Christmas with my family begins when I pull up in front of my mother's house to see her privacy fence lit up in glorious red, white and blue splendor. Yep, plastered squarely on my mother's fence will be the manufactured-in-Taiwan-and-purchased-at- WalMart blinking, twinkling American flag, all five feet wide by four feet tall of it. When I step inside the door, a gyrating mechanical Santa Clause will greet me singing "Here comes Santa Clause" with a country twang over, and over, and over again.
My sister, a right wing artist whose idea of neo-impressionism is to paint idealized golf courses, will wait until I've laid my coat down to hoist her glass of $8.99 wine and announce loudly that she wants to toast our "brave boys in the military." Never mind that she doesn't even know, or socialize with, anyone currently serving in the military. Further, she casts her vote for the power players who believe that God wants nothing to do with the poor, or those serving in the military coming home with head injuries or missing limbs.
It's a trip into a dysfunctional Christmas that has to be on equal footing with a Bush Clan Christmas. So, in attempt to quiet the anxiety by saying, "at least mine isn't THAT bad," I suggest some visualization techniques. Imagine a large opulent room. Sitting by the tree is the dowager matriarch who waves away the plight of the have-nots on the chance that thinking about them might clutter her "beautiful" mind.
Squatting on the floor in front of the tree are the spoiled squabbling siblings. One got to be the head of a country with his father's connections, and has driven said country into the dirt. He also likes to throw temper tantrums and then deflect consequences by saying "God told me to do it."
One got to be the head of a state in the country his brother heads using his father's connections, and he holds on to power by making political hay with the private tragedies of families he doesn't know from shinola. Further, he has his jockey shorts in a knot because he knows the sibling behind Door #1 has put a severe crimp in his political aspirations.
One helped drive a savings and loan business into the toilet, and now gets no-bid government contracts for educational software that has no reputable assessment data - oh, and his dowager Mom is a major investor in the software and gets a tidy return on her investment, courtesy of the tax dollars of the little people.
One owned the contracting entity for electronic security at the World Trade Center during 9/11. That company also has no-bid (meaning they didn't have to compete) contracts with the General Services Administration. Nice work if you can get it.
The only female sibling probably remains out of the fray by sipping wine because her spouse is the President of the American Wine Association and how else could she get through the day without having to examine the meaning of integrity?
Standing in a corner is the father who bursts into tears from time to time, and doesn't have a high enough emotional IQ to admit he's crying because he's the titular head of the lalapaluza of dysfunctional families.
Then imagine that by late Christmas Day most of the gathered tribe has had a few too many eggnogs and begin to snipe at each other, all in time for the arrival of granddaughters who like to get falling down drunk. They might be mediocre students, and poisonously mean to those not of their class, but at least they are prettier than the daughter of a previous president.
Can you picture this, Dear Reader? If that doesn't make you feel grateful that you only have to contend with your crabby Aunt Mildred, then I don't know what will. For those with more than one problematic family member, remember you are not alone.
Happy Holidays to us all, and remember: even when it seems hopeless, it isn't. Remember that you can make a difference and take care of each other.