Friday, December 28, 2007

When 'stuff' happens - write about it !

Holiday Family Memories can be made under the Strangest Circumstances

It was the night before – the night before – Christmas, and all of the mice in our family, old and young were out at a festive local inn for a traditional holiday feast.

The nearby inn was a place that we had taken our kids since they’d been old enough to sit in a chair and eat without spilling at least half of it on the floor.
It was a great old place – several hundred years old and very colonial. And we always made a point of going to the inn just before Christmas because it’s always all decked out in wreaths, ribbons and candle’s, like something straight out of Currier and Ives.

The night of our dinner was no exception. In fact all of New England had been blanked by several back to back snowstorms, giving us the feeling that we actually had stepped back into a Currier and Ives world. It was perfect.

As we all filed in, the image was only enhanced by the cheery ambience of the large main dinning room. Wood fires roaring in massive fireplaces and garlands of greens strung all around the room.
But best all was the atmosphere and the people.
The people all seemed to go so well with the place. Large tables filled with families – grandmas, grandpas, moms, dads, kids, nephews, cousins. All dressed for the season in bright holiday sweaters and corduroys or tweed skirts. Everyone eating, drinking, talking and laughing. All so happy to be together at this happy time of year – just having a good time and enjoying one another’s company.

Well almost.

As we were shown to our table I happened to notice that there was a table of several very elegant and sophisticated people who certainly didn’t seem to blend in with the merry throng. And the brief glance that I had of their demeanor as we were seated several table away, seemed to indicate that they had no intention of it either.

Oh well, none of my business. There was certainly more than enough holiday cheer radiating throughout the room to fill even the most jaded of hearts. So peace on earth and good will to all … Or so I thought.

The first order of business I decided as we sat down, was to order up a bottle of the bubbly to toast all of our children finally making it home for Christmas together for the first time in several years My wife was of course delighted, gathering her babies from the four corners of the world. Our oldest boy in from LA after a two day adventure in winter flying. Our daughter finally finished with her continent hopping and happily ensconced back in Boston and our youngest son just returned from Europe.
We had our toast and commenced to catching up. Our twenty-five-year-old daughter, a manager at a publishing company (sadly for her writer Pa, in the medical field, not fiction.) was right in the middle of a very funny story when from out of nowhere an elegantly clad arm fell across her shoulder and a clipped, brittle voice said. “You’re going to have to lower your voice, you’re disturbing us.”
I looked up. It was one of the sophisticated young women from two tables down. She was standing next to my daughter and scowling at her in a disdainful way that I hadn’t seen since Holly Golightly put on her “Dahhhling” act in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Wha-a-at ?

Then the Poppa Bear woke up. Who the “bleep” was this prissy young thing disdainfully sauntering up to my daughter and pretty much calling her a … loudmouth?
My talented, educated daughter sat there stunned. This is a girl that had studied in Europe, been a journalist in the Outback of Australia, and gone skydiving in Switzerland and bungee jumping in New Zealand. She is not easily intimidated. But now – she was speechless. The arrogant young woman had finished delivering her pronouncement and was sashaying back to her table. Mission accomplished. Another family of rubes put in their proper place. The back of my neck began to get warm. I got up.

My wife halfheartedly put her hand on my arm but she was too upset to stop me and I was building up too big a head of steam to care.

I followed the elegant young lady back to her table and, Um-m-m, lets just say proceeded gently but emphatically, to give them ‘a piece’ of a father’s mind.
By the time I got back to our table, the holiday mood had most definitely been punctured, though everyone tried to make the best of it. In fact for the rest of the evening there was a steady parade of fellow diners and even waitresses and busboys that had seen the incident and described the disdainful table as a … Well, I’ll paraphrase and just leave it at “a real bunch of jerks.”

For the next twenty-four hours, my wife continued to lament that the rude, supercilious sophisticates had ruined our first full family reunion in three years.
But by the second day, Christmas Day, the story had started to produce laughter and when I heard the kids teasing and laughing about the whole thing – especially about their hot-tempered old man, I realized that a dinner that might have become just another vaguely pleasant memory among many pleasant holiday dinners at the old inn, was on it’s way to becoming one of those classic family stories. Perhaps one that the kids will even recall and laugh about long after their old man is pushing up daisies.

So remember, the next time one of ‘those things’ happens to you and your family, look at it this way. Maybe it’s just another family memory in the making.

All the best!

Ric Wasley
• Shadow of Innocence – 2007
• Acid Test – 2004

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