Thanks-giving is always herb-roasted turkey and ravioli in Lodi with my dad’s side. After food and card games, my grandma used to tell us stories about Cedarville — the ranch she grew up on — and how my kid dad dubbed himself king of the manure pile.
Another night, usually Christmas Eve, is spent over Peking duck and fried sole and lobster noodles for long life with my mom’s side. A couple of uncles argue about Chinese stocks, the moms compare kids, and the kids — urged to eat — don’t really stop eating.
Every year I’m reminded of who I am while spending time with my family. No matter how hard I try I can never really quite separate myself from a family or community that has shaped or supported me. Chances are they have or will fill that void when I feel like life really does suck.
So I worry when I walk into the locker room and hear, “I hate my parents. They don’t want me anymore. My family sucks. My life sucks. I wish it’d all just disappear. But, OMG, I love Christmas!”
I go home every night. I have hot food to eat, a table to spread out my books for homework, a bed to sleep in. In the morning, my dad gently knocks, getting me out of bed to school. Bless my parents for dealing with the grotesque state of my room and my vampire-like study habits.
I don’t have to worry about where my next meal comes from. I don’t have to worry about surviving. I’m lucky. And the people I live with and go to school with take care of me whether or not I want or need them to, believing in me.
The fact that my big crazy family argues and plans to maintain the traditions of squeezing into living rooms and dining rooms to be together as one big huge family fills me with food, of course, but with a sense that I’m loved. As sense I know I’ll be fighting to preserve when I’m taught how to roast big meats and fit 20 people at a table for 10.
On Christmas morning, I still run upstairs and the big knit sock an aunt made for me hangs from the mantle stuffed. Even Mofie gets a little toy in his cat-sized stocking. Mom and Dad and I sit around tearing open gifts before Mom whips up pancakes and we get dressed up for church to thank Jesus for being born.
He would’ve been a completely different guy without Mary and Joseph, his cousin John and an entire community of followers who never stopped believing.