For me, Christmas wasn’t ever really a time of joyous noel, peace on earth, or goodwill towards men. It was the time of year when my mother would make me wear really stupid clothes and go to my grandmother’s house for dinner. Which was actually just like every other holiday, except it was usually snowing. I don’t remember anything before the time my father left, but it probably wasn’t as good as the time after anyway. One year that stands out in my mind was 1986… the year my mom got re-married. There I was, a young child thrown into a new family that I knew nothing about. I remember it well…
It was Christmas Eve, 1986, and a new tradition was born. Usually, the day before Christmas was just like any other day… I drive my mom crazy while she tries to get ready for the big day tomorrow. While she cooks, I have extensive He-Man and G.I. Joe battles in the kitchen… While she cleans, I break out the Pla-Doh. It was all so simple. But this year I find myself being the one thrown into upheaval. I had to go to the in-laws for Christmas Eve. It seemed weird to me, going to relatives the day before Santa Claus comes… what’s the point? But, being seven years old, you don’t get much of a vote. Well, that day my mom dressed me in the most ridiculous outfit of all time… A polka dotted shirt with blue slacks and red suspenders. I cringe every time I think about it. That night, we made our way to our new family’s house. When we got there I was warned to say please and thank you, and not to break anything… My traditional holiday fun. The kitchen was full of unfamiliar faces, and really unfamiliar smells. I remember asking my mom if we were having turkey, and she replied “No, we’re having polish food.” I remembered hearing my grandfather saying something about polish people eating shit, and I began to worry. “Well I’m not eating any shit.” I proclaimed, and was answered with a quick slap.
I went into the living room and sat on the floor next to the Christmas tree… it was big, and fake. Nothing pissed me off more than a fake Christmas tree. “Eeew mommy, they have a fake tree!” I yelled. My mom came running in and told me that I better behave or she was going to call Santa Claus and tell him that I was being a bad boy. Man, nothing shuts up a kid like telling him you’ll call Santa. So, for the next few minutes I behaved. I was a hyperactive kid with ADD, so it wasn’t long before I was digging through the pile of presents in the corner… wondering if there were any for me. Some old man came in and scared the bejeesus out of me. His teeth looked like pieces of corn, and he had really bad breath. “Get outta there!” he yelled, and I made a beeline into the next room. It was time to eat now, and I became really nervous about the shit factor. We all went downstairs to sit, the adults at the nice table, and the kids at the rickety old card table. There I was, all alone in the crowd… surrounded by strange kids, and I wasn’t one for talking to people I didn’t know. Then came the food. First, they gave me a bowl of prunes… I sat and pondered them for quite a while, while the other kids gobbled them up. I put the bowl under the table when nobody was looking. Then came the fish soup and the borshe… There was no way I was eating tonight… Grandpa was right.
After dinner we headed upstairs. I stepped in the bowl of prunes on my way out, and they went everywhere. I thought it was pretty damn funny, but my mom just sorta put her head down on the table and whimpered. After I got all cleaned up, it was present time. This was the new family’s chance to prove how cool they were, by getting Santa to come a day early. I sat by my mom and my new stepdad and step brother. My step brother said something to me about stepping in the prunes and being a dummy, so I pulled his hair with all the strength I could gather. He shrieked and grabbed on to my hair, and it became war. We spun around on the floor like a pair of dogs in battle, screaming and kicking at each other. Finally, I felt a hard smack on my ass that could only be delivered from a wooden spoon… I knew the feeling well. It was my new Grandmother. “Stop it you two… it’s time for presents.” Oh shit, that’s right I thought to myself and sat like a good boy.
I feverishly opened my presents… I got a He-Man land shark vehicle, a new rubic’s puzzle that was popular that year, and a couple other neat things. There was one huge present left in the corner, and it had my name on it. I opened it up, and jumped around like a kangaroo on speed. It was the tabletop hockey game that I asked Santa for. All in all it was a weird but good Christmas that year. I got a new family… but damn! They got Santa to come a day early.