The Unsolicited Opinions of the Alabama Housewife: Holidays

Words by Mary Alayne B. Long

Illustration by Eliza Bishop

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Turkeys are frying, lights are being strung, cards are being mailed, and no matter where you find yourself as you read this, chances are you’ll soon be sitting at a table surrounded by those you love most—and possibly some of those you don’t.

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The holiday season brings out the best and worst in all of us. It’s inevitable. We are crammed into planes, trains, and automobiles as over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go. Traditionally, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the big “bring home” seasons for those who find themselves latched onto someone new. Between November 25 and December 31, girlfriends and boyfriends all across the country are hurled into all sorts of unknown family traditions as they accompany their significant others home for the first time. It can be a ton of fun, but it can also set the stage for some pretty embarrassing moments.

The first time I went home with Mr. to meet his family, they were gathered together from near and far to celebrate his grandmother’s 90th birthday. “It’s just a barbeque,” he told me. “Very casual,” he insisted. He was wrong. As we walked into his parents’ house it didn’t take long to realize that he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Of course, twenty-five years later, I am prepared for him to be wrong about things like this, but walking into a birthday party in a miniskirt and a fun top when everyone else was wearing church clothes, was not the way I wanted to learn that.

Suffice it to say, if you are headed home with a friend for the first time, don’t simply ask about his family. Interrogate Put him under a spotlight and make him answer all the important questions. We all know there’s never a second chance to make a first impression, so be prepared. Are his parents teetotalers? Don’t bring a bottle of wine. Is his sister vegan? Don’t show up with a rack of ribs. Does everyone oddly avoid the topic of Uncle Junior’s roommate, Ted? Do not, I repeat, do not ask if they are gay. Trust me on this one. And for heaven’s sake, do not talk about politics. Or religion. Or SEC football if you find yourself in the house of the enemy. (Roll Tide!) But even after all the questions and the research, know that you’re going to make mistakes. You’ll misspeak, misstep. But ask for forgiveness quickly and cut yourself some slack.

During our first Christmas together, my husband spilled an entire cup of Copenhagen Fine Cut Snuff—let’s call it leftovers—across my lap as we turned into his parents’ driveway. I was wearing winter white slacks, so there was no recovery, and I spent the rest of the joyous holiday evening wearing a pair of his daddy’s sweatpants. I was mortified, to say the least, but it has become a funny family story all these years later. The truth is, if you’re supposed to end up hitched on to the folks you find yourself visiting this holiday season, chances are any mistakes you make while you sit around that big family table will bring laughter and joy to those same folks at that very same table years down the road.

Regardless of where we find ourselves during this time of year, or which traditions we celebrate, one thing is likely true for us all: The holiday season is all about families. And families are all about love.