“So, this is your first married Christmas!” my father-in-law informed us cheerfully.

Yes. Yes, it was.

“So, does this mean we can hang it up this year only?” the beau asked dubiously, holding up a heavy silver heart-shaped ornament inscribed in script with Our First Christmas.

No. No, it doesn’t.

Holidays with the in-laws feel different. Maybe it’s because my aunts aren’t sitting around drinking rum and coke and white wine and play-quarreling about things that happened when they were teenagers. Maybe it’s because my dad isn’t spending dinner casually alluding to evidence he’s found that the planet is actually cooling, not warming. Maybe it’s because my mom isn’t talking in strange voices to the dog. Maybe it’s because my grandmother isn’t derailing the conversation to announce to the room for the seven thousandth time that I look so much like her cousin did. Whatever it is, it’s just not quite the same.

Which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing. It’s just different when the family stories don’t include you, is all.

This year the beau’s brother brought his girlfriend for Christmas,1 and she and I spent most of the time watching each other out of the corners of our eyes. We had a connection because we were interlopers. Outsiders. I kind of wanted to get her alone so I could ask her if the parents have sat her down and shown her pictures of the beau’s brother as a youth yet, because they started showing me pictures of the beau the first time I came to their house and STILL are. Last week, in fact, I had the pleasure of viewing photographs of some long-ago Christmas morning when a tender young beau was frantically tearing open wrapping paper while clad in only a pair of white skivvies.

Which isn’t to say I’m complaining. Because the beau’s been forced by my parents to look at embarrassing photos of two-year-old me standing naked in a bucket and apparently attempting to breast-feed a stuffed rabbit. So it’s only fair. That’s the tradeoff when you go to the Other Family: you get to listen to all of their tales and see all of their albums.

But the girlfriend, I never really did get a chance to corner her. She and the brother were only there for a day and a half, and the parents-in-law were always nearby, so we kept the conversation inside the nice polite box. Except for that one time just before we sat down for Christmas dinner when she whispered to me that she once stood three feet away from Ben Gibbard at a Death Cab for Cutie show and she was really stoned at the time. Overall, I feel like she is someone with whom I could easily down a bottle of vodka at future holiday gatherings.

The future, it is bright. Maybe one day the girlfriend and I will even work our way into some of the family stories.


1 Which is a Vurrah Big Deal, a vurrah big deal indeed.

11 Responses to “holidaze”

  1. I totally know what you mean about the bond with the other “interloper.” I felt that way about Collin’s cousin’s girlfriend, because we were the only unmarried ones in the mix. It helped that we were both on the… sedate side, at least compared to Collin’s explosively happy family.

    • God, isn’t it nice when you find someone outside the family that you not only get along with but actually identify with? It’s like finding a lifesaver while drowning in the ocean of Otherness. Although honestly, I LIKE that ocean, and it’s a fairly NICE ocean, but sometimes I’d like some company there, you know?

  2. I spent thanksgivings all through college and 2 years of grad school with my college roommate’s family because they were close to school, as opposed to my family in Nebraska. (It is ABSURDLY expensive to fly to Lincoln. You basically have to charter a plane, because NO ONE ELSE wants to go there. The flight out the friday after Thanksgiving is essentially a party bus full of The Children Who Went Back East celebrating their return to what they now realize are their FABULOUS, FABULOUS lives.)

    Anyways. I LOVED it, mostly because I got to enjoy the family craziness (true story: one year the Jew for Jesus cousin started off dinner with “I’d like to thank MY PERSONAL SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST for this meal even though I know he’s not EVERYONE’S saviour at this table”), but with the glorious knowledge that YOU ARE NOT RELATED TO ANY OF IT. Like, there is no chance that you will someday have Crazy Aunt Harriet’s impressive nose hair. Although now that you’ve married into it, your children might…

    • Ha! That’s a great story. I never made a tradition out of it, but I’ve occasionally been in similar “holidays with other families” positions before, and it’s glorious. There’s no shared past, no preexisting grievances, none of the same DNA. Although you’re right, I may have to think twice about having kids…. Hmm.

  3. If it wasn’t for the other interlopers in Craig’s family, there’s no way I wouldn’t have run away screaming by now.

  4. Oh the other interloper, how I love thee. While I can no longer be thought of as an interloper in any real sense – I have been at the table for over a decade and in many cases I am part of the family stories now – I still appreciate when a new person comes to dinner. Someone else who maybe isn’t quite so loud and exuberant. Someone who maybe prefers a quiet conversation to the teasing and shouting that normally dominates. And I also learned that alcohol helps a lot.

    • Wholeheartedly concur. I think this is what most surprised me about this past holiday — whoa, I have the opportunity to bond with someone outside the in-laws?? Really?? It’s like my very own Christmas miracle.

  5. I have bonded with Jason’s cousin’s partner over the last few Thanksgivings. Having an interloper-in-crime is the best.

  6. Oh thank GOD for that. It’s actually weird, C has no siblings, so I have that bond w/ his mom. We look at each other like “We’re choosing to stay with this MADNESS?!” and then go down the bottle of vodka. She also tells stories about the great weed she found in her overseas travels.

    Christmas with Not-Your-Family is weird. I’m still figuring it out. C’s grandma tried to give us ALL of her ornaments. We very nicely said “no, thank you” because we really want to get our own, slowly. “our first Christmas” and all. 🙂

  7. I keep wondering if/when that “interloper” feeling ever goes away… B and I have been together 5+ years, and I STILL feel very much the “outsider” — even though his family is extremely welcoming. I got the nieces and nephews on my side early on, which ended up being a stroke of genius… but I still feel like the other in-laws seem more part of the family. They do the “remember when-ing,” they are in all the old photos (while there are exactly 2 of me). I thought marriage was the difference-maker, but now I’m thinking it’s a) time or b) providing grandkids (which we may never) or c) the fact that B is the baby of the family, always will be, and also feels a bit like the odd-one-out himself.

    • I wonder the same thing… I guess my best hope is that over time we’ll become closer, but I doubt it will ever be a full sense of “belonging” like it is with my fam.

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