Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

Surviving Christmas Dinner with Relatives

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

It’s Christmas dinner, a time of giving thanks and sharing good food and stories with your family, and occasionally with some quirky relatives who make things, well, let’s just say, interesting.

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?”

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

One thing that can create some anxiety at Christmas is the arrival of the unexpected relative who’s far more delighted to see you than you are to see them. No worries. What could possibly go wrong?

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.]

Thanksgiving at the Casino

Thanksgiving at the Casino

Ah, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, where the wife does all the work and the husband just carves the bird, then watches football. But this year, our Thanksgiving was nothing like this scene. Not even close.

Ah, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, where the wife does all the work and the husband just carves the bird, then watches football. But this year, our Thanksgiving was nothing like this scene. Not even close.

Every year for as far back as I can remember, we’ve had company for Thanksgiving. But for the first time in our 31 years of marriage, we’d be quietly celebrating alone, just the two of us – and our cats. Where were our daughters? I guess, being adults and having their own incomes inspired them to make other plans. We will cherish their texts from Florida.

Then the day before Thanksgiving, we received an invitation from two friends whom I will call “Dave” and “Susan” (out of respect for Terry’s and Sharon’s privacy), to join them dining out for Thanksgiving.

Of course, I had to decline this generous offer. I had already made exciting plans to prepare Michele a home-cooked meal of microwaved turkey pot pies with peas, accompanied by Uncle Ben’s rice pilaf. Strangely, my wife questioned my thinking: “Excuse me? You declined??? What’s wrong with you? “So, you would rather eat genetically mutated turkey bits and plastic peas than join our friends for the real thing? Call him back and tell him YES, you idiot.” Technically, she didn’t actually say “you idiot.” But I’m fairly certain she was thinking it.

The plan was to enjoy the special Thanksgiving Day All-You-Can-Eat buffet at the Tulalip Casino. The restaurant did not take reservations. First come, first served. We arrived at what we thought was a reasonable hour: 1:00 p.m. I gave my keys to the valet and we headed inside the casino. I was surprised to see hundreds of people playing the slot machines. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, but nothing says Thanksgiving like playing the Beyoncé-dollar slots.  Continue reading “Thanksgiving at the Casino” »

A Valentine Story – Love and Romance in Aisle 7

A Valentine Story – Love and Romance in Aisle 7

Author’s note: Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, I thought I would celebrate with a true story about love and romance. Sometimes you never know when or where love will find you, as this story proves. Their names have been changed out of respect for their privacy but the story is exactly what happened. – tej]

“Pardon me, sir. But do you play bridge?” That’s how it all started. A simple question, posed by a middle-aged woman to a complete stranger. To be more specific, Beth was emboldened to ask this question in Aisle 7 of the grocery store, somewhere between the shampoo section and men’s shaving cream.

“Um, well, uh, yeah, I do”, stammered the elderly man, confused by the query and not sure why this mysterious woman was accosting him in the middle of a store. His name was Ed – a kindly fellow, well into his 80s, with a warm, jovial smile. He was just minding his own business. But Beth was not finished. “My mother plays bridge. Would you like to meet my mother sometime?”

More stammering. More confusion. Mixed with an extra helping of embarrassment. Ed was caught in a deer-in-the-headlights moment. He had no idea what the correct answer was to this audacious inquiry. So, being the gentleman that he was, and not wanting to offend this lady in Aisle 7, he replied, in his noticeably southern drawl, “I dunno. Well, um, I guess that would be ahhhlrahhht.”

Apparently by “sometime,” Beth meant NOW. Because before Ed had time to ask her name, she was on the phone with her mom. “Mom, meet Ed. Ed, meet my mom, Margaret.” And then she handed the phone to Ed and walked away. Suddenly there were now two deer caught in the headlights – and neither of them knew what to say. Margaret wanted to say, “Beth, why are you trying to embarrass me? Hang up this phone this instant!” But Margaret was raised to be polite and instead told Ed, “What a pleasure it is to make your acquaintance,” hoping this awkward situation would be over quickly, never to be discussed again.

Continue reading “A Valentine Story – Love and Romance in Aisle 7” »

America is the greatest nation on earth – In your FACE, Denmark

America is the greatest nation on earth – In your FACE, Denmark

America is #1 - hey hey signOn July 4th, we will once again celebrate our independence from the tyranny of England. Those British monarchs can be so oppressive. If it were up to Queen Elizabeth, we’d all be forced to drink Earl Grey tea with every meal.

