I don’t get off much on the winter holidays. Other than my birthday, it would pretty much be OK with me if, after Halloween, we skipped right to New Years. I don’t associate Thanksgiving and Christmas with love, togetherness, and warm fuzzies. Mostly, it makes me think of being trapped in a tiny house with Mom, Dad, and my sister, all of us wanting to kill each other. Even though I’ve been having pleasant holidays with Scott for over a decade now, the associations remain, and I always approach the season with a sense of trepidation.
This year, we had planned to celebrate with our friends Linda and Robert. Only at the last minute, our plans changed. So did theirs, so we still get to go have Thanksgiving with them on Sunday. But our plan change was so cool that even a holiday skeptic like me couldn’t help but be excited. (Holiday excitement, like hope, is one of those extremely dangerous emotions that typically leads to bad things like expectations. But this time, things turned out OK.)
Anyway, Scott’s cousin Michael, who we haven’t seen since I was pregnant with Caroline, e-mailed to say that his family would be having dinner with his wife Michelle’s family in Duluth Georgia, and to ask would we like to come. Yes, of course we would! Purely aside from the fact that the last time we saw Michael and Michelle, their now-ten-year-old son Devon was a toddler and our now-eight-year-old daughter Caroline was a bun in the oven, we all now have second children.
Also, our second children are all named Sam. Seriously. Our four year old is Sam, and their three year old is Sam. Clearly, the meeting was meant to be.
Of course, we were worried at our end. Holidays with the Asperger’s duo are always a crapshoot. Caroline is prone to meltdowns and Sam is prone to biting. We had contingency plans for what to do when our Sam bit their Sam that involved running and leaving the shoes and pie plate behind. Fortunately, we didn’t need those plans, but it wasn’t because Sam behaved himself. Oh no. Not at all.
We got there at around 11 in the morning, and the two older cousins promptly fell into computer talk. Devon plays several online games Caroline hasn’t previously heard of, and she was more than happy to be indoctrinated. By 11:15, they had taken up residence on Michelle’s father’s computer.
And Sam and Sam launched within minutes into a giant game of chase-your-cousin-up-and-down-the-hall.
So things started off well.
We had worried a little about what to wear. I mean, it’s kind of weird to go visit your cousin’s wife’s parents’ house (or, in my case, your husband’s cousin’s wife’s parents’ house) when you’ve never met them before. Michael had assured us they were a pretty casual crew, but we knew from experience that ‘casual’ has a broad definition and felt concerned that we would completely miss theirs. (We got it fairly right.)
Anyway, Michelle’s parents are very cool, laid back people who enjoy hosting a crowd. They had setup a giant table with room for a dozen, and they were equipped to elongate that for even more. We all settled in and started visiting right away. For two hours, we barely saw our children.
And then it happened. At one or so, right around our Sam’s naptime, their Sam started wailing, “I got a boo-boo.” Oh yeah. That boo-boo involved tooth marks. But it wasn’t a huge big deal. Scott and I are so used to people overreacting to Sam’s behaviors that it was an unspeakable joy to remember that there is an appropriate reaction that doesn’t involve panic and loud voices.
We separated them, and I made my Sam sit with me on the couch for awhile. He said he was tired and fell asleep. In fact, he went ahead and took a two hour nap on the couch. He slept through most of dinner. It was fabulous.
Purely aside from being allowed to eat in reasonable peace, I got to enjoy the food because it was the first holiday meal in I can’t remember how long that nobody has offered to pray about. I did not have to say an awkward “pass”, because there wasn’t a moment where we went around the table saying blessings or giving thanks. We celebrated in secular fashion, and that is absolutely in keeping with my idea of enjoyable.
In fact, we adults held a lengthy conversation about how difficult it is to not be churchgoers in the South. For the record, I think Scott would enjoy it if there were anything like an appropriate place here in Montgomery, but there’s only one that’s even close, and it’s way too small. Michelle’s uncle is a lawyer who spent many years in the coast guard. He and his wife remembered being stationed in Virginia Beach and getting just bombarded with religion. Scott and I talked about how for our first year in Montgomery, everyone we met asked where we went to church, largely because they were just sure we were going to hook up with one. It was so nice to enjoy like minded company who recognized the basic intrusiveness of that question. At the end of the day, we had no idea what religion anybody else at the dinner might have been. How delightful.
Then, Sam woke up, and he was actually un-cranky (often naptime wakeups are evil wakeups), and he and Sam resumed their playtime without any bad blood over the teeth. The big kids settled back onto the computers, and the little guys took over a bedroom to watch TV. Periodically, one of us grown-ups would check in to make sure things were going well upstairs.
And then I went up one time and found this:
No. That isn’t lipstick.
It isn’t blood either.
The Sams got into Michelle’s mom’s nail polish and went to town. By and large, they spared the comforter on the grandparental bed (though that will never be the same again). But they took great care to decorate their cheeks, and our Sam made sure to take care of his clothes as well. Because, you know, they needed more ‘festive’.
I walked in the room and my nostrils were assaulted with that distinct amyl acetate odor, and then I knew the two little boys on the bed, besides being well decorated, were getting pretty loopy. And in spite of our regular check-ins, they had done quite a job in a pretty short time. I mean, there are two shades on those cheeks. Our Sam did one color per side. Their Sam opted for layers on both sides.
Michelle’s parents proved how laid back they are. They didn’t even express moderate displeasure or concern about the bedspread. “It’s just stuff,” Michelle’s dad said. How delightful. I know a lot of people who would have gotten very bent out of shape about that stuff.
Of course, we’re going to be looking at this
for some time, as all current wisdom suggests that the best way to get the stuff off of skin is to just wait it out.
Later, as we got ready to go, my Sam told me, “I want to paint my face some more, now” like maybe I’d let him just nip back upstairs for another coat.
The best news is that I think we’re going to be able to meet up with Michael and Michelle in Atlanta some next summer, as Michelle and the kiddos come down for several weeks each year. Caroline and Sam are already looking forward to it. So are Scott and I.
All in all, this was one of the happiest Thanksgivings ever.
Take that Charlie Brown.