The other day my aunt Evelyn, Dad’s sister, her husband Walter, and their granddaughter Sarah came over to the house with my grandma. The first three in that list are from Texas, so it’s not too often that they get to visit. Evelyn and Walter are the ones who put Sean, Ben and me up when we drove into Austin for that not-so-productive job lead with PCOrder (are they even still in business? what the hell is this?), when we met George and Suzanne and went out for cheap but quite good sushi. Sarah was only thirteen months old then, and she was so tiny that when she toddled around I wasn’t sure whether to be afraid she was going to fall or afraid she was going to float away. She’s going to be four this April. As has been remarked upon by many an aging aunt, uncle, mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, neighbor, or Person You Don’t Even Know, kids sure have a way of making you feel old.
So after Connor overcame his debilitating shyness and became comfortable enough with our guests to run around screaming and yelling, everything went fine. We “visited”, which is what we call sitting around talking about whatever is on our minds at the time, which for Evelyn was this new business venture involving “pure” rain water. “It never touches the ground,” she said. Apparently it at least goes through a filter or something, to clean it. I’m not sure, but doesn’t water collect nutrients as it passes through the soil? Something to think about. But Evelyn says she’s been drinking rain water for over a month, and now she can’t stand regular water. And I thought my dad was weird for refusing to drink anything but imported spring water from Canada.
So while Connor and Sarah flirted and teased one another–purely platonic, I assure you, as they are cousins, though technically there is nothing genetically wrong with mating with your cousin, but I digress–us old folk sat around talking about kids, and little toy cats made out of real rabbit fur (“I wouldn’t have bought it if I’d known,” said Evelyn), and Connor and Sarah’s other cousin, Joshua. Connor picked various pieces of potpourri from a glass dish on the low, hexagonal table in the living room and brought them around for people to smell. Grandma snuck back to my room and slipped a check for $2000 under a marker on my desk, face down. My inheritance from Grandpa–I promptly spent it the next day on plane tickets to Japan. Sean and I will be going next March, for our honeymoon. I’m hoping that the cherry blossoms will come early.
We took lots of pictures of everyone, and then I ran back to my room to burn them to CD, only to emerge triumphant and discover that they had taken even more pictures while I was gone. Alas. Using a whole CD for a mere 40 megs is one thing. Using a whole CD for a mere 40 megs and then discovering that you could have put another mere 40 megs on it is quite another. I suppose I’ll be burning a second CD to mail to them. It’s a good thing CDs are cheap.
As the visitors slowly shifted from the living room to the kitchen and then to the office, it was apparent that it was about time for them to go. Evelyn, Walter and Sarah were leaving the next day for the drive back to Texas. As we all stood out in the office finishing up our conversations, Mom leaned across the half-wall and said, almost casually, “Want to look at my garden, Grandma?”
The look on Grandma’s face was one of light-hearted dismissal. “Oh…gardens. I’ve let mine go to the wayside…”
“I’d like you to see it,” Mom continued. “I even have some tomatoes that might be ripe, and you can have them.”
“Oh, you have to see my garden!”
It was like Mom didn’t hear a word Grandma said, and I didn’t understand it until I remembered that Grandma is Mom’s mother-in-law. I guess 30 years of knowing a person doesn’t change the initial form of the relationship. I don’t have that awkwardness around Grandma; I get her love unconditionally. But Mom is an outsider…and it seems she still feels that she has to prove herself, no matter if Grandma sees her that way or not. It was an odd realization.
And so they went out to the garden. I didn’t follow. I’m not sure what they saw there, but I was done watching.
I want Cheryl’s approval, but more than that I want to have a relationship with her. Maybe that’s what Mom wants with Grandma, too, and maybe the only link she sees is gardening. I don’t know that I have any link at all with Cheryl; when we have conversations she mostly talks and I mostly listen. I tend not to tell her when I disagree, unless I think I can get away with it. I’m an agreeable person anyway, so I don’t think I’m hurting anything. I’m certainly not promising her the moon and not planning on delivering, or anything of that nature. I’m not really promising much of anything, and she’s not asking me to, and I think that’s a good start for our relationship. But I wouldn’t call us friends, and really I don’t want to be friends so much as family…because you tend to see friends a lot, while family is in the special “always there, often taken for granted” zone which means you can avoid them like the plague if necessary and they’ll still love you.
But of course, as family, I really need to start buying her–and Reid, and Grandma Flo–Christmas presents. Oh, lordy. Compounding this is the fact that I barely manage to do this for my own immediate family members. Ack, and Connor’s birthday is in just a few days! The same day as my parents’ silver anniversary! My job doesn’t pay enough…
And yet, I can’t seem to wait for Christmas. I just love that time of year, whether it snows or not (though I would prefer snow, it just adds the right flavor to things). I love the lights, and the trees, and the stockings, and the baking. I love shopping for and giving gifts. I used to have a much easier time doing that, back in the Days Before Bills. I’d run around the mall looking at everything, and if something reminded me of a person I loved I’d buy it. I bought things for each and every one of my friends back then, and either took them to be wrapped free in the mall, or spent time making the package look perfect myself. Then I’d go home and bake Christmas cookies and pass those out too.
I love the traditions; I love all the handicrafts, like scented oranges, or strings of popcorn or cranberries, or baked ornaments; I love gingerbread; I love decorating the house so that a touch of Christmas is everywhere, ready to greet you with happy thoughts. Christmas has always been a happy time for me. I don’t know why it affects some people so badly; I suppose it might be resentment (“how dare this be a happy time of year, I’m trying to be depressed here!”), but that seems so lame. I think it’s much easier (and more fun!) to just go with it, to enjoy yourself. But of course, it took awhile for me to be naturally happy, so I should probably cut other people some slack.
Sean is coming here for Christmas, but I’m going there first for Thanksgiving, so I think it balances out. I’m not sure how we’ll do it in the future. It might be nice to just switch off each year. We’ll just have to see how it goes. I love getting together with family and sharing food and conversation. And I love entertaining! I can’t wait for the day when I have my own house and my own things and I can invite people in and serve them food that I’ve made and let them enjoy my house and my company.
It won’t be too long until I can do that. Come January, I’ll be moving to Georgia to live with the love of my life. I’m so excited! My life just keeps growing and changing in new and fantastic ways.