At Christmas play and make good cheer, for Christmas comes but once a year. --Thomas Tusser
I had been making a joke for a month or so that since you should be with your family at Christmas, we should go to the Dundee Dell, since that’s where we have good friends and spend a lot of our free time. Ha ha ha, our family is the local bar. Well, I was partially serious because we didn’t have anything to do any way, until our neighbor called and asked if we’d like to come over for dessert late Christmas afternoon. Al was disappointed that I said yes because if he has a choice between a warm pub with a wee dram and a house full of loud teenagers, guess which one he’ll choose. Come to think of it, a lot of people probably would’ve chosen the pub, too, but what could I do? It just doesn’t seem polite to turn down an invitation to spend Christmas with someone.
Besides, our neighbors are great. All five kids, plus a son-in-law and one of the girl’s boyfriend were there. The oldest is married and also brought their new dog, the next two girls are in college and home on Christmas break, their 15-year-old son is the one who mows our yard, and their youngest son is 10, I think.
When we arrived, there was a bustle of excitement while they finished getting all the dinner dishes together. The atmosphere was the definition of “jovial.” Everyone was still basking in the warmth of a Christmas dinner and family time around the dinner table. Their house looked like Christmas had exploded. Wrapping paper, tissue paper, clothes, DVDs, games were in small piles around the living room, obviously representing each person’s haul. While Christmas carols played on the stereo, the older kids cleaned up the dinner dishes while the younger ones ran down to the basement to get another game of Rock Band in before dessert, and the parents and we had a glass of wine. The dad said they went around and opened one present at a time, and with nine people, it took a couple of hours, especially once you add in the time for appropriate ooohing and ahhhing.
Then the big decision had to be made—should we eat dessert then play a game while we drank coffee or eat dessert while we played the game. Considering how good that pumpkin pie smelled, everyone was all for dessert first. When playing a game was mentioned, I glanced over at Al who had that look on his face that said, “You didn’t tell me we were gonna have to play a game.” It’s worth mentioning that I love playing board games, but Al does not, especially, the “trivial” games where you answer questions. I think it’s because he’s just so damn intelligent that he gets bored. See, ya gotta be clueless like me to enjoy the public act of humiliation of trying to answer a question your average 16 year old would know. To make matters worse, the game was “The Battle of the Sexes,” which would really irritate Al. It pits the women against the men, answering questions that supposedly the opposite sex would know.
Now, a game called “Battle of the Sexes” is inherently sexist. The premise alone lets you know that someone is going to feel insulted, and that person was me. In this game, the men ask the women questions that a man would know, and the women ask questions that a woman would know. There were the obvious cosmetics questions for the men and sports questions for the women, but here’s what really ticked me off. Of the questions we had in this one game, the questions for the men were all focused on movies and gossipy things, while the questions for the women were about history and computers. Here’s some examples so you’ll get a better idea what I’m talking about:
(Questions for the women are in red, questions for the men are in blue.)
What 2 colors combine to make pink?
What does Blog stand for?
What does PMS stand for?
Who is the architect of some PGA golf course? (can’t remember which ones mentioned)
What actress flashed her breasts at a late-night TV host?
What year marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of Israeli independence? (We guessed 1997, but it was 1998)
Here’s the weird thing, the women won! I’m still not sure how that happened. I think the end of the game wasn’t the objective, so pawns didn't get moved and we lost track of how many places to move the pawns. Plus, we got lucky on some wild cards. The objective was to be together, have a good time, and laugh at the bizarre answers we would come up with. I admit to getting a little frustrated when I couldn’t answer something like what blog stands for because there were so many people talking I could think, but then I had to try to step back and realize what the true objective of the game was—to have fun.
After the game, I decided Al had done his time and we should head home. He had decided that, too, and we bundled up to walk back home. After rounds of “thank you” and “so glad you could come over” and “thanks for including us,” we walked back to our house. We were greeted by a sleepy Cosette, who decided to wake up enough to play one more time with her Christmas presents.
When I was a kid, before my parents split, we had big Christmases like that, too. My dad’s extended family is pretty big and everyone lived close by, so it was usually easy for all of us to converge at my grandmother’s house or some other brave person’s home. Lots of food, lots of drink, lots of packages, lots of noise and chaos, so being at our neighbor’s house made me kind of homesick, even though I haven’t had a Christmas like that in years. I’m not sure I was homesick as much as I was lamenting how long it had been. Al was glad to return to the quiet and calm of our home, but I was missing that chaos. People say they envied my quiet, stress-free Christmases of just the two of us, yet that night I envied the lively bedlam of a large family celebrating. Um. Go figure.