I approached going home for the holiday this year with far more foreboding than usual, due to the inevitability of the dysfunction that rampages whenever I arrive at my mom's house. Ours has always been a contentious relationship, and for some reason aspects of that are magnified during the holidays. Finally tiring of the cycle of emotional agita, I ditched Thanksgiving at home this year and had a fantatstic time, and contemplated doing likewise for Christmas, but I decided to give it one last chance. If things got ugly this year, I swore I would never return to my homestead.
And while fretting over going home, I had other issues on my mind (issues that I'm not going into here), so when I arrived at the Westport train station on Christmas eve I told my mother what was on my mind, and I honestly think that as a result of that talk she made a concerted effort to behave.
When I got home, I had a delicious meal of homemade Jambalaya, and at 9:30 my mom left for midnight mass, leaving me at home to surf the internet. And, seeing as I was exhausted from not having slept the previous night and then working for a five hour shift on Christmas eve day while trying to stay awake, I was able to go to bed early (!!!) and actually sleep through the whole night in an uninterrupted stream of relaxation. I seldom sleep the whole night through since my Brooklyn neighborhood resonates with the sounds of cars, garbage trucks, obnoxious neighbors, screaming kids, and obstreporous drunks at all hours of the day, while my hometown in Connecticut is utterly silent during the evening, and with no distractions I was unconscious in no time.
When I awoke, my mom made herself some coffee and then we got down to the business of opening presents. I did pretty well; aside from the usual socks and underwear — once a dreaded item, now an excellent gift; right, fellas? — I got two new mom-made scarves (the old gal has a real talent for it), some cash, the most recent WILD CARDS books (my favorite sci-fi series), and the brand new 3-disc Criterion edition of SEVEN SAMURAI, my second favorite film of all time. When we were done with the presents, we feasted upon a breakfast of scrumptious ham and soft-scrambled eggs (a signature specialty of mine, for I am a breakfast master), then went to visit one of my mom's church buddies who had her family in town for the holidays. They were a riot and we had a great time, but my mom and I had to cut out fairly quickly because we had guests who were arriving at 3PM.
The guests in question were my fellow Westporter and comics biz veteran (she's still in the trenches) Amanda Conner, her parents, Al and Eulayla, and her boyfriend/mate and frequent creative collaborator, Jimmy Palmiotti. It's always a pleasure to see all of these people, and the Conners have enriched my life for nearly thirty years (think about that one for a minute, A.C.!!!), so they are always welcome.
One of the running gags in our families is my mom's poorly-disguised crush on Amanda's dad; the guy has a Sean Connery thing going on, and it's sometimes hilarious to see my mom checking him out whenever he shows up. But now that my mom goes to the same church as the Conners, she's around them frequently, so Al is no longer the hot commodity of lust that he once was, especially since Eulayla is there to serve as a visual reality check.
When they arrived, Al gave me a truly bizarre Christmas gift, namely a disturbing, stuffed Black Santa Claus doll that stares like a serial killer on Benzedrine, immediately establishing itself as the strangest item in my slowly growing collection of "negrobilia" (yes, I know; yet ANOTHER collection).
After the Conners and Jimmy left, my mom made one of the best meals I've eaten in a long time, consisting of sauteed string beans, garlic mashed potatoes, sauteed spinach in a delicate cheese sauce, and prime rib roasted to absolute perfection. By the time I finished gorging myself on all of that, I was almost delirious, and soon felt the need to nap. I slept for nearly two hours, woke up briefly, and ended the day by reading until I fell asleep once more.
I had to be back at work on Tuesday to cover for my kitchen mate who was in Texas, so I left home early on an insanely-crowded Metro North train, and contemplated how nice my holiday had been. I know the whole rap about how Christmas is a time for families, blah blah blah, but I hadn't truly felt that in a long, long time.
It felt nice.