‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the restaurant, families broke bread together, then let their tears flow…and flow….
My Christmas wishes to each and every one of you who made someone cry tonight (and you are far too many for comfort!) are as follows:
To the family of 10 assorted mid-30s adults whose very nice father and mother (yes, I know, to some of you they are in-laws) took you out to dinner tonight: Alcohol is a depressant. If you are prone to depression, and you don’t like this very nice father and mother, drink soda or water, not shots of Jack”and keep the rounds comin’.” Not only will you rage about the food then cry about your life, you will reduce the very nice mother and father to tears, and I can tell that this stoic dad doesn’t cry ever, except around the holidays when all of you are around. Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad. Next year, leave those surly, whiney boys and girls at home and enjoy the night out–just the two of you.
To the very handsome family of eight, whose oldest two children of the six are home from college because they have to be because you are paying more than six figures for their private institutions’ tuitions–let them eat! Let them eat the fries and have mayo on their burgers. Let them dip the shrimp in butter. Let them have dessert. They ordered club soda with lemon instead of a sugary cola. They dutifully dipped their salads’ lettuce in the dressings carefully placed on the side. They looked hopefully to you when the bread basket was placed in front of them, refusing to nibble a single piece because they knew you would disapprove. The holiday season is not the time to remind them how many calories they have consumed today prior to coming to my restaurant, and how an even longer run is in order tomorrow if, “You’re really going to finish that?” Your kids come in all shapes and sizes. Quit being a food coach out of fear for your own aging and girth-size growth, because I saw the one at the end of the table crying in the ladies room. Merry Christmas kids. Each of you is beautiful. ‘Tis the season to finally embrace that truth.
To the parents of the single male child out with you tonight. For just one night, talk to each other. Talk about the weather. Talk about the traffic. Talk about anything remotely mundane and utterly boring. Long silences punctuated with sighs and downcast eyes usually lead to tears, if not in public, then later while alone. Because this is how he feels–very alone. Merry Christmas my three solitary, very silent folk. I hope you find your voices very soon.
To the adult kids out with Mom. She doesn’t think your stinging sarcasm is funny. She doesn’t know where and how she went so wrong that you feel you can talk to her this way. I know, she ordered and drank three vodka rocks. I also know that this bothers you. I fully appreciate that those likely were not the only three vodka rocks she’s drunk this day, and now the sum total has led her to cry her tears in a most unattractive way. I don’t know much beyond that except this–she needs your help and support and guidance. That’s right, you might have to step up and parent your parent. Merry Christmas everyone. I’ve walked this walk. It’s brutal.
To the couple out with their one big dog and one tiny dog. Please do not let the holiday season prompt you to question all that you accept as just fine the rest of the year. Okay, you don’t have kids. Okay, the dogs are your kids, but this time of year…I get it, they are just dogs and there are no kids in your life at all. Merry Christmas. Really. It’s okay.
To the couple with the baby who pass him off to each other in shifts so one can gulp down dinner in three bites. Wow, has your life together changed this year. No one ever told you how much work it would be, how selfless you would have to be, how much of yourselves would have to be put on a back burner that seems forever without a pilot light. And how tonight you just feel like sobbing. Look around you and don’t worry. Keep the pure love in your hearts that you have for that baby, and all the parenting mistakes and missteps that you make and take will matter not. Merry first Christmas together to the three of you.
And so, another holiday season reaches its familty-gathering crescendo,exacerbating the seemingly bad and the ugly as it exacts its sad toll, despite how hard we work to imagine that all is perfectly hung by the chimney with care.
Come on now folks, shake it off. Do what I do on yet another emotional holiday that finds me wishing I were with my kids, wondering how it is I am working a thousand miles away from them and the life I once knew. Watch “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the billionth time. Then track down and watch an ancient Saturday Night Live skit called “The Dysfunctional Family Christmas.” Merry Christmas to all who then discover how great it feels to laugh after you cry.