As soon as I’m at the end of our driveway I start running to the door in case someone in my family suddenly decides to look out the window. I catch Mike by surprise as he jogs to keep up with me while taking video on his phone. The door is open as I thought it would be. It’s always open on Christmas; an invitation for anyone to stop in for a visit. I take a breath, check that Mike is behind me, and open the door. I take two steps in and look to the right, in the living room. They’re all here. Mom, Dad, Stephen, Sarah, Court, Chris, and Aunt Jackie.

Let me just preface this moment by saying my brother ruins everything. Especially for me. I think it’s his mission in life. To this he will say, he really could care less, because he know that will piss me off even more. Then he will say, “Why do you care so much what I think?” Which then makes me feel like I’m crazy because, why do I care? Then I remember. It’s because you’re my brother, and we’re family, and that means we’re supposed to be on the same team. But we’re not on the same team. Unless we’re ganging up on somebody else.

This is how I remember it. Hello! Merry Merry! Everyone is sitting, except Stephen, who is standing in front of the TV trying to figure out our supposed Skype session. They all look unphased and don’t even move, literally. Sarah says she knew we were coming, like she wins something for it. The only one who really sounds thrilled is Aunt Jackie; I just couldn’t hear her over everyone else and it’s not like she’s going to jump out of her seat. She’s old. Stephen makes fun of Mike. “And you’re actually filming this beautiful moment?” Mike just laughs because he’s not an asshole. I say, well, that was not exactly how I thought that was going to happen. And Stephen can’t help himself. “That’s exactly why we did it.” Mom and Dad finally come over and give me hugs, and I’m more than disappointed.

This is what really happened, since Mike did, in fact, capture this “beautiful moment.” Hello! Merry Merry! Courtney says a slow, drawn out, oh. my. God. Immediately followed by Dad yelling, “Get the hell out!” There’s a lot of laughing. Sarah says, looking at Mike, “We all knew you were coming.” But she says it with a smile in a joking way that I can now tell was meant to be playful. Intermittent through all this is Aunt Jackie. “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it. Oh, too much. Wonderful wonderful.” Stephen is still a jerk. Mom finally says, “Well Merry Christmas!” And it’s hugs all around. Still not as I expected or hoped for, but I’m glad Mike took the video.

Stephen "hugging" Kelly and Meg at my high school graduation party 2002
Stephen “hugging” Kelly and Meg at my high school graduation party 2002

He walks outside with me to get the rest of my stuff. He knew this was going to happen. Hell, I knew it was going to happen, but I get myself so worked up over a stupid surprise. “Lindsay, it’s OK. This is how your family is. They’re happy you’re here, and they’re going to be even more happy as the day goes on.” And he’s right. They are. I mean, it’s not that I didn’t think they would be; they just don’t show it all that much. They do, but it’s like you have to figure out how they’re showing it. Except for Dad. He’s a softy (which I’ve mentioned). I think he tells me he’s glad I’m home about 16 times throughout the day.

First things first: “kid” pollyanna exchange. It’s randomly picked, but somehow Stephen and I always seem to get each other. I’m actually really excited to give him his gift. I didn’t get anything on his list, which included a new house, good cocktail glasses, $1,000 contribution to Patriot’s Den (his brewing company), plumber to fix water pressure, electrician to fix electricity in bedroom. We have a $40 limit. I found this little house online, you know, the ones you’d add to a Christmas village. They’re usually ceramic and hollow and there’s a light bulb inside it so you click it on at night. I found a brew pub. It’s so cool looking. He lives in South Philly – it doesn’t say South Philly but it says South something which is enough for me. When it came in the mail I was so excited because I thought it was awesome. I wanted it. Knowing him, he’ll be like, what the hell, what am I going to do with this. But I remain excited, and he actually seems like he likes it. I’m glad. I also hand him a white envelope that says Patriot’s Den fund with a five dollar bill inside. He sent my gifts to California, but I didn’t know which ones were from him so I didn’t bring anything home (except for one small gift from Mom, just so she could see me open something). So he just tells me what he got me. Something I asked for – bike lights. But not just any bike lights. The colored ones you put on the wheels. I’ve been wanting them for so long. I wanted green for my front wheel and red for the back wheel – Christmas and my two favorite colors. He got me two green lights for one wheel and two red lights for the other wheel. Are you freaking kidding me? He has to go and do something like this. It’s like he read my mind. I get up to give him a hug and he cringes like Scrooge. Like we’re still eight years old and I have coodies. It’s fine. I’ll take it. See? That’s where you have to find the love. It was a very thoughtful gift.

