Get ready! They’re (almost) here! I’m talking about the holiday season. They’re coming around again soon. Remember the happy, fun, jolly times from years past? Well, they are back.
Holiday Specials on TV make our sentiments abound and we find ourselves becoming nostalgic for family traditions. You know, the shows and movies that, no matter what the problems, show happy family members getting all cozy and supportive of each other at holiday time.
We become sappy with the emotion of the season and our memories of family fights become blurred with the false ‘happiness memories’ of the holiday time when we think of families gathering all together.
Receiving an email from his aunt, I tell my spouse that we’re invited to a family dinner next month. “It’ll be nice to see everyone,” I say smiling while fondly glancing at a Charlie Brown special promo on TV.
My spouse takes that moment to remind me of the fights, animosities, and the stomach churning aggravation of ‘those dinners’. Suddenly my memories become crystal clear. Oh, yes, I think, those family dinners. Omigod! Again?! My stomach clenches in agonized reverie. One misquoted word, one sentence taken out of context and the fur flies.
If you have been present, as have many of us, at some of the most atrocious dinners any family can have, you can come to dread the holidays. Wouldn’t be nice if the people causing you so much grief would at least write down a list of things not to discuss? That’s not likely to happen, right? So, since we can’t ask them to write one, I have made my own generic list for all family gathering occasions.
Never use the word “older.” (note I said older, not old)
My husband once remarked that an aunt’s brother, who was 76, “had a great head of hair for an older man.” His aunt immediately took offense, asking how dare he call her brother old? Did he mean she was old as well since she was only a year younger than her brother? Whew!
Never talk about having seen anyone’s kids anywhere outside of their home.
Talk about fur flying—you could choke on the amount of fur that was flying after I mentioned seeing my female cousin’s children out with her parents at a restaurant. Her mother-in-law was incensed. “Well, now we know why they weren’t home last week-end when we called,” she sniffed. My cousin and her husband, it seems, never let one set of grandparents know where the other set is taking their kids!
Do not talk politics, religion—or even baseball.
You think baseball would be safe now, wouldn’t you? No way. Team and player loyalties are often enough to start a war right there in the dining room over the hot buttered rolls and cranberry sauce.
“Aaron Boone? C’mon! He can’t last much longer. I see loser here. I’m a Sox fan.”
Do not talk about trips you took or will take.
One word here—jealousy. “Wow, it must be nice to be rich!” said one uncle to another when a trip to Europe was mentioned.
No bragging about children and their accomplishments. Again, j-e-a-l-o-u-s-y.
“Well, well, how nice. You say Catie won the science fair award at her school. Again. Hmmm. I guess if I taught in the same building as my son’s teacher, he’d stand a chance of winning too.” Ouch!
Do not mention that you like your job.
There is sure to be someone there who hates theirs. “Yes, well, how wonderful for you that you are able to do what you want to do in life. Some of us have real jobs and real bills to pay.”
No talk of cars and the fact that you are finally driving your dream car.
Even though it took you years to get to a position where you’re able to afford it, someone will think you’re showing off. “It’s really bad taste to brag, hon. I mean seriously bad taste!”
If you’ve recently redecorated your house, keep it to yourself.Just don’t invite any relatives over. Ever.
“Did I see a furniture delivery truck in front of your house? Oh, they were there for your neighbors? But aren’t your neighbors selling their house? Why would they get new furniture if they’re selling the home?”
Don’t mention having lost weight. In fact, wear baggy clothes so they’ll think you’re still fighting the battle of the bulge.
“You know, I can eat what I want and never gain an ounce. I’m lucky that way,” said my cousin’s wife to her new sister-in-law. “Oops, sorry! Are you still on Jenny Craig?”
The list can go on and on depending on your relatives. But—however you want to spend the holiday get-together, I have found one sure-fire way for myself to stay out of the range of fire. Take it from me, the best way to avoid fights is to enhance your vocabulary, stimulate your mind, and keep your eyes down.
In other words, if you really want to have a peaceful day with your family, do what I’m planning on doing – bring a book to read.
© 2018 Copyright Kristen Houghton all rights reserved
Kristen Houghton is the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. The first four books in her best-selling series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, is now available in a special boxset. She is also the author of the Horror Writers of America award-winning Quick-Read, Welcome to Hell.
She has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Hartford Woman, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel.