Christmas Dinner – Traditions

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Growing up, over the holidays, in our home, those holidays were filled with lots of people, lots of food, good conversations, and always ended in heaps of physical abuse.

When we arrived at the final iteration of home, in my 6th grade year, my parents were introduced to social circles that they had never experienced before, as of yet.

Meeting new people always invited others to ones dinner table, over the holidays. Those dinners became the stuff of legends. My mother perfected her cooking while competing for the top spot ranking of who threw the best soiree…

Hands down, my Step mother had this competition IN THE BAG.

We grew up in the company of several local families who hobnobbed together at festive times of the year. My step mom, Nancy (not my real step mom/but close enough), she and Fred had The House, The Wealth, and the Alcohol, to win the grand prize of best party hosts.

My father, as hateful as he was, and as judgmental he was, and as HOMOPHOBIC as he was, relented when it came to dinner parties, even if those dinner parties had invited guests of the HOMOSEXUAL stripe. Elton, Garcia and Bob, were the three gay men I grew up with.

My step mom knew I was gay, before I openly admitted to anyone that I was gay. So did my parents. It was like, they all knew, and nobody told me. However I had, all along, been doing my gay homework, reading the assorted “Material” my father left out, in their bathroom, for public consumption.

I can’t, for the life of me, believe, that my father did not know, I was reading his smut. I mean, you can’t be that stupid to think that if you leave something in the bathroom to read, that someone isn’t going to pick it up and PERUSE …

Yet, after every dinner party, where gay men were on the field, that I could carry on conversations with, that I never carried on with my own father, made him IRATE. And when we arrived home each night, he would beat the shit out of me, hoping to BEAT THE GAY, out of me.

My step mom had the huge house, with the appropriate dinner table that sat an army of men and women, all at the same time. When we were kids, the kids would find themselves at the kids table in the breakfast nook, off the kitchen. Separated from the adults, until we grew up and had “Come of Age” and were invited to dine WITH the adults.

I was telling my friends at dinner tonight, parts of this story, minus the gore.

Nancy taught us social skills, she raised all of the kids/Nee teenagers, into quite well-behaved and respectable young adults. Alcohol was always available to us. When we crossed the room, into the main dining room, with the adults, we had arrived.

The other day, Nancy’s oldest daughter said that she missed mom. Nancy died a couple of years ago, so holidays are a bit bleak for her daughters. Me as well. Because if it was not for Nancy, we would have never had the life experiences we did, growing up.

I told Dawn that yes, mom is gone, and we miss her terribly. But, the silver lining to missing someone is that Mom sure knew how to throw an A-List dinner party with panache and style.

Juan and Nadia are two very important friends. Juan and I have been friends since the day he walked into Sunday Nighter’s more than three years ago. He is still sober.

When Juan and Nadia got engaged, Hubby and I began to include them in special events, or dinner “Double dates.” Bringing friends into your social circle is an important part of growing into well-rounded sober adults.

So it went. Juan and Nadia had gone to Toronto for Christmas with his parents, to visit his brothers and sisters, down south of us. The weather was NOT stellar, so the drive down and back was fraught with danger.

I had decided this year to change-up my guest list. We put off Christmas dinner until this evening, so that Juan and Nadia could have Christmas Dinner at our place tonight.

This dinner was special. Because my in-laws had gifted us a ton of money in HSBC gift cards for The Bay. We really did not have the proper tools to entertain, because we only have the one set of dishes from our wedding registry.

And in Mom’s honor, I wanted to do this the right way.

I shopped new earthen ware dishes, in yellow, hubby shopped cutlery and glasses. I cooked a turkey dinner to feed a small army. We spent all day yesterday cleaning and scrubbing the apartment to standards that aren’t usually seen.

With the stage set for success, today, we did the shopping that needed to be completed for dinner, and this afternoon we cooked.

Dinner was a grand affair. We learned a little bit more about each other. And as a married couple, our jobs, as friends, is to paint a picture of what married life is going to look like, in a general way. Socializing outside of a meeting can be fruitful and is also important. I don’t invite many people to my table.

Out of respect for my elders, my GAY elders, in the rooms, I always invited a particular friend over for holidays. But after my gay friends turned their backs on me over the last year, my jaded and bruised heart was resolute. No more charity for people who aren’t charitable towards me.

Our little spartan kitchen is not huge. And space comes at a premium. And making a grand holiday dinner work, takes a bit of work. I have a system that I have polished over the past sixteen years of holiday dinners. It all worked.

A good time was had by all.

