Childhood Christmas

I've mentioned in the past being kind of bitter about family holidays. It's a more recent thing that I'll move past when I have a reason to be excited about them again, but I'm not down or anything like that right now, I'm kind of just reminiscing about what Christmas was like when I was a kid, and the things I learned about the 'behind the scenes' as I got older. 

I spent almost every childhood Christmas I can remember with my mom's family in New York. It was her parents, her sisters, our cousins then extended family sometimes, and family friends stopping by. But most often my grandparents, aunts and cousins. We'd leave out of Reston as soon as we could after the I got out of school on the last day before the holidays. Being younger than my brothers, we would have to wait for the end of elementary school or middle school depending. We'd stop by CVS to grab snacks and drinks before the drive. Trips to New York were always nice because we got to have snacks or candy we were't normally allowed to have. 

So, piled back into the car with presents around or on us, we'd say a prayer for safety as we'd get out on the sometimes snowy roads as our mom made the drive to New York. If it were still light enough, I'd read and try to listen to my own music instead of the Ten Sleepless Knights, Luther Vandross, or whatever MoTown tape my mom was playing. My brothers most often slept in the car, i'd sometimes sleep, but car sleep isn't that satisfying to me. 

As a kid the distance between Reston and Baltimore seemed to be forever. As an adult i can verify that it is friggin' forever to get to Baltimore. I knew we were in New Jersey because it smelled bad, and I often slept through Delaware. I loved being away on the GW, and but I can't remember which level I preferred to ride on, it was the opposite to the one my mom wanted to drive on into New York. We'd skirt the city and drive past the Bronx Zoo as we left whatever highway we were on to get to my grandparent's. It's now whatever o'clock, it's dark and we have to unload the car and not look into any of the numerous bags we were carrying because some of it was out own unwrapped Christmas gifts. 

We sit down to a dinner of White Castle or whatever food our grandmother had prepared. Shrimps and rice was a perennial favorite that I need to learn how to make... Mmm, shrimps and rice. It was always 'shrimps' and not 'shrimp'. it's how we spoke, but that's neither here nor there. Our mother would lay out on the floor or go upstairs and sleep, because she was an adult and did regular parent-adult things before having to drive 4+ hours through traffic and often weather with maybe coffee and a short nap break on the Jersey Turnpike. 

Let's say it's the 23rd when we got in. We'd watch cartoons or some weird movie with our grandfather after greeting whoever else was in the house and eventually we'd shuffle off to bed because sleeping in the car makes you tired. 

The next day there'd be a family breakfast, sausage and eggs, English muffins, or cereal, nothing too special, but easy enough to feed 8 people. It'd be more watching movies and stuff and looking at the tree. We'd judge the already wrapped gifts looking for ours and wondering who the other people were - most often work friends and like. My mom and my Aunt Cheryl would be cooped up in the master bedroom wrapping gifts. They'd call us up to take wrapped presents back downstairs throughout the day and help us wrap our gifts for each other. We'd also be used to wrap gifts for out grandparents and sometimes carried down gifts 'from Santa' in the middle of the evening on Christmas Eve. That's a thing we all did and laughed about it. 

We'd be forced to go to bed and my mom and aunt would stay up half the night wrapping gifts. Seriously, they'd be up until 4 wrapping gifts for about 20 different family members, godparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, neighbors. It went on. The thing about them wrapping gifts in a one day marathon like this, and i guess it started in the early evening not during the day - is that they'd forget who gifts were for, and they'd end up unwrapping gifts to see what it was and who it was for, before wrapping it again. They did this many, many times, which I now find hilarious.  They worked so hard though.

