“Pass the Carbs, Please.”

Oh, the Holidays. They can mean so many different things to so many different people.  It can be about the warmth and comfort of being with family. It can be about making your own traditions with your own unconventional, modern family. It can be about just getting through it with a carefully planned, tactical playbook, complete with “Don’t go there”  eyes, or the “Help me” smile and “Ready to Go!” hand signals. Regardless of how you spend the holidays, there will surely be food, drinks, selfies and tons of “food porn” posts on social media. As we get older, though, the holidays can reshape from what we remember.

Christmas Joke


Food, Family & Frenzy

I’m still in the process of adjusting to not being with my big Italian herd in Florida over the holidays, sitting on rickety folding chairs with mis-matched tables pushed together and covered strategically with tablecloths to accommodate 18-20 loud, hungry, family members and friends. My mother drives the day with enough food to feed a small army, and the drinks flow endlessly, as the ice bucket becomes the “water cooler” spot. Wine, G&T’s, beer  and “after dinner” liqueurs like Amaretto and Sambuca are lining the bar set-up. The table is set with a massive red poinsettia centerpiece. There is always a Christmas CD playing, and although there are many different artists & different tracks, the only song that seems to fill the air  for the entire day is Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.”

People begin flocking over sometime around midday with side dishes, appetizer plates, pies, cakes, bottles of spirits, boxes of chocolates and I have one aunt who will undoubtedly bring a jumbo shrimp platter.  Like everybody, I have relatives that can’t relax their “healthy lifestyle choices” for a second, raising their eyebrows when you ask them to pass the garlic rolls. Might as well just say, “Pass the carbs, please!” The non-culinary adults pour drinks and hover by bowls of pretzels shaped like Christmas trees, the smokers mill around outside on the patio, as if they’re really there for  “the view” of the lake. That one cousin on the “forever” diet will fix her own “big salad” and use the lo-cal dressing she brought in a Tupperware container and will ask what’s in everything and how it was prepared. The geeks talk tech and gather round their iPhones for the latest app swap. The youngsters update their Instagram with 14 emoticons to express their feelings. The appetizers that lined the tables earlier – cheese trays, stuffed olives, pickles, crackers, specialty things like artichoke pie, zucchini bread and those jumbo shrimps slowly begin to disappear. There are mixed conversations all over the house covering work, kids, school, business, television, music, vacation travels, pets and health. Yet, when everyone has their fully loaded main dinner plate in front of them and are seated at the 20 foot long “last supper”-looking table, a hush falls over the dining room while we stuff our faces in what seems like the fastest 15 minutes of “food frenzy” ever. And, it’s over. Just like that.

It’s Not the Same, But It’s Not Bad, Either  

I’m not certain of what I miss, exactly, whether it’s the familiar people, the comfort zone of my mother’s house, all the phenomenal food or the proper alcoholic buzz I have that whole day. Could be all of it. Or…it could be just the rose-colored memory of it, when the reality is that it’s all a bit of a chaotic, loud, sodium-filled day of social conventions wrapped in a garlic roll with jumbo shrimp on top. At times, I’ve considered hiding a cell phone charger and a bottle of booze in the bathroom, for a moment of peace, like my Twitter pal, Jenny Johnson, suggested. But, this is my tradition. It’s all I know and for the most part, it’s a pretty friggin’ fun day.

Whatever it is that I miss, I just cannot re-create it here in England at my tiny house, with my vegetarian wife, the few busy friends I have I can count on one hand, along with my mini fridge & freezer that’s not big enough to handle a whole turkey and sadly – no ice bucket in sight because only two ice cube trays fit in our freezer. It’s very different. But, rather than dwell, I try to create new traditions: see Oxford Street, go to Harrod’s, see the Christmas markets. It’s just the actual day, itself, that’s hard.

My wife’s family is in Australia and with the time difference being about 14 hours, they have their holiday calls at some odd hour the night before the actual holiday happens here. To my wife’s credit, though, she does everything to make it all as festive as possible. We put up a little tree, buy each other fun gifts, wear silly “Ho Ho Ho!” pajamas, have a special breakfast and generally have a good time just being together.

Find the Silver Lining 

Last year, on Christmas Day, we watched “Bridget Jones’ Diary”  and the “Gavin & Stacey” holiday episode both of which are on TV continually at any given moment on every other channel from November to January. I made a little ham, since I’m the only meat eater here. It was about the size of a grapefruit by the time it was cooked. I made sweet potatoes and broccoli, I made baby carrots and we opened a bottle of red wine. My wife had her nut roast slices, vegetarian gravy, Yorkshire pudding and Brussels sprouts.  On a brighter note, I can eat as many rolls as I like with no judgment. We ate our dinner quietly with Christmas music from BBC Radio playing in the background. We had the entire kitchen cleaned up five minutes after we finished eating. It’s dark by 4:30 pm so we sat in our reclining sofa seats and put our feet up while we finished our wine, reflecting on….pretty much….nothing.

After about 10 minutes of that, I looked at my wife and said, “Do you think it’s too early to call my mother’s house and talk to everybody?”  She got up, handed me the phone, and sat next to me, knowing I’d put it on speaker, as we snuggled up and took part in the old tradition blended with the new tradition: being with my wife, in our tiny house in England.

About Denise Warner-Gregory

Denise Warner-Gregory hosts the successful, funny podcast “The
Lesbian Lounge” on iTunes & Podbean. At the age of 45, she's lived in
NY, FL and now resides happily in London with her wife, Jemma. Denise
contributes regularly to many popular LGBT blogs, websites & resources
and hosts live events in both the US and the UK.