I remember when I bowled with my mother for the first time in fifth grade, and she was shocked at my lack of knowledge for the game. I tried to explain the injustice of being child number four, but there was little time for conversation in our competitive family. I needed to focus on getting that ball down the center of the alley.

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Now the kids’ table consists of the 12-year-old girl I took custody of three months ago and her two sisters whom my brother has custody of. She is obviously too young to be my daughter, so she and I have agreed for her call me Auntie Sarah. Fewer people talk, and it’s less explanation for her.

I have come to that point in life where the holidays are a time of rest. Sure my family keeps me on my toes with witty banter, but it’s a change from the daily grind, and they accept me no matter how tragic I look. I usually greet them with a new outfit, make-up on and hair done. By the third day I am in my pajamas way past their freshness date, and make-up is securely tucked in my bag in the exact place I packed it. I like that they still talk to me; but I guess I do have a fear of halitosis, and I do manage to brush my teeth.

So, raise a glass of eggnog to family. Although to be perfectly honest, I’ve never tasted eggnog because I don’t like the concept of it. Raise a glass of hot cider to family. They are brutal; they are crazy; they are in your face; but they love you.

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