Shortly before leaving for California, my mother happened to be in my father's clothes closet when she came upon something she couldn't quite explain. There were two pairs of sneakers, each identical to a third pair he was currently wearing, and each labeled with an index card. My dad, you see, was trying to figure out which pair of shoes was giving him corns. So the first pair was labeled, "suspect" and the second was labeled, "iffy." This is what my family is like on regular days, nevermind the holiday season.
My brother was very excited about the CDs he'd burned us all as Christmas presents. He's not much for the surprise element, and was bursting to tell us our playlists before he even got here. "For Mike," he told me on the phone, "I made a Playatastik mix. It's all songs about bitches and hos. I thought that would be funny since he's married to my sister. Then I made him a Honky mix to make up for it."
When the families arrived, however, as usual they all went off to do their own thing and left us in the apartment alone because they don't actually care for our company. Only by dint of extreme whining was I able to get them into the apartment and feed them. Because some of you care about this sort of thing, here is what we served:
Asparagus wrapped in prosciutto (a reprise from last year)
Fusilli with caramelized onions
ice cream (because the intended meringues came out Cajun style)
baked brie w/ sundried tomatoes and classy chips
white bean and black olive soup
gingerbread with more ice cream
Our actual dinner conversation was less outrageous this year than last because we didn't have Scott. But we did have my boss Kathie on the 25th, who made herself instantly beloved. And Mojo (before Form pops a vein, Mojo is the child's given name, not a blog nickname). And everyone either liked the food or did a good job pretending. Also, for those of you who are keeping track, both meals were cooked in concert, with Mike heading up the pasta and the kebabs and me the other stuff. He's a very good cook now.
The day after christmas everyone was tired and feeling crapulous. I had developed a cold, but was revived by a shopping trip for David. It was the ultimate in paper dolls. David's taste and mine overlap nicely, and he's very cooperative, so all I had to do was find him stuff I liked and he would try it on, either pronounce it "fine" or "gangsta" or "too fruity", and we'd move on to the next item. He was extremely pleased with the haul, and since it was mostly on post-holiday clearance he saved a fortune, though he undoubtedly spent five.
In the afternoon the families all split up to see various movies. The women (not including me) went to see Rumor Has It, despite the obvious portents of suckage, all of which were fully realized. Mike, Fritz and Mojo attended Syriana, which they liked. Dad, David and I went to see King Kong, which is just a really great movie. I honestly think it's the best action movie I've ever seen. The three of us couldn't stop talking about it all through dinner, till Mojo snarked "Wow, it's like the three of you just saw Casablanca for the first time." Fritz' curiosity was sparked and he went to see it the day after. He felt it was racist, which just goes to show that Fritz has fallen for the ecologic fallacy. If 34 wants to fund a return trip to the theater I'll gladly write a review. At dinner that night I made the mistake of sharing my frustration at not having an occasion in which to break out the phrase "Sam Bowie Syndrome." The boys (Mike and David) loved it, loved it, and for the rest of the visit I had no peace because every change of topic led to a discussion if its appropriateness for Sam Bowie Syndrome. "James Madison was the Sam Bowie of presidents." "Chanukah is the Sam Bowie of Jewish holidays." "3 Montague Terrace is the Sam Bowie of Montague Terrace." Why? "Cause it ain't got no plaque." And just for good measure, at the end of the meal David told the waiter he was the Hakeem Olajuwon of waiters.
The next day it was pouring and I was even sicker, so while Mike went to work and everyone else went back to the movies, I read my book in bed and gargled. Mojo and David left for their California road trip, with my mother predicting doom and pestilence for every leg of the journey--"Oh, but you should really look up Cousin Lolly when you get to San Diego. If you make it that far." I emerged that evening to meet the group for dinner at a restaurant we never eat at when we're paying ourselves. The wait was long, but no one was very hungry yet so we stood around a tall table getting drunk. My mom, being a small person, became drunk rather quickly, so when Queenie offered me a chair and I said I didn't want one and Queenie got one anyway my mother turned to me and threatened, "If you don't sit in that chair now, I'm going to put that umbrella where the monkey put the nut." I sat.
Now, the folks who were occupying the table slated for us were in no hurry to leave. They had their doggie bags, they had paid the bill, but they simply weren't leaving. We know because after waiting an hour and a half we all had to pee and took turns staring them down on the way to the john. Our group was getting cranky, but didn't really gather up the steam to leave until we'd been there almost two hours. As we were getting up to leave, the hostess (who had been cordial throughout) explained that she had asked permission of her manager to boot the squatters, but that he had refused and that she was offering free appetizers if we would continue to wait. My mom saw this as a sign of weakness, and decided to take a stand. "I'm really sorry," the hostess said. "Well," my mother replied, "It's not okay to be sorry when you could have done something about it." She led the procession outside, pressing her moral advantage. "Free food?" said Mike and Fritz. "Why are we turning down free food?" We were halfway out the door when the squatters decided to stir themselves, so Queenie (who is a lawyer) eventually persuaded my mother (who is Sicilian and was drunk) to come back inside. As our group filed past their group we exchanged what Mike described as Prison Stares. It was quite chilly.
We had done nothing but bitch about people who dawdle at restaurants until we sat down ourselves. Then, unfortunately, Queenie had a little spate of tachycardia and we couldn't order for some time. She told us in no uncertain terms to leave her alone while the episode played itself out, but most of the table was unwilling to accommodate her request. "You're a doctor, do something!" Mike shouted at me. "How long has this been going on?" Peggy wanted to know. "I'm her mother and she never told me anything of this." "I asked," my mom replied, "And she says it's some congenital thing that she and Andy both have." "Andy has it too?," Peggy gasped. Queenie was, obviously, fine in a moment or two, and we had our meal and my parents caught their plane.
We had one final breakfast with Queenie, Peggy and Fritz the next morning, but I don't remember much of it because I was trapped behind a haze of mucus. Queenie had thoughtfully provided me with some drops she takes, but my mother wasn't there to threaten me with an umbrella enema this time so I declined on the grounds that the number one ingredient in the drops was a red dye and that it managed to contain both maltitol and trans fat. I have spent the last three days in near-stationary recuperation. I hope to be sufficiently repaired to ignore New Year's as I am accustomed to doing.