Conflict in the kitchen. Heated disputes at the gaming tables. Screaming. Sneaking in and out of strange bedrooms in the middle of the night. Shots fired. Blood spilled.
Nope, it wasn't the latest episode of Desperate House Parties. It was just another ordinary Christmas celebration with the extended family.
Honestly, it wasn't really that dramatic. The good-natured conflicts in the kitchen involved too many volunteers to help cook or do dishes. The disputes at the gaming tables were over card games, word games, and puzzles; they were all in fun and only got loud because the competitors were laughing so much.
The occasional screaming had two sources. One was two preschoolers having fun racing toy trucks down a sloping hallway. The other was a one-year-old whose enjoyment of the occasion was hindered by the fact that he had four molars coming in.
The sneaking in and out of bedrooms was completely innocent. It's just a challenge to make a two a.m. trip to the bathroom when you have to crawl out of a creaking wooden bunk bed, creep across a floor that creaks loudly even when you tiptoe, fumble your way down an unfamiliar hallway in the dark, and find your way back without the flashlight you didn't remember to bring. All this, ideally, without waking your roommates. (As my mother says about family get-togethers, "Better bring pajamas, because you don't know who you might be sharing a room with.")
The shots fired? Oh, that was merely half a dozen people trying out one another's rifles and pistols, shooting up a bunch of reloaded ammunition with lethal consequences to a bunch of targets.
The spilled blood, fortunately, wasn't serious—though it probably didn't feel minor to the unfortunate one-year-old, with his mouth already hurting, who fell headfirst off of a chair. This, of course, happened right before everyone was to line up for the family photos. Some ice for his mouth and some cuddling by his mother restored him sufficiently to get his picture taken along with every else. The family computer geek pointed out reassuringly, "Don't worry—I can Photoshop out the fat lip."
He could, of course, but he won't. After all, the fat lip is part of the story of this particular family Christmas. So are the challenging wooden puzzle that nearly everyone worked on; the Scrabble game that ended up with scores of 175, 176, and 177; the target shooting; and the multi-generational card game that went on till after midnight. We won't necessarily remember all those bits of the story in detail, but they're still part of the shared experiences and memories that hold us together as a family.
Shared play, shared work, conversations, competitions, a lot of laughter, a little screaming, and blood only shed once. Yep, it was another successful family party.
After some web search, I finally found your website and enjoyed your latest column.I did not bring our laptop so am using our son, Paul’s. We flew out here to Helena, Montana the day before Christmas, and made it despite the fact that all planes were as much as four hours late due to the worst weather conditions in years. This is the first Christmas in 12 years that we have been together, a time to take lots of pictures, enjoy our family, exchange gifts and eat way too much, and all that rich food too. Our gathering was pretty pale compared to the rather vigorous one conducted by your clan.