Four days remain until we’re due to attend “the thing.”
The year 2006 was my first appearance at “the thing” my partner has been attending every year since he was born. He dreads “the thing,” he complains about “the thing,” and he’s relieved when “the thing” is over.
Me? Well, “the thing” has only been a rare occurrence in my life since moving away from California, then ended permanently when my parents passed away many years ago. I also used to dread “the thing,” develop a stress rash after being at “the thing” for more than a few hours, and sometimes met up with friends for a shot of whiskey when “the thing” was over. But some part of me wouldn’t mind “the thing” if it meant I could have my family back for just one hour of one day.
Now my partner has brought “the thing” back into my life.
His thing is a lot different than my thing, but the general recipe and outcome are the same. Put a bunch of relatives with nothing in common around the same table, sprinkle endlessly with food, add some inappropriate questions and comments, mix with alcohol, stir vigorously with unsolicited advice, cut into portions to fight over and serve hot tempered. Now you’ve got a dysfunctional holiday gathering we call “the thing.”
Since I became part of “the thing,” much of the attention has shifted to me as the new person and foreigner. People speak to me like I’m 5 years old, explain Greek food as if I’ve never seen it before and “po, po, po” over my partner’s mistake in choosing someone not Greek. Dispelling preconceived ideas goes nowhere, so I take it with a grain of salt. I like to think of it as putting the ‘fun’ in dysfunction. Family is family, after all.
What’s different about “the thing” at his dad’s house is they crank up the stereo after dinner, kick over the furniture and throw down knives, plates and glasses to shatter at the dancers’ feet.
In my tenure in Greece and two years in Astoria, I’ve venomously denied all kinds of stereotypical inquiries about Greeks breaking plates while yelling “Opa!,” as I’ve never seen any evidence of it though I’m aware of the custom’s origins. I tell people we use flowers.
So “the thing” was a bit of a shock to me, like my life suddenly became a tourist cliché or a movie flashback from 1960 but without an Irish-Mexican guy playing Zorba. I was speechless, and my partner rolled his eyes and shook his head. As we got up to leave, his dad became emotional and broke down in tears at the door about not having any grandchildren. That felt familiar, as well.
Will it happen again this year? I don’t know, but if they ever come to our house for “the thing,” we’re using plastic dinnerware. I’m all for kefi, I just want to avoid flying to Mexico to replace my glasses and plates!
Here’s hoping your “thing” is a joyous event.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Xronia Polla!!! >^^<