Christmas at Grandma Karen’s

‘Twas the morning of December 22, 2012. The morning we woke early to drive from Fremont to Julian where grandma was waiting for us all to arrive – for Christmas to begin.

Mom ordered dad to load the van, dad loaded the van, and griffin and I stood by in silence ready to get in the van on cue – bracing ourselves for the ensuing chaos that was sure to unfold. Mom gave the word and we single file marched to our respective sides of the van and buckled up.

Dad “the snacker” – he drives almost the entire time, but due to this he incessantly requests us to list every item of food and drink available to him and systematically chooses that which is most difficult to reach – the diet coke that is under the sunkist under the water under the sparkling water under the vitamin water under the lunch meat to go with the bag of nuts that were jammed under the crackers under the cheese under the zucchini bread under the cookies. Oh, and he’ll take a cheese cracker sandwich next, but could you make it for him, oh wait, and add a slice of turkey while you’re at it. But hey, who can blame the guy for wanting a little entertainment.

Mom “the grim reaper” tells us stories of her work that are inherently morbid. But hey, at least we can all laugh about it.

Griffin “the mute” has been tuning us out since 1996 – reading or playing Pokemon on his game boy . If there’s one thing we can count on, it’s Griffin’s stoic silence and self-entertainment.

Jacqueline “the pee-er” requests on the hour, “sorry to do this to you, but the coffee is running right through me and no pressure, and no rush, but can you pull over immediately so I can pee. Thanks.”

Yes, with our forces combined we barreled down the 5 to the soundtrack of light classic rock tunes, stopping only briefly at Uncle Andrew’s and then Ken and Kim’s. Throughout the 13 hour drive, dad discusses the merits and disadvantages of each kind of car on the road with himself, as he debates the next car he will purchase when we all know that he will inevitably choose to buy yet another Camry.

We arrive at Grandma Karen’s around 11pm, tired and relieved, greeted with hugs and warmth from Grandma, Aunt Lisa, Jaelyn, Timothy, and Uncle Danny. Already the wine is open, the cookies are out, the coffee is hot n ready, the chess board is set up, the cards are shuffled, and Jaelyn is ready to play. We chat for a bit and rest up.

The next morning Momma and I go for a run, and come back to Griffin making pancakes and Grandma making coffee. Griffin has learned well… the golden ratio of 1:1 perfectly round batter:vegetable oil, resulting in the ultimate fried donut pancake. The day goes by, with a trip to town to pick up Uncle Eric and Connie and we visit the usual suspects – the Apple Cider Mill, the Soda Fountain, and other little Julian boutiques.

Cousins Alex and Bridgette arrive in the evening, and cousin Anastasia arrives the next afternoon as the 21+ crowd is departing for the casino. We all break relatively even after a few hours at the black jack table sitting next to an older couple that is keeping it classy and telling some of the dirtiest jokes I’ve ever heard. I’ll spare you the details.

Back at Grandma’s just in time for dinner, Alex and Bridgette announce that they’re having a baby!!!! Soon-to-be-Great-Grandma cries, Aunt Lisa claims she already knew, and everyone else cheers in surprise and excitement. And then everyone but Bridgette celebrates with a glass of wine! Sucks to be preggers!
Just kidding.

The rest of the evening we all threw out baby names and for some reason they were ignoring my suggestions of Gunther, Axl, or Conan. This only stopped when the time we had all been waiting for finally arrived… The White Elephant gift exchange.

Usually we all buy little gifts for everyone, but this year we decided to go big – one big gift, for either an over or under 25 year old based on your own age. But then as we all threw our presents in the middle of the room it was decided that everyone will just participate together regardless of age! *** I would like to note that Jaelyn is 6 and Eric and Connie were born developmentally disabled, which will later become relevant when discussing the morality of white elephants***

We drew numbers and I was number 1!!

Going into this whole fiasco Mom was giving Dad a hard time for getting a gift that no one but he would want. And I was thinking since I get to steal at the end anyways since I was 1, I should go for the least desired gift first. So I chose Dads gift, and lo and behold it was a Space Heater! And I must admit, That was exactly what I wanted!  With my own unique way of saying thanks, I crumpled the paper and threw it at Dad’s face.

It started off so sweetly…

Danny got a bottle of wine and aerator.  Timothy, a new pair of headphones. Griffin, a slow cooker.

Mom to the rescue steals the slow cooker from Griff, and he gets another present. But he chooses another box-shaped gift, and it’s a 2 gallon beverage dispenser with 6 brand new dish towels! Haha sucka!

Alex got a box of pairs of matching towels and wash cloths and a floor mat, and couldn’t be happier. Bridgette took a basket containing some Bailey’s, chocolate, and nuts. 18-year-old Timothy instantly starts begging for Pregger McPreggerrson to give him the Bailey’s. Dad gets a portable DVD player. Eric opens a pizza maker. Annie gets a memory foam pillow.

