Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Holly Jolly Rice-And-Gravy Christmas

(Yeah, so I'm a little behind in getting this finished and posted... but I finished and it's posted, miracle of miracles, and I hope to update very soon with news from the start of the new semester. Wheeeee.... it's crazy, it's crazy, this place makes me crazy...)

Fear not, dear reader, both the rice AND the gravy shall be explained in due time. But for now...

December 24th, 10pm Central Standard Time. I can't believe a year went by so fast...

*stops typing, turns off her RENT playlist, and continues typing*

Right then. As you may or may not know, my family is quite keen on keeping holiday traditions, though not to the point of keeping a tradition for a tradition's sake. Most often, our Christmas traditions were started when Mom and Dad sat down and said, "All right, how can we see your family and my family before New Year's without going completely insane?", and thus what we have done for as long as I can remember --switching back and forth between the two families so that we are not with one side of the family on Christmas Day two years in a row-- is for the sake of keeping our lives simple and keeping all the relatives happy.

First in the tradition process? The preparations. As I stated in my post about Milton Thanksgiving traditions, our Christmas decorating starts Thanksgiving Night after all the extended family members have gone home. Mom and Dad first figured out back when my sister and I were but wee kiddies that bringing out the Christmas tree on Thanksgiving Night kept the family from getting the post-holiday blues; again, a tradition begun to keep our lives simple and keep everyone happy... besides, it gives us something to look forward to after the headache-generating chaos of Thanksgiving. I have so many fond memories of the annual tree decoration, many of which revolve around the humorous process of annually forgetting which tree branches get installed first (often accompanied by Dad shoving a branch at me or my sister and asking, "Does that look like red or orange to you?"), the painstaking task of keeping the cats out of the tree once it's set up, and endless hours of playing The Find-The-One-Bad-Bulb-In-The-String-Of-Five-Thousand-That-Makes-All-The-Others-Go-Out Game. Truth be told, we have even been known to play The Oh-You-Mean-THAT-Giant-Hairy-Spider-In-The-Tree-Bin! Game, but only on very rare occasion. And, after the tree is up, whether or not the garlands go up in the Dining Room is often dependent on how many giant hairy spiders we've found throughout the evening. :)

The events leading up to Christmas are almost as exciting as celebrating the holiday itself. There is a semi-annual caroling party with the members of our church, which always starts the downhill snowball of anticipation for Christmas. Every year we bundle up and gather together at our church, load up in car caravans and the church van with kids, our pastor, our choir director, the youth group, and any brave souls who don't mind riding in the van with the youth group; we have a box of candles, a box of carol songbooks (since no one seriously knows anything past the first stanza of a Christmas carol, as far as I've observed), and more gusto than we have actual ability to sing. However, this year's party was a bit of a bummer. There were no candles, hardly anyone from my youth group, and worst of all, it was sixty-five degrees outside. I've never seen so many carolers in tee-shirts and shorts in my life. ...it was a tad depressing, to say the least, but there's always next year to make up for it.

Another fine tradition we Miltons look forward to is the annual Office party, in which all six of the office workers, including Mom and Dad, gather together for fellowship over the dining room table... okay, so it's not as snazzy as a full-blown office party -- we pretty much just sit around and eat ribs. Lots of ribs. There's a place here in town that makes the most amazing, mouth-watering, fall-off-the-bone ribs this side of Birmingham, so if the promise of a good time is not enough to get everyone together, the dangling carrot of Fat Man's ribs certainly is. My sister and I are not workers in the Office, but seeing as how Dad's business is stationed in the house and Kate and I kind of live here, we are fortunate enough to not be left out of the festivities. ...plus, we like the ribs, too.

But I digress...

Family! Ah, family. I can't understand why folks my age say they hate visiting relatives. Every other year we spend Christmas with my mom's side in Huntsville, and that's where all the fun begins. Whenever we all get together, it's known that someone will inevitably begin yet another family running joke; this is where the "rice and gravy" comes in, as it is one such joke. At my cousin's graduation in May 2005, the night my family arrived Aunt Kim had prepared a huge pot of rice to go with our KFC dinner, but she thought the rest of the family was coming that night and fixed far too much rice (it was enough to feed a small army, but not quite enough to feed my church's youth group). And, considering KFC gave us twice as much gravy as we'd asked, we had (easily, IMO) a gallon of gravy and more rice than anyone should want to eat in a lifetime. Needless to say, we ate rice and gravy with everything that weekend, and nowadays we still grin and rib each other at the mention of the rice and the gravy. Another joke of which my mother is fond of reminding me has to do with my rather accident-prone nature. Growing up, I thought it would go away as I entered adolescence, but it only got worse as I entered Jr. High. So, when I was fourteen, we spent Christmas Eve in the Huntsville emergency room because I had mysteriously gotten poison ivy around my eye. Ever since then, when we drive past the emergency room, Mom says, "Elizabeth, let's go visit everyone at the hospital, just for old times' sake!"