We kids would wake up around 7 and go downstairs and look at the presents. Then we'd turn on the TV because we knew certain death would happen if we tried to wake the old folks up to open gifts at 7am. And we'd wait. Our grandmother was one of the first adults to wake up after my brothers and I were up. Eventually my mom and aunt would stagger downstairs, beat and tired but pleasant and cheerful. We'd be waiting on our grandfather who seemed to never get downstairs until 11 to open gifts and we'd start opening toys, clothes, books, candy, trinkets, jewelry and whatever else was given to us. We'd clean up and start opening things while breakfast was made. It was often pancakes, or Mickey Mouse pancakes which were always more special. 

In the afternoon my other aunt would show up with her daughter and granddaughter and we'd do Christmas again with them, before dinner. Dinner was always like Thanksgiving dinner, or maybe Thanksgiving Lite. But homemade honey-baked ham is delicious, so is turkey and everything else so there were no complaints. 

For the rest of the trip we'd see other cousins and great aunts and people twice removed and whatever. Once we saw the Rockette's Christmas show, i don't remember it too well, I was young. I do remember it ending with them snowing in the theater. One of my first experiences with dry ice, so that's cool. 

I was talking with my aunt about how little sleep she gets and she brought up what Christmas used to be like. Having to buy so much stuff for so many kids and the wrapping marathon and mistakes. They're good memories, and i'm glad I was able to spend Christmas so many years like that. I'm enjoying the stripped down Christmas that I've spent these past few years with my brothers, but in a way, I also look forward to being involved in a big family Christmas where new and weird traditions start. I look forward to really being engaged in the holidays. Today feels much like any other day in my life, I woke up, read some comics, looked at tumblr and made breakfast. it'd be different if I were on a vacation from work, or if I worked in general. It'd also be different if it were cold and snowed. I guess 38 is cold, but it's still not the same, and I'm someone who hates snow. 

i dunno. Hug somebody, enjoy the people around you. Something something compassion and words. i don't know how I want to end this, you think of something heartfelt. I'm going to go back to reading comics.

Childhood Home

Like many people in America I went back to my childhood home for Thanksgiving. I don't like going home to Reston, it's never really an entirely pleasant experience, it's a complex thing but it's because it's not my childhood home anymore.

I spent the majority of my life in the same townhouse in Reston, it's a little 4 bedroom, 3 story piece of not bad. After my mother died, my brothers and I bought the house, I went off for college. Every time I return it's more and more bachelored up. My eldest brother monopolizes the majority of the house and the one TV I'd watch I don't even have consistent access to. I feel self-conscious if I watch trashy TV around my brothers. Hell, I feel self-conscious if I watch good TV around them because my interests are so not theirs I fear they're always judging me. Maybe it's because I judge them for not being more than what they are with the time they've had. I don't know. I just don't feel at home when I'm home. I end up just feeling really anxious and I get nothing done, especially in the house. It's not having Internet all the time that's the problem, it's being in that house. If I leave I can make myself comfortable somewhere else, generally Panera but I'm thinking I might coffee for a few hours at Cosi the next time I go home and see if I can get anything drawn or planned. I really try to limit my time in Reston, I don't go back often but when I do I pretty much need to plan on what I'm going to do outside of the house to not feel anxious and hateful the entire time I'm up there. 

So, I drove home on Tuesday night after class, so midnight. Best time to make a 3 hour drive :eyeroll: I don't like distance driving and in the middle of the night is even worse. And when I need coffee, like when driving, I think my body stores the caffeine and makes me really tired. I get so tired when I'm making the drive, seriously. 30 minutes after finishing the drink i want to curl up and sleep.

My drive was uneventful. I got in and promptly went to sleep only to wake up four hours later because my body's a dick. I moped around the house on Wednesday, I did go out to Trader Joe's because they have these amazing Belgian waffle cookies, cheaper and far tastier than the ones I can find down here. There is a Trader Joe's down here but it's not worth it to drive to Virginia Beach for some cookies. Maybe I'll find it. I also bought frozen falafel, I think I'd like to try the real deal now. Then I was in all day and on the Internet. 