At this point I was getting restless and so I took the entire garbage bag that Dad had been depositing the wrapping paper into and dumped it all over his head and then Alex joined in and it was an all out wrapping paper war. I don’t know if there were any winners, but Dad was definitely the loser.

And this is where it gets weird…
Then it’s Jaelyn’s turn, and she chose the biggest wrapped present that was left. It was the coveted blender that she had been wanting all year! I don’t know what exactly a 6-year old would have in mind for the blender, but she had some big plans for it.

Grandma’s next – and you’d think a sweet little old lady would never steal. But no. Grandma steals the slow cooker from Mom!
Then Mom steals from Griff again! (the beverage dispenser and towels.) We all know Griffin is the favorite child, but that was just too much! There is NO way she actually wanted that.
So then Griff gets a new present of 3 DVDs, satisfied at last.

Then it’s Connie’s turn. And like Eric, Grandma took Connie’s hand, and as she was walking Connie around the circle pointing out all the presents she could steal, she makes a B-line for Dad, and snatches the portable DVD player from his grasp.
In retaliation, Dad steals from Timothy!
Timothy gets a new present, which is a Lot of chocolate. He continues to beg Bridgette for the Bailey’s. But she doesn’t give in.

Then… Lisa thinks for a while, and steals the pizza maker from Eric!
Eric, stunned, has gotten the hang of this. Grandma takes his hand, slowly walking him around the circle, and despite Alex trying to convince Eric to take his towels (guess he had a change of heart), Eric knows what he wants. And he steals the bev dispenser from Mom! This may have been the most bizarre steal of the night…

Mom, who originally was hesitant to steal for her own accord and would certainly never steal something that the other person actually wanted, turned to the dark side. She stood up, marched right on over to where Eric and Connie were sitting, and stole the portable DVD player from Connie that she had originally gifted ! Developmentally disabled or not, no one could stand in sweet innocent Mom’s way of getting her own portable DVD player!

Then Connie, a woman who gets what she wants,  makes a B-line for Jaelyn, and snatches the blender from little unsuspecting Jaelyn! Causing Jaelyn to erupt into a fit of tears, and sending everyone else into a fit of hysterical laughter.

After some promising from Alex and Lisa that she will get whatever she wants and they can buy another blender, Jaelyn regains composure and takes the towels from Alex. She then turns to Connie and yells “You Wanna Go?!” Lil mamma got some sass. TMG (That’s Mah Gurl).

Alex steals the pillow from Annie, and Annie -gets the final present of a handmade clock.

Which brings it back to my turn. For the final steal. Tempted as I was to keep the space heater, I knew it would be obsolete when I move to Ukraine so I chose the cool artsy unique clock, which left the non-coveted space heater to Annie.

And you’d think it would be over but then…

My dad offers to buy the space heater from Annie for a raw $50!!! Then Alex outbids him, and offers to buy the Space Heater from her for $60! But Annie is pissed at Alex for taking her pillow, so she sells the space heater to Dad for $50! Meanwhile, Connie is really getting the hang of this. She proposes to buy the portable DVD player from Mom for $50!!!! And despite Mom saying she isn’t going to take Connie’s money, she does because Grandma forces her to take Connie’s money because what’s Fair is Fair. Meanwhile, Alex is negotiating with Dad, and ends up buying the space heater from him for $55!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Causing my brother to leave the room in a flurry of mixed emotions, hating that he was a part of a gift exchange that brought a little girl to tears, stealing from the developmentally disabled, and then the pawning off of gifts.

I think everyone else can agree that this was the best Christmas ever.

The only thing that may have topped the White Elephant exchange was an exchange of words the next day…

The three days at Grandma’s were the typical marathon of overly competitive card games, chess, and Kismet (which is basically the game Yahtzee but with colored dice). By the 3rd day – Christmas – things were getting extremely heated. Dad and Grandma had a disagreement over a trivial rule in Kismet – Grandma thought one full house had to be of the same color, while the other full house had to be different. On the other hand, Dad thought that one full house had to be of the same color, while the other could be either the same OR different colors.

Everyone was on  Grandma’s side because she has been playing the game for 50 years and it’s house rules, and Dad is such a know-it-all. But my Dad forced Aunt Lisa to check the written rules. While Lisa researched, the game continued and dice continued to be rolled. After reading the instruction manual in entirety, Lisa reported that Dad was in fact, correct. At which point he turns to grandma, yells BOOYAH in Grandma’s face, air punches her in the head, fist pumps, and then continues with his roll of the dice as if nothing happened.

Until 2013….