After last year's epic about Christmas in La Verne, I bet all of you were hitting refresh on this page or checking your RSS and Facebook feeds to see what I had to say about another holiday spent with the family. By this morning, you were probably genuinely concerned. "I hope Ali's okay. How could he go this long without talking about the Fahmily?"
Unfortunately, it was a pretty uneventful day. Sure, I was verbally (and non-verbally) derided when I arrived 30 minutes late. My mother opened the door for me and I shamefully walked through the door with wine (a gift from someone else) and gift cards, ready for Christmas. They (the sister, the brother-in-law, my nephews, my nieces, and three others) were all seated at the gigantic dining room table. Some of half-lifted their faces toward me, muttering "welcome" and/or "merry Christmas." The rest of them just kept eating.
The "three others" referred to above were a family (man, woman, boy) whose house had burned down in a recent brush fire. My mother explained all this to me later, adding "I've never seen them before" as if they didn't belong in the Christmas house. But I have to admit that I was impressed with this gesture - someone in my family invited a family who just lost their house in a tragic fire to Christmas dinner.
But with one exception - the exception that I am building to in hopes of ending this entry on an entertaining note - the day was dull. The invitees were nice polite people, unlike the rape-obsessed racist and the wine snob guests from last year. There's a rather amusing story I could tell involving Target gift cards, stores with incorrect hours posted on their websites, fifty dollars, and milk. But I'm keeping quiet on that one; I want people to like me.
I did get one of those one-cup coffee makers where you insert the coffee disk and press a button. Do people think I'm lazy? There was dining room table talk about California traffic patterns as I attempted to explain for the 37th time that traffic heading inland from the coastal regions is ALWAYS bad on holidays and that's why I was late yet again.
Yes, I could leave earlier from home but there's no way I'm knocking on that giant door early, only to have to sit on couches that are better than mine and make small talk with small talkers. And it's not like I can enjoyably kill time in La Verne on Christmas day. Not much to do there. Only the Starbucks is open (I checked; just in case.)
So here's the funny story. After dinner, the burned-house woman asked my oldest nephew (a college freshman) if he knew a particular girl from his graduating class. He said he knew her. The woman talks about how this girl (a freshman in a local college) is dating a classmate of her son's and that this classmate is a sophomore in high school. She seemed positively shocked that their could be a three-year age difference in the dating habits of high school and college kids.
I'll admit that the older girl/younger boy relationship is somewhat of anomaly but I wouldn't say it's scandalous. (I experienced it firsthand. I was 18. She was 21. The hour was late. The park was closed. The Footloose soundtrack played on the tape deck... and so on.) Anyway, this woman just wouldn't let it go, trying to get my nephew to say something negative about this older girl and how she's corrupting the nice young sophomore boys of an esteemed Inland Empire public high school.
Sensing the conversation was getting ridiculous and going nowhere, my mother stepped in. It's her one true talent. This is what my mother said about the college freshman dating the high school sophomore: "She's a cougar."
Yes, that about sums it up. Nothing more needs to be said. It's a better story out loud. No amount of text formatting or font manipulation can get my mother's pronunciation of "cougar" just right. The conversation ended and new small talk began. Then dessert and coffee and silence and "its getting late" even though it wasn't all that late.