Day 37: Finished Wolverine and the X-Men Cartoon Series, Revel in Geekdom, Become Cool to 4 Year Old

I was pretty tired from travelling, so my new act was something that required minimal effort.  I finished the “Wolverine and the X-Men” cartoon series while eating delivery Thai food and wearing clothes with minimal restrictions. 

I’m also going to count as a new act that I was very impressive to one of my youngest first parallel cousin once removed (by marriage)[1]  as a result of my media consumption.  Mini Parallel Cousin received a Wolverine mask for Christmas from his Grand-Aunt[2] and I not only knew who Wolverine  was, I also could  play X-Men with him and even argue who got to take on Magneto. 

I am rising in the world.

 


[1] Anthropological Kinship Terms FTW! 

[2] How, I’m sure you’re saying, can I possibly be as awesome as this blogger and scientifically(ish) describe my relatives?  Well, you can drop a lot of cash on graduate school or you can go to this site and this site and figure out exactly who every one is in your crazy clan.   

 

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Day 35: Go to Big In-Law Family Christmas Extravaganza

The Husbandit and I come from big families.  Not because we have many siblings, but because both of our parents and several of our grandparents have remarried and we have many step-uncles, aunts, and cousins.  We also have extensive networks of fictive kin[1] who join us in family celebrations and bring their own extended families.  Therefore, holiday celebrations usually involve a lot of travel and are rarely spent with the exact same people year after year. 

After they got married, Grandmother of Husbandit and his step-grandfather decided to throw a large Christmas party at the Embassy Suites hotel so that they could see all of their children and grandchildren at the same time and someone else would be paid to clean up.  I imagine this idea was appealing after decades of hosting and travelling and scrubbing casserole dishes.  Although her husband passed away several years ago Grandmother of Husbandit has continued the tradition and still gathers her children and stepchildren together once a year.  These big Christmas parties played a significant role in the Husbandit’s childhood and I’ve heard a lot of stories over the years about them.  This year I was finally able to join the rest of his family at the party. 

It was an interesting experience—kind of like being at someone else’s high school reunion.  The cousins are grown up and have toddlers and babies, and the uncles and aunts have become grandparents themselves.  I heard a lot of stories about teenage escapades and what the babies are currently up to (chewing and sleeping mostly).  On one hand, it’s nice to be at a family gathering in which I have no memories, no past bitterness and no real expectations other than food and chasing around some kids.  On the other hand, it reminded me of living in a foreign country.  I could learn the language, cook the food, work a job, but nothing would give me the shared history possessed by the inhabitants.  I felt like I was floating on the surface of the party, skating across the top like a water strider while deeper currents were churning underneath me.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent most of my life in that state of stranger.  As a child I always felt a little apart, as if I was taking notes on everyone around me.  As an adult I seem to seek out those experiences—or maybe I just notice them more.   Or maybe most of us feel that way and just don’t talk about it.

Also, being a stranger isn’t so bad when there are new forms of pie and holiday cookies to be had.  

 


[1] Fictive kin: [fik′tiv]

people who are regarded as being part of a family even though they are not related by either blood or marriage bonds. Fictive kinship may bind people together in ties of affection, concern, obligation, and responsibility. [Mosby’s Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. © 2009, Elsevier.]

Day 34: Drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a fascinating road.  It is the longest planned road as a single unit in the United States and passes through a series of mountain parks and historical sites.  The views are incredible, especially if you are a flatlander like me.  The majority of construction was done as a WPA project in the 1930’s and because the purpose of the WPA was to put as many American men to work as possible, much of the work was done by hand in order to make the work last and to employ more people.  During subsequent wars, large sections of the road were completed by conscientious objectors.

For my 34th new act, my mother in law, the Husbandit and I drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping every so often for a photo or to walk around a historic site or small town.  This is one of the ways doing this blog and consciously trying new things has changed my life–I wouldn’t have thought to try something new, wouldn’t have asked as many questions about the Blue Ridge Parkway, may not have even left the couch over vacation.

If you are ever in the Blue Ridge area, I highly recommend the parks and trails around the Parkway.

Day 33: A Very Married Christmas, with Cake and Stories

My family is a mixture of faithful, agnostics, and people who couldn’t care less.  I tell people that I have a checkered religious past but it would be more accurate to say that I had a lot of different opinions growing up.  I’m definitely culturally Christian though, that’s the mythology I grew up with and the one with which everyone around me was negotiating.  I describe myself as a wistful agnostic.  The universe is vast and lonely, I would like to believe that there is an all-knowing, all powerful deity because it would make it less empty, but I find it more likely that people have numinous experiences that they assign metaphors to and that most people are a mixture of grace and asshole and the most important thing is to try to fall on the side of grace.  And I believe that if there is a deity out there, she would understand why I feel this way and not hold it against me.

I also like Christmas, because I like to curl up close to family and light fires and candles and decorate trees and bake sweets and exchange presents.  I also like that it’s a way of socially shaming the asshole-inclined to give people a day of rest and abundance.