Thursday I was snarky about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade because why not. I mean, there was the Judge Dredd dance team, children who didn't look like they wanted to be there, children who were way too excited to be there and the people in the background who kept waving at the camera any chance they could. And the scariest thhing, partially inflated balloons, those really were kind of creepy. I remember Pikachu didn't have his ears inflated (Matt Lauer still can't pronounce pokemon right) and and Spongebob Squarepants's arms weren't inflated. i think a few others were off. The grey artist balloon was pretty sick, I need to look into that guy's work ( Pipe dream: get something I've drawn made into a parade balloon!). 

We went over to our father's for the holiday which is never as emotionally fulfilling as it should be. My brothers and I were the youngest there, and I didn't feel comfortable so I wasn't talking much unless I had a specific point, and even then I feel it was ignored. Thanksgiving at my father's feels like a dinner party, a really boring dinner party. It's the polar opposite to Thanksgiving when it was my mom, my brothers and me or the Thanksgiving of my childhood when we'd go to New York to my maternal grandparent's and it was all of that family and maybe a friend would stop by. I'd watch any help cook, we'd have the parade on during the day and then some ridiculous movie or football when I was a bit older. After dinner we'd all just layabout the house until we had homemade sweet potato pie that my grandmother made. We'd play Scrabble or Scatagories which would inevitably incite some fight and my brother would declare he'd never play a board game with the family again. i'd probably still be quiet, but I was younger then. I might still be quiet because I'm not really loud. I'm the weird one, I was always soft spoken, but I'd just sit there enjoying the conversation. If the great-aunts and great-uncles were there I'd awkwardly say hello to them, always forgetting who was who because they all looked the same to me and I only saw them once a year. 

That was the Thanksgiving of my childhood. It was also a cage of anger and criticism but that was fine because my mother would temper them and keep them picking on us too much. Black Friday would happen, when I was a kid and it started at 6am we'd go. After Macy's started their "Black Friday starts at midnight' bullshit we stopped really going out to shop, we'd go see whatever the big movie was. 

Or I'm making that up, my memory of my childhood is fuzzy, but we did see a lot of movies at that weird theater at New Roc City.

This year I stayed in on Black Friday. I actually went out for one thing and I almost got into an accident that would not have been my fault at the fucking pharmacy. Some bullshit. 

Saturday was the best day of my entire trip home, I went out with Alex. Alex is good people, there's no judgement and no fear around him, just comfort. We went to Great Eggspectation for brunch then saw Lincoln. (I wrote about Lincoln here) it was just a good day. It was good for me to get out of my bedroom and out of the house. My bedroom is the same as it always was. 

Sunday I had plans that fell through so I ended up just hanging out before driving home. The best thing from Sunday was I opened an old photo album and I looked at so many pictures from my childhood, people I've forgotten and family members from before I was born. I'm going to do another post about those photos and my family. My drive was a bit stop and go, a broken down truck a few miles from when I get on to 95 South then a few miles after that it was either another broken down vehicle or an accident. I don't know. 

I made it then crashed.

Today was a bit less than pleasant, which means that what I drew in Figure was fucking amazing. Better than usual, joy. My skin disease was far less than pleasant today which was fun and then as I was about to leave the building my foot hurt and there was a small sliver of glass in my foot. I just gave up on today and went to sleep.

I did have a cool dream where I got this sweet little Canon dSLR. It was a made up camera but whatevs. It was also part of a weird dream that seemed to take place in the Land of Oz, which is interesting given I've read none of those books.

I have plans for a little internet thing that I'm going to possibly test soon but I won't do in earnest until January, I'll let you know when that's up and a thing. Also, over on my sketch blog, I have my ask box open for suggestions and requests, if you'd like to see a suggested doodle, tell me, maybe I'll do it. 

So, that's that, until I share some old photos and show you how cute I was as a kid. I do have a few I threw onto instagram. Check out this one of me, I think I'm around 2. This is my mom. I think this is my 6th birthday, that's my cousin behind me.