Monday, December 27, 2010

Home alone: A Christmas wrap-up

Kids are sad because it's 363 days till next Christmas. I’m sad because I know it'll only be about 153 days until I hear the first Christmas song of 2011.
We’re nearing the Sprawl-a-Days finish line. Only six more days until the most cluttered and chaotic time of the year is behind us.
For me, January 2 is becoming the best de facto holiday of the year. It’s the day after what has become a nearly 10-week stretch where nothing is demanded of me.
I won’t have to be anywhere on time. I won’t have to arrive there cheerful. I won’t have to be there wearing pants.
Really, right up until near the end I’ve made it this far without being too grouchy, a fair achievement considering I’ve been sober for much of it.
But it got to me on Christmas Day when our guests were inlaws and people inlaws date. It was just too much.
I can’t discuss inlaw phenomena without mentioning the great line I heard from my twice-married brother: “The only difference between inlaws and outlaws are that outlaws are at least wanted by someone.”
Amen, brother.
The next four days should be among the most peaceful of the entire year. Maybe for people who work and take time off from gainful employment.
Not for the chronically unemployed or those of us who try and earn our livings stringing words together and selling them -- the only difference being the latter are expected to smell nice in public.
This week’s calendar’s already crowded with social obligations. Tomorrow, my friend John from New York is coming to visit. 
As always, it promises to be splendid drunken fun. Plus, it’s coinciding with plans for me and a group of local drunkards to saddle up and see “True Grit.”
Ever since the 2003 release of “Seabiscuit,” we always try to get together over the holidays and watch a movie involving men riding horses.
It’s a very manly thing to do. In fact, it’s so manly we feel compelled to scatter so many seats between each other it’s like we’re all seeing the movie all by ourselves.
If it goes off without a hitch tomorrow will be only the second time it’s happened since the 2003 release of “Seabiscuit.”
There’s not a one of us adept at organizing such an outing and we usually end up drinking through the matinee and arguing over the simple math involved in splitting a three-hour lunch bill five ways.
Then the aforementioned brother and his boys come for a visit. I can’t wait.
But they’re bringing their dog. Decorum dictates I invite the dog to stay with us during the visit while they stay at Mom’s no-pets apartment.
I already have one dog I don’t like, that would be the six-month old sleep bandit the girls call Snickers, a dog that’s never snickered. If they’d have been finicky about accuracy they’ d have named him Yippers or something involving crude bodily functions he’s still sprinkling about the carpets.
So now I’ll have two dogs to clean up after, at least one of which reflexively howls at things like the sound of landing snowflakes as I’m about to reach REM sleep.
I guess the best part of the holiday was wrapping presents with Val in the basement in front of a warm fire as we watched “We’re No Angels.” It’s a 1955 Humphrey Bogart/Peter Ustinov/Aldo Ray comedy about three escaped convicts who save a family from an evil inlaw.
And is there any other kind?
It was all so peaceful and pleasant, as was the result. Christmas morning was magnificent. It’s likely next year the 10-year-old will have succumbed to the glum skeptics who doubt Santa’s existence and that will be a pity.
Kids have a right to expect Christmas to be one of the best days of the year and this was just so.
Today, may be one of the best days of the year for me. It’s one of just four where my wife takes the kids to visit my Mom and I have the home to myself.
That’s just one of four days out of 365.
Had it dawned on me that marriage and family would involve spending more time with inlaws than time home alone I’d have consulted a cheap attorney for pre-nuptial protection.
So tonight’s a time for quiet reflection about all I have, the friendships, the revelry and all that rowdy love that comes with being the only male in a house with three females and a male dog that looks perfectly asexual when he’s trying to act tough.
I’m going to spend the night being thankful for all I have.
And thankful that all I have is for one night about 55 miles away.

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