Weekend Wanderer: All You Need Is Family. Sort of

By
weekend wanderer

I’m wondering if you guys remember Thanksgiving. 

Specifically, the Thanksgiving that almost was — the one in which my aunt planned to go to my brother’s house, my brother planned to go to my parents’ house, and my parents planned exactly nothing. 

And the only one who knew all of that was me. 

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but the same thing happened at Christmas. 

Now, in everyone’s defense, Indy was preparing for his trip to Marion’s bar in Nepal. Nobody knew what Christmas would bring. 

So we just didn’t plan.  

Which I realize is atrocious. Who doesn’t plan? Who doesn’t look at the menu before visiting a restaurant? Check the Rotten Tomatoes website before seeing a movie? 

Oh — or scour the Department of Motor Vehicles website before going to the Department of Motor Vehicles? 

Apparently, nobody checks the DMV website before going to the DMV. I had to take Willie there last week.  

The DMV was closed when we arrived, as I knew it would be. 

Why did I know that? Because I scoured the DMV website. Like a normal person. 

People milled about the parking lot, unsure of when the DMV opened and even a little annoyed it was still closed. 

Let me ask you a question, people milling about the parking lot – if you had no idea what time the DMV opened, how did you decide when to arrive in the parking lot? 

One guy ruined everything by getting in line fifteen minutes before the DMV opened. That forced the rest of us to get out of our warm cars and brace the January cold so we didn’t get stuck behind the Johnny-come-latelys who also didn’t know when the DMV opened. 

That was when the DMV staffer came out. He distributed the necessary DMV forms to the people in line. 

Really? Really. You guys came to the DMV and didn’t even download and complete your forms? Were you hoping to spend more time at the DMV? Is there some kind of Hop Sing Laundromat vibe at the DMV I don’t know about? 

Because, you know, it’s not on their website. 

I politely waved off the DMV staffer, explaining I had Willie’s paperwork filled out.  

That should have bumped me to the front of the line. Except there really wasn’t a line. As people had lined up, they did so in this amorphous, amoeba-shaped manner that was an affront to organization everywhere. 

So refusing to make plans for Christmas was kind of like showing up at the DMV without checking the website.  

But – unlike the people at the DMV — we really had no choice. 

By the time Christmas week rolled around, Indy was gone — off to Marion’s bar in Nepal. And though we were all gobsmacked, we kept our eyes on the prize — Indy’s grandchildren. Christmas Day was a week away, and Indy would want us to give those kids a good Christmas. 

But Willie. Poor, poor Willie. How would she feel once Christmas Day arrived? Would she want to spend it alone? Surrounded by family? Drunk? 

“Don’t worry about Christmas Day until Christmas Day,” I advised Willie. “Whatever you want to do, we’ll make it happen.” 

By Christmas Eve morning, my sister and her family were out of the Christmas Day equation thanks to raging fevers. 

My brother and his children were like the DMV line – no real shape to their plans but waiting for Willie to open her doors. 

Then there was my aunt. 

My aunt – who had promised her family before Indy went to Marion’s bar in Nepal – that we would all get together for a huge pre-pandemic-like Christmas celebration. 

Without, you know, telling any of us that she was planning a huge pre-pandemic-like Christmas celebration. 

And which was not happening with Indy at Marion’s bar in Nepal. 

And then there was Willie. Willie was waiting. Waiting to see how she felt come Christmas Day. 

If she felt like seeing people, she would go to my aunt’s house. 

Except my aunt wasn’t hosting anything. If Willie wanted to see people, she wouldn’t find them at my aunt’s. 

And I stood there. I stood there in Willie and Indy’s place, Indy’s directive to care for Willie heavy in my ears. I could hear myself whining that, after all I’d been through, I just wanted to spend Christmas Day curled up with cookies and A Christmas Story

And I heard Indy say, “Nah. You don’t need to stare at the tube all day.” 

And my eyes fell on the gift basket — this enormous gift basket sent to Willie. It was filled with chips and pretzels and cookies and candy and nuts and more nuts. 

And mustard. 

And I took that basket. I texted everyone they could come to my house on Christmas Day. All I had was that basket and red wine. If they wanted something else, they had to bring it. 

If Willie wanted to show up, I’d send someone to get her. I could be the Studio 54 to her Andy Warhol — everyone eagerly anticipating her arrival, never knowing if it would happen. 

And do you know what? She came. 

And asked for soda. 

Then my brother came. 

And asked for soda. 

My aunt came later.  

And asked for soda. 

Christmas Day turned out to be a huge pre-pandemic-like Christmas celebration. We laughed. We cried. We made hot tea, which is an obvious substitute for soda. 

And when it was done, I realized something. Not about Indy or Willie or family or even Christmas. 

I realized something about the holidays in general. 

I realized — I realized that my family needed just one thing. 

Better planning skills. 

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