Christmas dinner with Mom and Dad
Christmas dinner with Mom and Dad

Mike leaves for his traditional movie trip with the family. Mom and Dad ask me what my plans are. I’m here. “We have you for the rest of the night?” Yes, I’m here for Christmas! And as I normally would, I drink champagne, eat Mom’s amazing appetizers, and talk talk talk. We all sit in the living room and they talk about visiting and how they want to stay with me but I live in a studio. “How much do you pay?” $1,100. “That’s a lot for a studio.” Well we could probably find a one-bedroom for that much but not five blocks from the beach. I live five blocks from the beach, people. I feel like I have to keep telling them that. They all keep coming back with the perks of having a bigger place. “How big is your place?” I don’t know. I look around the living room. It’s about the size of this room. This sinks in and my hands go to my face. Wow, I live in a place the size of this room. How is that possible.

Before I know it we’re sitting down for dinner. Dad does a toast to me being home, which is sweet. Yea, my Dad’s a sweet guy. We linger at the dinner table while Mom silently sneaks away into the kitchen to clean everything, as she always does. We tell her not to do it; we’ll do it, and she nods and says she’s not really cleaning. I don’t know what that means. She’s obviously cleaning. But it works. We leave her to it.

Kelly arrives, unfortunately after my parents have already gone to bed. Dad said goodnight but Mom always acts like she’s staying up and then disappears. She’s a ninja. Kelly always comes over on Christmas. She screams and we hug and I’m so happy to see her. “I just want to put you in my pocket for the rest of the time you’re here!” We sit and drink and chat. I text LStever, since she lives a couple blocks away, that she can come over if she wants. She does. Apparently, my brother also got a helicopter “thing” for Christmas. He’s now flying this thing around definitely trying to hit people, or  at least come close.

Lauren and Kelly afraid of Stephen controlling the helicopter
Lauren and Kelly afraid of Stephen controlling the helicopter

Mike and Jeff are here now, so we’ve got a group. It’s time to play games. Stephen has work in the morning, so he has to drive back to Philly. We say goodbye and I’ll see you next Christmas, or something like that. We play Family Feud. Me, Kelly, LStever, and Mike vs. Sarah, Jeff, Chris, and John Heron (Christine’s friend). Courtney is the host – Richard Dawson or Steve Harvey. Let’s say the original guy. We make up some ridiculous team name. Mike-lin-kel-laur which said fast is Mieklinkelaur. We think it’s hilarious, while everyone else looks at us a weird. Our friendship in a nutshell. Have you ever seen Family Feud? When one of the members gets an answer right, they all scream. Well, so do we. We are so loud. Really yelling loud. I’m sure Dad is sleeping through it and Mom is just laying in bed not saying anything. We are the worst. Then Sarah has this other Christmas game where she says the literal translation of a song and we have to guess the real Christmas song. I just start making up shit. Three Blind Mice instead of We Three Kings, for example. We realize it’s 2am and Kelly and Lauren decide to leave. Mike already went to bed. He told us he was going to face plant in the other room. Sarah set up our bed in there (which was very nice of her). Then Sarah goes to bed, so it’s just me, Jeff, and the twins. Jeff is one of those drunk people who doesn’t stop talking. One after the other the twins get up and go to bed, leaving me with Mr. Chatterbox. I could kill them. I try to find an in to say I’m going to bed but he is so good at stringing one thought into the next conversation. I finally say goodnight. It’s 3:30. I’ve had about one hour sleep in the past 38 hours. Sleep comes easy.

*Belle & Sebastian

2 thoughts on “Expectations

  1. You know Linds, that the ‘raining on enthusiasm’ is a genetic Stetson trait. They can’t help it, it’s in their DNA. Ho Hum is a fine art in the heritage of the Stetson Clan, started with your great grandparents and has trickled down through the generations, I think it’s a combination of the Stetson Hat legacy, combined with your Grandma Eleanor stoic breeding. Anyway, loooooved the Christmas Story, and how I do miss the clan, especially at Christmas. Oh the stories I could share…… Thanks for sharing your story sweetie, especially with Aunt Jackie. Please send me her address so I can send her some silly cards! xo

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