Tuesday, December 13, 2005
There Really IS No Place Like Home...
Given the tumultuous turn-out of our first holiday celebration back in Brooklyn, “New Yawk” together, it’s a wonder that M has not yet suggested bowing out of our traditional “7 Fish” Christmas Eve Celebration. Having brought my Virginia-born and raised beau to meet my loud Italian family last month was nothing short of a soap opera in which voices were raised more often than glasses – though admittedly, everyone, including M, seemed to be drinking more than is usual at our family gatherings!
Several heated arguments, one Soprano-style sit-down, much clicking of my heels to Dorothy’s “There’s no place like home,” and a partridge in a pear tree later, and I was ready to pack up and enlist us both in some sort of familial witness-protection program. And now, barely a month later, the time to return is at hand. Whoever coined the phrase “You can’t go home again” certainly knew what he was talking about on one level, but in my case was sadly mistaken. When you come from an Italian-American family whose roots have forever been in Brooklyn, NY (and worse still, "Little Italy"), you MUST go home again – if only for the handmade manicotti (a redundancy that no self-respecting Italian-American would make, but that I’ll use to demonstrate my point here).
Nevertheless, the time to return is fast approaching and as I reflect on all the cooking I’ll be doing over next weekend, I wonder what dramatics this year’s get-together could possibly bring. What could trump watching one of my sisters’ dates to Thanksgiving flirt incessantly behind her back (literally!) leaning over her as she ate to glare at the other? What could be more entertaining than watching my uncles Lou and Tony usher my father into the next room as though they were ready to make him "an offer he couldn’t refuse" when he spoke out of turn about a private matter? It’s hard to imagine - though I know better than to hope - that the holiday will go off without a hitch, but I suppose that as long as no dishes are intentionally shattered (as in years of Christmas past) – or that a certain someone doesn’t harass my grandmother to no end about the calamari being overcooked, the linguini and clams being too oily, or the artichokes being too dry – we will somehow survive.
Sadly, for my family, the true meaning of the Christmas Season has been reduced to post-holiday arguments about who bought who a cheap gift, who gluttonously took all the leftover olive salad, and who ate most like a "gavone." For all its humor, it’s still somewhat disheartening. And try as I might, I can’t help being reduced, year after year, to a disappointed child on Christmas morning as the sum of each year’s “celebration” amounts to little more than coal in my proverbial stocking.
But - all griping aside - this year, I’m well-aware of how much I have to be grateful for. Aside from the most important gift of His precious Son, whose birth our celebration should in all ways revolve around, God has given me a second chance, and in bringing M into my life, the hope of a family and someday, a home of my own.
"There’s no place like home for the holidays." – Perhaps, someday I’ll hear that song while leaning over my grandmother and a bubbling pot of sauce and we won't laugh and shake our heads in quiet resignation, but smile.