I did a lot of new things today, but my favorite was sharing one of my family’s traditions with my in-laws and participating in one of theirs.  This is the Husbandit’s and my first Christmas as a married couple and it’s been…different.  People always ask you as a newlywed, “So, how’s married life?”  It’s difficult to respond because nothing changed and everything changed and that’s a really annoying answer.  Relatively little changed in how we lived together, we’ve been together for five years and lived together for four, so we had groove.  On the other hand, everything changed in how people viewed us.  Suddenly we belonged to the “married club.”  People would nod understandingly when I mentioned that I might move if the Husbandit got a job in another country when previously they would have asked if I was “sure it was worth it.”  They started respecting my desire to have a life outside of work (I have a family) and to get ahead in work (after all, I might want to buy a house).   It’s not that I think this is right, everyone should have a life outside of work and you should always consider if a move is a good choice, but it was a paradigm shift in how others viewed me.  It has also shifted my relationship to the Husbandit’s family.  I felt more comfortable and relaxed with them because I was no longer auditioning for the part of kin, now I am kin for better or for worse.

I missed my family though, so I asked if I could read The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.  My mother always read a copy illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger and I always get teary and emotional when I read it.  I think it is one of the most beautiful short stories ever written and one of the best Christmas stories.  It was particularly poignant this year, as today is the first Christmas in four years that the Husbandit and I could afford to get each other Christmas presents.

I also got to eat a slice of Yule log cake and a slice of Moravian sugar cake, both of which are a tradition of my new kin.  I will post a picture of both as soon as I’m back in network and can upload the photos from my phone.

As a final note, I’ll post a quote from a fellow blogger and friend from college.  His blog is http://www.ninefingeredmenace.blogspot.com/ and he took a break from reviewing terrible movies to say:

“Pretty much since the beginning of civilization, this time of year has been celebrated as a holiday where the Light comes back into the world just after we experience the darkest time of year. Whatever name you give to the holiday or the Light, remember what it is all about. Also remember that we are all reflections of that Light; and therefore it is our resposibility to do what we can to bring it to those experiencing darkness. Do not forget the unwanted, the unfortunate, all all who have need for light in their lives this holiday season.”

Merry Christmas to all.  May the next year bring us closer to the light.

Day 32: Cuddle with a Poodle

My in-laws have a small foundling poodle named Ralphie.   Every time my mother in law mentions the dog she apologizes for the breed, “I just never thought we’d own a poodle.”  She is a kind Quaker lady from North Carolina who has spent her working life eschewing the unnecessary and trying to help other people get the bare necessities.  Poodles, with their unique hairstyling and aristocratic connections are a little too pre-revolutionary France for her values and self-image.

Fortunately, Ralphie shows no signs of oppressing anyone and spends most of his time creating Norman Rockwell style tableaus by curling up at the feet of whoever is next to the wood stove.  He does have an Imelda-esque fascination with shoes, expressed through appreciative chewing.

Dog breeding and dog breeds are a lot like the history of clothing and current fashions; looking around we’re left with a lot of odds and ends that no longer serve a practical purpose and tell us volumes about past values and needs.  Domesticated dogs and clothing started off as a mixture utilitarian and whimsical urges—“My, the Ice Age is nippy…dogs are useful in guarding and hunting…this long fur cape makes me look powerful and….OMG CUTE PUPPIES!”  So we get dogs that are bred to be huge and obedient so they can hunt bears and dogs that are bred to be tiny and vapid so that they can sit on Marie Antoinette’s lap.  And we get denim blue jeans to protect the legs of the 1800’s miners and those rhinestone studded Magic-Pomp brand jeans I tried on because they promised to lift my tush and give me the waist of Antoinette post-corset  (they lied).

Dogs and clothes are also great social objects; we attach ourselves to them and then pour all kinds of meanings into both.  This is why my mother in law still apologizes for her beloved poodle and I have refused to wear Danskos throughout my twenties.  Poodles are too upper class and ostentatious for her, and I associate Danskos with female therapists of a certain age.  But there’s nothing inherently patrician about poodles and Danskos are just comfy, pricey shoes that could just as easily be become a twenty-something trend (Please God, let them become a trend).

So, this Christmas Eve, I cuddled with Ralphie and read him A Christmas Carol, being careful to point out Dickens’ social commentary and tell him that just like Scrooge, he isn’t bound by social expectation and personal history.  He nuzzled my stomach and sniffed my new comfy shoes for chewing potential.

Day 31: Repair Metaphorical Bridges, Resolve to Repair More

This past year I’ve had some difficult interactions with friends and family.  Looking back, the underlying cause was a lack of honesty on my part.   My reason for being dishonest is that I didn’t want to tell them what I needed because I was afraid.  It really bit me in the ass and has taken some time to heal and has been generally uncomfortable and inconvenient because I hate awkward social situations.  I’m the person at parties who spends lots of time smoothing over possible conflicts, sometimes ricocheting from one end of the room to another like a nervous conflict-avoiding Batman.

I think that those difficult interactions were the best thing that could have happened to me because it pushed to examine why they happened.  Now I’m trying gamely to avoid similar situations by being a little more honest and open.  Sometimes it’s being up front about little things, like gently telling a friend that I’m just too tired to hang out rather than forcing myself to go out and feeling resentful and martyred the entire time.  Sometimes it’s being straightforward about bigger things (See Day 25).

I decided to push it a little further today and be retroactively honest (Is that even a phrase?  Yes.  Yes it is.  Because I’m the one with the keyboard and the blog.).  I apologized to some people for falling behind in correspondence and was honest about the reasons, even though I was afraid they would judge me or get mad.  I actually felt quite vulnerable because it boiled down to admitting that I was a fallible human that sometimes gets too busy with work and sometimes forgets to charge her phone for a week and sometimes falls off the face of Facebook because it is just too damn overwhelming.

I’m not sure how to end this blog post without sounding too smarmy or without spouting off some platitude.  The Husbandit suggests throwing down a smoke bomb and disappearing.