A series of logistic problems led us to the decision. My father uses either a wheelchair or a walker, and my house is made almost entirely of stairs. It’s like the mind-blowing drawing from your high school art class, except there are shoes everywhere. So having Dad over for Christmas Eve requires an elaborate system of ropes and pulleys, and he doesn’t like it.
So then the next idea was, we’ll take Dad over to my brother’s, where there are very few stairs and then we’ll all have Christmas Eve over there. Except for a variety of reasons, no one wanted to attempt to cook for eight people over there, and I don’t think he really has a table.
Chinese food was the answer, including a ton of egg rolls and crab rangoon to stand around eating later that night. It was perfect because everybody except my brother loves Chinese food, and also nobody has to cook. But you know what would be even more perfect? Not having to clean up after ourselves, either.
So I don’t think we realized we were channeling A Christmas Story until we were sitting there in the Golden Phoenix at a large, round table, wincing every time my dad made a joke about eating a cat. Really, he only did that twice, which for him is kicking ass.
I made it a point to really look around at who else was there, and we were definitely the only family there with our kids. There were three sixty-ish couples at the next table, having dinner and some kind of white elephant gift exchange, and I got the distinct impression that they were sort of judging us.
Hard not to, though. When you order chicken wings at that place,what you get are pieces of fried chicken. So let’s just say we ordered a lot. If you were in that restaurant, you would have been judging us, too.
There were a pair of divorced dads at another table. And a guy at a booth wearing sort of African garb, including a cylindrical wicker hat – he was having dinner with his wife, who was dressed in a similar fashion but hatless. All of those folks seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves.
By contrast, a few solo diners, looking glum. And then three vaguely creepy middle-aged single people, sitting in a booth along the wall, barking out laughter and theatrically enjoying themselves with such gusto that I thought any second they were all going to collapse into a cloud of snot and tears.
And also a crazy guy at the bar, a huge bear of a man in a sort of Charlie Brown shirt, but wearing a pink hat, the kind which I think means he’s Jewish. When my daughters walked past him to the bathrooms, admiring the cool Chinese calendars they’d stolen from behind the counter, the big crazy man began hollering at the staff that he, too, wanted a calendar. They gave him one, too.
Which is what I would have done.
Anyway, I don’t think the girls really stole the calendars. I think that they were given to us because we ran up a silly Christmas Eve tab. Everything we had was fantastic – this place is on Cleveland Avenue just north of Morse road, by the way – and then when we were finished, I consulted with my brother and children before ordering thirty dollars worth of chicken wings to go, so we could all stand around eating them over the sink, later that night. My vegetarian wife is one lucky duck, isn’t she?
Anyway, it was a big enough order that it warranted free calendars.
So everybody ate, everybody was happy, and they gave us our wings in crate form and then, we arrived home and the kitchen wasn’t trashed, the house wasn’t trashed, there were plenty of leftovers, and nobody was hollering at me – a Christmas miracle. Please believe me when I tell you, this is probably going to be how we handle Christmas Eve every single year for the rest of our lives.
Now the presents are open, and I’m sitting in the aftermath. My living room looks like the Death Star’s trash compactor, complete with my little puppy dog lurking within it somewhere, sniffing, seeking, licking. Everyone else has retreated to their rooms to mess around with presents or take naps, and I’m thinking, let’s get this tree down, let’s get this music off, let’s all go back to normal.
But really this is my favorite part of it, lounging around on the couch while everyone else collapses in exhaustion, eating leftovers and watching a Doctor Who marathon. It’s all leading up to the big Doctor Who Christmas special on BBC tonight as I’m sure you know.
And then good news just keeps coming – a phone call from my actual mother-in-law, letting us know she’s running late. You take your time, lady. I think me and these chicken wings and this puppy dog can probably find a way to occupy ourselves, during the delay.