Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Family Holidays: Putting the Fun Back in Dysfunctional

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. This endearing American holiday signifies the start of the holiday season and represents an event that inspires dread and fear in the hearts of many--family gatherings.

Over the years, my own family has hosted many memorable holiday get-togethers. And if you are imagining some warm family camaraderie like you would see on a rerun of "The Waltons," you have watched far too much television.

Every family has one member with strong views on politics, religion, race, etc. This person just has to get on his or her soap box during every family event. My brother Jeff is the token radical (and I do mean radical) Republican in our family who cannot resist taunting our more liberal family members. The problem is he gets so angry while trying to get his point across that his opinions become senseless. My personal favorite is his claim that "the Jews" were responsible for the bombing of the World Trade Center back in the 1980s. Considering who was just elected president a few weeks ago, I am really looking forward to this year's confrontation.

My brother is just one of my many interesting relatives that make holidays so special. I recall one Thanksgiving when my uncle made White Russians with strawberry vodka that were just a bit too strong. He probably had about three of them prior to dinner. By the time the turkey and trimmings were served, he was so intoxicated that he loaded up his plate with food, set it on the table, crawled into the next room and passed out on the floor. Dinner concluded with my mother asking someone to check on my uncle to make sure he was still breathing.

My brother Kevin is the family clown, so we always expect something entertaining from him. One holiday he had one beer too many, declared he was a rapper named "Ice Floe" and started making up a ridiculous rap song. Unfortunately, he lost is balanced and fell backward into a toy box. He didn't spill a drop of beer, however.

All these events have been memorable, but the crown jewel of holiday faux pas has to be when one of my siblings, who shall remain nameless, had a little too much to drink (are we detecting a pattern here?) and admitted to doing something that would have caught the attention of federal authorities. Even though this particular event happened nearly 20 years earlier, my mother was absolutely furious. I guess there are some things even the passage of time cannot soften for mothers.

As strange as this may sound, these things do not keep us from having a great time together. They just become part of the folklore that every family gathers and passes down through time. My children still enjoy hearing stories of my Uncle Jim, who passed away several years ago, even though they barely knew him. Their favorite is the story of how he got a shark fin and decided to swim underwater with it in a popular watering hole near his home. This is around the time when the movie "Jaws" was terrifying swimmers everywhere. People were actually screaming and pulling children out of the water as he swam by. And this was in a creek in the middle of Pennsylvania.

So as you gather together this holiday with your family, make sure you take the time to laugh and enjoy those family members. Gather stories and make memories to pass down, no matter how strange or bizarre they may seem at the time.

And if your children ever commit a federal offense, make sure they never tell you.

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