The weather is getting colder. The hours of daylight are rapidly waning. And Costco has inflatable eight-foot Snow Globes on sale (although in full disclosure, these went on sale in early September). The holiday season is officially upon us.
An important tradition is the family Christmas dinner with loved ones, and, sometimes with not-so-loved ones, by which I mean your cranky, Fox News-watching, conspiracy-theory-loving Uncle Howard, who announces three days before Christmas that he’ll be joining you for the feast, even though you didn’t actually invite him.
Unfortunately, all too often the sumptuous Christmas repast can be accompanied by heightened tensions as we struggle to avoid getting sucked into a heated argument with relatives who are oblivious of their behavior. If you’re anxious about the impending arrival of Uncle Howard, who will most likely be carrying a half-consumed case of Budweiser, don’t despair. It’s going to be okay. You’ll get through this in one piece, I promise.
When Uncle Howard makes his grand entrance two hours late with Carlotta, his latest practically-prepubescent fling, on his arm, be sure to greet them with a polite hug. Try to ignore their matching red MAGA hats – and the large tabby cat draped around Carlotta’s neck. You might want to lock Otto, your schnauzer, in the basement, lest his very strong prey instinct kicks in and he chases the kitty around everyone’s feet.
Remember, above all else, DO NOT BRING UP POLITICS! When Howard snipes, “So, who are you voting for in 2020,?” just smile, say, “There’s an election in 2020? Whatta ya’ know!?,” and quickly change the subject.
When all are seated around the festive table, take this opportunity to fan the flames of familial bonding by sharing how your wife has helped you to become a better husband. Well done. You could not possibly have guessed that Howard would use words of harmonious wedded bliss to torch his ex: “Speaking of wives, my ex totally cleaned me out in the divorce. And now she wants my house. Over my dead body…” Okay, maybe you should have foreseen that one. Time to change the subject – again.
I recommend football. What balding senior citizen with a hot young girlfriend doesn’t like to brag about his knowledge of sports. So, you open with, “Hey, looks like another rebuilding year for the Dolphins, eh?” Who knew Howard’s comeback would be, “Nah, pro football has been ruined for me – ever since all those Negroes showed their hatred for America by refusing to stand for our National Anthem.” I know what you’re thinking – did he just say “Negroes?” Bite your tongue.
Okay, so talking sports was a bad idea. You need to find an innocuous topic that no one can argue about. Ahh…the weather. Conversation doesn’t get blander than that. You causally mention, “I hear we may get six inches of snow today. Looks like we might have a white Christmas after all.” But to your dismay, Uncle H storms back, “Gonna snow? See, I told you snowflakes that global warming is a hoax. All this hysteria about climate change is just liberal propaganda. I know because Sean Hannity says so.”
Okay, I’ll admit, I didn’t see that one coming either. Still, it’ll be fine. Deep breaths. Deep, deep breaths. Just then, the doorbell rings. Who could that be? Why of course, it’s your cousin Claire with her wife, Monica. “Hey, Couz! We happened to be in the neighborhood and thought we’d stop by. Are we too late for chow?” What could possibly go wrong now?
As the gracious host you are, you welcome your unexpected guests to join in the gaiety. Out of left field – or rather, far right field – Howard walks up to Monica, smiles and remarks, “Howdy, girls. You know, 90% of lesbians are witches. You’re both gonna burn in Hell. But in the meantime, Merry Christmas.” Looking back at you, he smirks, adding, “Or am I required to say, ‘Happy Holidays’ to not offend our liberal friends’ feelings in their politically correct War on Christmas?”
Somehow you are able to corral everybody back to the dinner table, making last-minute strategic seating alterations. Calm seems to have returned. You gather everyone in your gaze and suggest each person share what they’re grateful for at this special time of year. You set an excellent example by observing, “I am thankful for my family, our good health, and our lovely home. We are so blessed.” Nice try. Then Uncle Howard chimes in, “I’m thankful Carlotta is way hotter than my nasty ex-wife. And I’m thankful to God for choosing Donald Trump to be our greatest president ever. And once he’s re-elected in a landslide victory, he’ll lock up Hillary and Obama.”
Things quickly unravel. Go figure. Everybody starts shouting. Claire angrily hurls a dinner roll that hits Howard smack in the eye. Monica accidentally steps on Carlotta’s cat, who lets out a blood-curdling MEEOOOOWW!!!!. This sets off a barking frenzy by Otto, which startles Grandma, who jumps up from her wheelchair, accidentally knocking over the candelabra, which sets the tablecloth on fire. That activates the sprinkler system, dowsing your wife’s new dress and expensive coiffure. Baby Sally starts wailing, which further terrifies the cat, who hurls itself through the kitchen window, followed by Otto, who you did not know could leap that high. All of which amuses your kids to no end, who are laughing hysterically.
Claire screams something about Howard being a disgusting racist pig, to which Howard yells back, “At least I won’t burn in hell for being a lesbian!” Christmas with the relatives has descended into total pandemonium. When the smoke alarm starts trilling, you merely shake your head as you realize your apple pie in the oven is now toast.
Despite your best efforts, let’s face it, your family Christmas dinner has been a Chernobyl-level meltdown. And that’s not even counting the 150 stitches the cat and dog needed for their acrobatics smashing through the kitchen window. (No worries. The window can be replaced.) To avoid another disaster next holiday, I suggest you seriously consider entering the Witness Protection Program so none of your relatives can find you. Sure, that may sound drastic. But it’s either that or listening to Uncle Howard’s tirade about how the Ukrainians tried to steal the 2020 election from Trump.
Good luck. I hear Montana is a nice place to start a new life.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2019
[Photos are stills from the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.]