Every year at my grandparents' house, we endeavor to cram as many people into a house that, as it has been noted, could crumble at the foundation if my grandfather's snoring boston terrier decided to sleep in just the right place. In fact, for many years there was so much snoring between my uncles, my dad, and BeeJay (the dog) that I'm surprised no one came to investigate the unexplained seismic activity in my grandparents' neighborhood. But the house has survived; that three-bedroom/two-bathroom house has been the cozy lodging for all thirteen of us (fifteen if you count the two dogs; sixteen if you count my cousin Britany's boyfriend) for as many Christmases as I can remember, but we're all so noisy and having so much fun that we never think twice about how tight a squeeze it really is. As a matter of fact, we seem to run out of room for presents once we fill up the house with humans and dogs, and one year Dad the Engineer came up with a solution that we came to call The Tower of Presents, built in the corner of Koo Koo and Papa's dining room. It was an elaborate and delicate operation that, since then, has become a bit of a tradition... mainly because it's so entertaining to watch Dad, Uncle Jim, and Michael get so involved with the Tower construction. These three are also the amigos who must, must, must have a game of Risk whenever the opportunity arises. Ah, yes, nothing quite brings a family together like a friendly game that will ultimately determine world domination.

Oh, and as a point of interest, Aunt Kim was in charge of the prep for Christmas dinner. We had ham, casseroles, carrots, deviled eggs, rolls... and, of course, rice and gravy.

13 comments:

Jobber said...

Ahhh, a very nice update.
My family shares the colored branches tradition, along with the-vacuuming-the-floor-several-times while-the-tree's-up-so-it-doesn't- look-like-a-field-of-plastic-grass tradition.
Is breakfast a new tradition for you?

Elizabeth said...

Yeah, sadly I forgot to note the vacuuming process. And there was this lovely bit I was going to put in about sock monkeys, Maude's ability to "smile" (the most terrible grin I've ever seen on a dog...), and someone eventually shouting "Rip it! RIP IT!" during the present-opening process, but...
I do breakfast since Anne and I have 8 o'clock classes in the same building, but only because it helps me stand a better chance of being awake when I get to class. But I guess I shouldn't complain -- I only have an 8am on two days instead of three, or even (heaven forbid!) all five.

Jobber said...

In my family, people just start forcefully volunteering to help.
Heaven didn't forbid, leastways not for me.
Tuesday's breakfast is best, because there are 1)real hashbrowns 2) crunchy bacon (as opposed to the limp kind) and 3)biscuits and gravy.
They still haven't gotten the realjuice machine running, though.
Not that I'm awake enough at 7:30 to really care what I eat anyway.

Elizabeth said...

O_O Good bacon? REAL hashbrowns? ...biscuits? I just might jump out of my chair, squeal happily and dance and jump about like a fool in my utter delight ^-^ Biscuits! Oh, how I've missed biscuits...
As you can tell, it doesn't take much to make me happy. Maybe this breakfast thing isn't so bad after all.
I can only hope the rest of the world will never have to see me if I ever have all 8am classes for an entire semester. It would be scary. I'd be reduced to using a complex monosyllabic communication filled with colorful grunts, growls, and snarl-ish noises. Heads might roll. I'd be a coffee addict, tormented by hallucinations of long-term sleep deprivation.
I liiiiike afternoon classes...

Jobber said...

I'm more of a morning person than an afternoon person, but that early is a little much for me. I'll make it. We had a nice chat about time travel and multiple dimensions at 7:50 today, so I'm guessing our physiologies can't degenerate fast enough to make it completely unbearable before the semester ends.
Akida.

Elizabeth said...

Aw, c'mon, can't I be driven insane and become the Phantom of Covenant and hang people and stuff? I could hide in the elevator shaft of Founders and have a dungeon lair in one of the caves around campus that're supposedly sealed off, get a half-mask, and make people genuinely afraid to leave their dorm rooms. It'd be fun! ...no? *in a British accent* Oh, you're no fun anymore.
Hikeeba?

Jobber said...

No, of course not. All those things are going to happen during assassins already.
Hey! Stop using words I don't know. It's rude!

Elizabeth said...

Um... check that second sentence, 'cause it doesn't make sense to me. o_O And while we're at it, whose assassins? Are they hiding out in my caves? I'll have to go kick 'em out if they are. I'm more a Pirate person than a Ninja person, anyway.

XP Yeah, well, you started it. "Hikeeba" is just a silly thing to shout when you're karate-chopping someone. Now what's Akida? I know there's an anime movie called Akira, but I'm sure that has nothing to do with it.

Caroline said...

...what's wrong with complex monosyllabic communication? I like coffee. Also bacon.

Jobber said...

See my historic first blog post, Elizabeth, it should clear up all confusion on said word.
My second sentence made sense...at least to me.
Coffee sniff good drink bad
bacon yum yum all time

Elizabeth said...

1) Ah, now I get it. But it amuses me that "akida" and "hikeeba" are both from really bad sci-fi/fantasy/horror movies (horror is thrown in because any movie that strives to be an MST-worthy level of "bad" is, in fact, quite horrific. Even nightmarish), and I'm hoping that I'm right to assume the movie that originated Akida was a bad movie, because good movies seldom make stupid mistakes. I think.
2) Now that I know what Assassins is, the sentence makes sense. Learning has taken place!
Some days you have to explain things to me in small words, so don't fret about the misunderstandings I cause ^^; I today I managed to confuse Barnes gym with Ashe gym, which in retrospect explains why Sarah had so much trouble figuring out why I didn't know where I had to go for PE. Oh, I just LOVE the beginning of a semester...

Jobber said...

I've never bothered distinguishing between Barnes and Ashe. I just wander around until I see whatever I'm looking for.
Hey! Read Dr. Crossman's door. He's put up a bunch of golf jokes, which, despite the fact that, as Dr Schaffers says, "Golf is such a silly game; grown men running around hitting little balls with sticks!", the jokes are still hilarious.

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