Every year at this time, Americans proudly mark our independence with fireworks, burgers on the grill and binge drinking. And why shouldn’t we? Ours is the greatest nation in the solar system. I’m a patriotic American – something my wife will never understand because, sadly, she’s Canadian.

When it comes to being great, no country on earth is better than the U.S. of A. We’re NUMBER ONE! Look at the Olympics – God almost always backs the Americans – except in soccer – because he knows that Americans love God more than any other country.  Every time a U.S. athlete wins, the first thing he does is give thanks to God.  The Czech Republic (ranked the least religious nation on earth) never thanks God. And do you remember the last time they won a gold medal? Me neither. Because they hate God.

Oh sure, I’ve read a few misleading statistics about how the USA ranks 12th in college graduates, 27th in life expectancy, 37th in healthcare, 47th in press freedom and 53rd in ability to locate Mexico on a map. (I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere west of France.) But most of those statistics came from CNN’s World Desk Editor Fareed Zakaria. And that sure doesn’t sound like an American name to me. He probably has an axe to grind about his visa status.

I don’t care what statistics you want to throw in my face. It doesn’t change the fact that the USA is #1 in the world. Finland may rank first in education. And technically speaking, the Netherlands’ first place ranking in broadband access just nudges out our 23rd place finish. But in many other categories, the USA is Numero Uno. For example, America ranks …

  • 1st in guns per capita
  • 1st in cocaine seizures
  • 1st in obesity
  • 1st in percentage of the population that’s incarcerated
  • 2nd in carbon emissions – but we’re coming after you, China! So watch your back!

Continue reading “America is the greatest nation on earth – In your FACE, Denmark” »

This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Guilt

This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Guilt

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, the spirit of Christmas? When I was young, my notion was so naive. Like many children, I believed Santa and his reindeer flew around the world on Christmas Eve bringing presents to all the children. But then I turned 25, and I began to question this narrative. I realized Santa traveling the world with eight reindeer was, of course, a complete impossibility. He would have needed far more than eight reindeer even in the best of weather conditions.

Now that I’m older, I know, of course, that Santa doesn’t deliver the presents (well, not most of them anyway). People do. I have learned that the spirit of the Holiday Season is first and foremost about people buying gifts for other people – and the 2 A.M. Black Friday fight fest to see who grabs the last 60% off flat screen TV – you or that jerk with the mullet haircut in camo pants and a T-shirt that reads “Recall Santa. I didn’t get what I wanted.”

As far as what to get others on your Christmas list, I’ve discovered – mainly from watching my relatives – that Christmas is about ensuring that the recipient knows damn well how incredibly thoughtful your gift is, compared to their lame attempt. Studies have shown that most gifts will be forgotten within 48 hours – never to be seen again until next spring’s garage sale – or re-gifted to a co-worker at the office Holiday Party. So why not get into the true spirit of the season by giving them instead a gift they’ll remember for a long time – the gift of guilt?

Continue reading “This Holiday Season, Give the Gift of Guilt” »

Sarah Palin wants to save Christmas. You can help by buying her new book.

Sarah Palin wants to save Christmas. You can help by buying her new book.

Sarah Palin Christmas bookChristmas Day is just around the corner, a time of peace and love and harmony, unless you’re Jewish. But this year, our Christian values of tolerance and forgiveness are being overwhelmed by a cataclysmic war on a scale the world has never seen. The images we see on television are heartbreaking. When will this senseless war stop?

No, I’m not talking about the twelve-year war in Afghanistan, nor the civil war tearing apart Syria. I’m not even talking about the brutal Mattress Price Wars, although the televised images of those retailers viciously slashing prices before my very eyes is enough to make me cry. No, I am, of course, talking about something far more pernicious and deadly: The War on Christmas.

In her lovingly written new book, Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, distinguished author and former Alaskan beauty pageant winner Sarah Palin launches into a heartwarming tirade in defense of Christian values against the onslaught of political correctness, the secularization of Christmas, and the abominations of atheists and liberals (which two groups are, of course, essentially the same). And I for one could not agree with her views more, even if I understood what she was talking about.

Continue reading “Sarah Palin wants to save Christmas. You can help by buying her new book.” »