Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Meanest Thing I Heard at Christmas

"Grievances in my family are like underground coal fires: hard to detect, and nearly impossible to extinguish."
--Tad Friend, Cheerful Money

I realllly missed my baby brother at Christmas Dinner.

For one thing, he usually cooks it. And it's spectacular. And although the food was delicious this year, it was definitely different.

The atmosphere was off too. My brother is Sparkly. He lights up every room he's in. At the last cookout we had at Dr. Nick's, I remember him sidling up to an otherwise-kinda-shy lady and complimenting her on her wonderful dessert. She blushed with pride and told him she only wished her husband was around to hear all these compliments. My brother responded by inviting her to just run off with him, advising her "I'd make a lousy wife, but I'd be a wonderful girlfriend." Then he just laughed and winked, and she blushed some more.

He's charming in a way that makes everyone feel good about themselves, without ever making anyone feel less-than. While I would maybe be more likely to be considered the golden girl in the family, by the Family, that's mostly just the result of me being the only girl in my generation. Everybody prizes scarcity. But for anyone who pays attention, he and I have a far more Sun/Moon relationship. He beams, while I reflect back. As high strung as I am, that's how calming and laid back he is.

He would've known just the right thing to say yesterday when I heard the meanest thing I ever heard at Christmas dinner (so far). One of my relatives (not a close one), had recently been laid off. And he was telling a cousin about a trip he'd won at work -- and how he wished he'd win another one of those. There was a lively discussion about how great this vacation was, until his dad interrupted with... "well you're sure as hell not gonna win anything where you're working now, Mister."

And I'd like to say that's where the room stopped dead. I'd like to say that, but it wouldn't be true. Because it didn't. Everyone more or less just went on like that was a perfectly routine, acceptable thing to say to somebody who'd just lost their job.

It made me want to do two things I never do: cry, and hug the poor kid.

My brother would've known just what to say to defuse the situation and get everything back on track -- simultaneously scorching the Dad, and comforting the son. I just served up more pie.

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