The “Home for the Holidaze” Edition

In Advice, Funny, Life, People, Relationships on December 29, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Dear Ally,

It breaks my heart that you are thinking of ending the glory that is Ask Ally. I must apologize for my apparent lack of appreciation of your work – I’ve just been busy, ok?

Anywho, I have a question and it’s a holiday-themed one as well. Here it is: Why is it that every year I get super pumped for Christmas, but when I finally make it home for holidays, that joy is swiftly and inevitably crushed by insane family members? I am beginning to suspect that family is much better in theory than in practice. Thoughts?


Dear Melanie,

Well, perhaps, if you’re going to be so nice about it, I won’t shut down Ask Ally. But posting will definitely be few and far between for a while. I’ve had an absolutely insane six months, and I have another insane six months ahead of me. January in particular I am expecting to literally suck actual, physical balls. I fully expect to see January down on its knees, goin’ at ‘er. It’s going to be wicked, and I mean that in the most sarcastic possible way.

However, as regards your question: I’ve been having a think on this one over the last few weeks. This is because the last few weeks have been the lead up to, and then the realisation of, my first Christmas away from home. Naturally, I went through the usual stages:

1. Brave defiance – “I don’t care about being home for Christmas” she says stoically. “It’s just another day; I’ll make my own fun. I’ll start new traditions. I won’t have to run around for lots of holiday parties and gatherings and dinners and coffee meetings. It’ll be the best Christmas ever!”

2. Grief – oh yes, there was grief. “I just want to be home for Christmas! I miss my family! I miss my friends!” she sobs.

3. More brave defiance – “I was crazy. Best Christmas ever! I’m just making Christmas at home out to be idyllic when it really isn’t”

4. Mental Breakdown – “WHAT THE FUCK IS THE POINT OF ALL THIS STRESS IF I CAN’T EVEN GO HOME AT THE END OF IT!? I don’t want anything for Christmas, I just want to go home. Boo hoo hoo, etc, etc”

4(b). I kind of forgot to mention initially that there is, in my mind at least, a step that takes place in between each of these steps, in which I spend hours upon hours not sleeping because my brain is concocting wildly improbable scenarios in which Bob Barker or Ian McKellan or Vincent Price shows up at my flat three days before (two days, one day, on the morning of, any minute now, come on Bob…) Christmas, and tells me one of two things: 1) “Ally, you’re great, and so we’ve decided to pay for a flight home for Christmas” (“Thanks, Bob, I’m already packed, let’s go!”); or, 2) “Ally, you’re great, so we’ve decided to fly your whole family out here for Christmas and put them up in a super awesome fancy hotel” (“Gee, thanks, Bob, but wouldn’t they kill each other during the flight?”).

Suffice to say that none of these things came true. I suspect it might be because Vincent Price is dead. No excuse for the other two, though. Lazy layabouts…

5. Depressed Acceptance – “Well, Christmas is tomorrow, and I can’t go home now, so whatever. Might as well eat a lot of junk food and make the most of it”

6. FUN TIEMZ! – My flatmates came home and we had some nice Christmas festivities involving junkfood and TV and puzzles and presents, and Christmas Eve and most of Christmas day were passed in this manner. All was grood.

7. Martyrdom – This stage involved calling my family at home to wish them a Merry Christmas and putting on a brave face in spite of the overwhelming homesickness that hearing them all together and laughing and opening presents and arguing and arguing and then laughing some more has brought on.

8. Finally, Blank Acceptance – Christmas is over, it wasn’t as crap as I was worried it might be, and it wasn’t as awesome as I had secretly hoped it would be. It was a nice Christmas, and now it’s time to get drunk (new years).

And, to be honest (and to get back to your question) this is the way it always goes. “Home for Christmas” is the ideal, built up in our minds through fuzzy modified memories of Christmases past (in which the fights and grumbling and indigestion and mess and cleaning and exhaustion and frustration are all mysteriously forgotten), and the musical genius of Bing Crosby… and others. “I’ll be home for Christmas”, “There’s no Place Like Home for the Holidays”, etc etc – it’s all conducive to the idea that at Christmas, family is where it’s AT.

But, and my mum might yell at me for this, families are never perfect. They are not normal. There is no normal. They’re crazy, and they know just how to drive you nuts, and they are just as stressed as you are at that time of year (perhaps even more so, although you’ll never catch me admitting it to them directly). And so, even though it’s seemed for the last month that there’s nothing keeping you going other than the dream of the wonderful Christmas spirit and the thought of your loving family gathered together in a week and a half of total and utter peaceful bliss, the reality always, ALWAYS ends up with some sort of argument (possibly screaming match or food-fight?) within the first six minutes of walking through the door (often about the mess you’ve made or the amount of laundry you lugged with you to do for free).  Which means that usually moments after you have achieved Christmas nirvana, it is torn to bits by your damned normal family.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that family is better in theory than in practice (okay, on the surface that’s exactly what I’ve just said, isn’t it? But roll with me here). Because trust me, the day will come when you find yourself on the other end of a patchy, staticky Skype connection or hugely expensive long distance phone call, and you will hear hollering, or arguments, or blurred indistinguishable voices and over that, the dog barking, and suddenly nothing will seem more perfect than that.

Holy crap, don’t let me choke on this huge chunk of cheese I’ve just bitten off…

Anyway, my advice for next year (or for Easter, Thanksgiving, summer, etc) is to just go with it. Your family may always be better in theory than in reality, but I’m pretty sure that we’re lucky to have such a good theoretical family, and even more lucky to have such a good family in reality too.

I mean, not me. My family is obviously evil. With the hourly beatings, and the psychological torture, and the occasional brandings, and the human target practice… it’s horrible! But I’m sure yours is fine. I mean, it’s not like we have the same family or anything, so I’m willing to bet that yours is pretty good. I mean, at least without the pig murder. Right? Well, maybe the occasional pig murder… but really, what’s a family gathering without the odd pig murder?

It’s no family gathering that I ever want to go to, that’s for sure!

Happy holidays to all, and best of luck for 2009!

  1. I was the DPM (Dedicated Pig Murderer) this year, in your absence. Needless to say I bungled it as best I could in an attempt to both maintain my militant vegetarian way of life and convince the family to fly you home next Christmas to prevent such colossal failure from happening again.

  2. I heard of this failure, and I am truly touched and flattered by your actions. Especially when they told me about that moment where the entrails exploded with such force that they lodged themselves right in your…

    Well, I don’t want to spill all of the awesome details. Suffice to say, I didn’t believe that any member of my family could be capable of such rampant compassion and disregard for pig-wellbeing. Cheers to you, Keeblebrox. I raise my glass in your honour. To next Christmas, and may we all be home for the holidays, and drunk for the annual porcine slaughter-fest.

  3. Please tell me you came up with holidaze yourself. It would be too much for me.

  4. Dear Joanna,

    I did come up with Holidaze all by my lonesome. It was my gift to the brilliant lexicon of the English language.

    I’m such a caring and giving person.

    Love Ally

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