go easy on yourself allow a smidge of hyperbole in the telling of that funny story about your nephew when he was three even though he was eight or ten at the time nod and smile when your brother does the same remove your sheets and towels instantly and start them in the wash but when your flight is cancelled and you return four hours later pretend you left everything as it was don’t put out your hosts and if you carry a cell phone set the ring to a jaunty Christmas carol or something classical that will please the crowd eat eat eat walk the dog but don’t attempt any behavior modification of that wild beast because your influence will die the next time he’s walked by Uncle Jack or Aunt Sophie say yes and smile sympathize with those poor folks who can’t eat the treats containing nuts or chocolate or alcohol or citrus or macadamias or peppermint or pepper or fat or cheese or meat or they are vegan and are simply a nuisance to feed good lord even when they tell you they’ll just have the salad thank you or they’re bringing the tofurkey loaf so don’t worry and should we tiptoe around the issues Uncle Jack drinks too much Frank doesn’t help bringing bottles every time he walks in the door and crazy Lorraine can’t stop venturing out on little runs in the neighborhood and we have to wonder with the length of time she’s gone and the rotundity of her bum whether she isn’t perhaps running astray or afoul with other fellows rather than running track but should we say anything to sweet Joseph who’s really clueless and who goes on cheerfully proudly about her lung capacity and endurance impressive and does one say anything about the children imbibing and smoking and generally being dissolute and wretchedly mean especially to their parents lovely to the grandparents from whom the money and gifts keep flowing silence on these subjects is probably better right we can’t have Sophie in tears after all that’s not the point oh but what is the everlasting never talking about it but we all know so really why bother saying but we mustn’t say this or that on these topics because why hurt each other with these truths perhaps they’re not truths after all everything is in the point of view of the beholder we could all drink as much as Uncle Jack and no doubt be happier or at least feel less pain but our lives are pretty good right we don’t need the bolstering alcohol and here at the door are the neighbors dropping by isn’t it lovely we live in this town where everyone is so relaxed and friendly and we have such a great sense of belonging raise a glass to give thanks for all the loved ones far and near we love each other and excuse the flaws those irritating grating slightly dangerous habits Aunt Sophie’s driving for example remember to take the wheel on those grocery store outings or remember to shut your eyes and that you have lived a good full life already Aunt Sophie’s still here isn’t she the one who winds up in the emergency is the baby with the ruptured eardrum from the umpteenth infection or so we rather hope while enduring the piercing midnight desperation only a couple of dozen in the house and Grandpa Lou never really goes to bed just slumps in the living room by his radio sports endless radio sports so the baby didn’t wake him be generous in the morning when they’re back we were all young at some early stage and continue in our wisdom to screw up further sing a few carols to reinforce the season command the troops in proper cracker pulling techniques but lightly smile smile how can they not know this after all these years you knew when you were ten the special crossed-arms method and importance of synchronicity church is out of the question apparently the reason for the season involves the special tilt of the earth the relationship between tropics and direct rays so don’t give me that crap about Jesus
Pamela Hobart Carter loves Seattle as much for its water and mountains as for its bustle and creativity. She explores the Emerald City daily while walking her dog. Carter used to be a teacher who wrote on the side. Now she is a writer who teaches on the side.