I think I did Mom proud tonight and I know she was smiling down at me.

Memory in Time – Thanksgiving

How the Grinch Stole Christmas courtesy Cartoon Network

“Over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house we go …”

Tonight I heard a friend say about recovery, “I’m not sure what I really wanted to ‘recover’ from my past, but when I was drinking, at certain points, there was some fun, but that eroded away very quickly, after the first drink.” He went on to say that “there may have been a time in our past that we connect to in a way, we don’t connect to others, maybe that’s where recovery of time begins.”

I always hold dear a place and time in my mind’s eye. I go there often, because my visual of that location is clear and present.  The house in my memory is long gone now. The land was razed, the trees chopped down, and land appropriated by the drinking establishment next door, has shrunk the old family plot by half.

The house now exists only in my memory. Holiday’s were born in the homes of grandparents and aunts and uncles. I don’t have memories, young memories, of any place other than the homestead in my mind’s eye.

Later on, as I grew up, those memories are more fluid. Because as I grew up, we made family memories in the homes we inhabited later on. Holiday’s were special, as long as family cared for and loved each other. As soon as the “us versus them” reared its ugly head, memories became painful to remember.

And all I want to do is FORGET !

At a point in the timeline, there were three families who shared holiday cooking responsibilities. The biggest house, could hold the most people, so it became my step mother who provided the bulk of my teen age holiday’s.

Thanksgiving usually began early in the morning, with brunch at home, with the yearly Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The turkey would be in the oven by lunch time and the requisite football games would begin. So would the drinking.

Depending on the house picked for the dinner, people would begin to gather in great numbers, the open bar was a welcome event for all, the kids included, because my parent preferred that we drank at home, it was even encouraged.

At my step mothers house, the kids always ate at the kids table, off the kitchen, while we were younger. As we grew up, we would find our places at the adult table. That little kitchen table has many memories attached to it. But it was with great fanfare when we found ourselves seated with the adults for dinner, with adult conversation and the requisite adult drinking.

There was never a bad memory made at any dinner table. It was what happened after that dinner that was the problem. My father, the hateful man he was, every time we sat to eat a meal, would cringe at those seated at the very same table. Those “homosexuals” just made him sick. Add to that the fact that I could carry on a decent conversation with said homosexuals made my father’s blood boil.

Upon arriving home, he would beat me senselessly to make sure he beat the gay out of me, upon every occasion of sitting around that particular table.

Years would pass, as the abuse was heaped on me. Until one eventful Christmas, after I was diagnosed and headed for death, at my parents home in Sarasota, that my father humiliated me in front of all the guests at a Christmas dinner, that I vowed, then and there, never to darken my parents door or any table for any holiday ever after.

Twenty two years have passed since that memorable day. I remember it like it was yesterday, because the very next day, the family who sat at that very table and witnessed my humiliation, hosted me on their boat. And I explained what had happened and why.

I am not sure my parents kept that friendship going after that event. But there is the empty chair at their table now. I do not know what is worse, “Knowing you pushed a son away from home from that table intentionally, or that every year, the memory of me still exists in the minds of everyone who sits at that table. Or does it ?

Do they remember me ? Do they care ? Probably not. The last words my mother said to me many months ago, like the litany she spoke for years …

You were a mistake that should never have been born.

Nobody cares that I am not there, because to this day, nobody has come looking for me. We are not getting any younger, and in the idealistic part of my brain, I see adults coming to their senses and realistically, one day, that table would be full.

Alas, there is no love. So no love lost.

But those memories of the time I would recover for myself exist in my mind’s eye and in my heart, because it was there that love was born. True love. True compassion. True family connections that no living person can take from me, because those memories exist within me.

When I moved to Montreal almost seventeen years ago, I came with the hope of recovering memories connected to the maternal side of my family. I have a friend, Nigel, who is part of my recovery circle. Whom tonight, I handed a copy of the maternal family tree that goes back to the 1600’s.

We are hoping that his family tree, is, in some way, connected to mine. We shall see in the coming weeks, as they pour over the document I provided him with at the meeting.

Holiday’s are sacred times to build memory, to pay respect to those who came and went before us, to remember, those who gave us life and BEGAN holiday memories for us, while we were still too young to care or to know better of memory.

Grammy, Memere, Aunty Paula and all the other family who built the first memories for me, in their houses, are top of mind tonight. I remember you.

Holidays are a time for family and for love and for making memories.

Go Make Memories …

If they cannot be made for you, then start your own tradition in your own homes.

Do not go someplace that will only bring you misery and pain, and push you to want to forget than to remember.