The Many Days of Christmas

I’ve seen my brother for the past three days in a row. That’s enough socialization for the rest of the year.

I don’t bear any grudges against my brother. That’s not to say I wouldn’t mind an apology for his past behavior towards me, but I know I won’t get one because he argues that I did things to deserve his actions towards me. We’re at a stalemate, and things will never resolve because we are two very different people. Somehow, we suck it up for a few moments when we get along together. This weekend was a series of those moments.

It started on Friday when he picked me up to help me shop for Christmas gifts. The first stop was a major toy retailer to get some things for my niece. I picked up two things, and then he looked around and suggested picking up three other things. After that we went to a cashier and purchased what we had, and on the way out the door he said I went over budget for my niece. Thanks for not letting me know sooner.

The next stop was a bookstore to get something for my niece’s sister. Like me, she’s into anime and manga, so I picked up the manga for the last anime series I’ve seen with her. I also picked up a few things for myself, which I lied about and told my brother that it was for the friend I’m staying with. If you think I’m buying Sailor Mars’ transformation stick for another person, you don’t know me that well.

About two miles down the road from the bookstore was an Asian grocery store. I asked my brother if we could go there next, because I figured they might have some of the uncommon Pocky varieties at the very least and I would grab a pack to go with the manga. From the moment we parked the car, my brother was reciting the Engrish bits from the Chinese restaurant scene of A Christmas Story. He thought he was being funny, but I wasn’t amused. As I scanned the selection of drinks, opting to satiate my CC Lemon craving, he was reaching into a frozen case where he pulled out a foot-long squid. Thankfully he put the squid back without making a scene. I went up and down each of the aisles, filling my arms as I went along until I couldn’t carry anything more. When I asked my brother for a basket, he refused to get one for me, insisting that I was done and to go to the cashier. I pressed on, as I still had one more aisle. A stranger came up to me with a basket, and I don’t remember now if I thanked him but I was really quite grateful.

By the time I was done shopping, my brother was perturbed with me because I was “buying novelties” and went out to the car. I apologized to the cashier on his behalf, explaining that he doesn’t understand me and telling her that I miss living near an Asian grocery store and was glad to know that I was still living near one. She mentioned that there’s also an Asian bakery near that grocery store, and I vowed to return. I learned that there’s also a Japanese-style karaoke venue from the Asian grocer’s website, so I also have other reasons to return.

The next night, Christmas Eve, I went to my church’s candlelight services with my brother. While waiting for the service to begin, I took out my phone and started playing Pokemon Go. My church was a gym belonging to Team Valor and was level 9, almost the highest level to which it can be raised. Since I happen to be on Team Valor, I took the opportunity to train my Pokemon. My brother is Team Mystic, and he knocked the gym down to level 8 if not lower. We both put our phones away before the service began.

After church, he asked if I would help him wrap a few gifts. I did so, and then we joined the rest of his family to unwrap gifts. When it was getting late, I bid farewell for the night because I still had gifts to wrap to bring back the next day. When I returned to my friend’s house, she was busy wrapping gifts for her kids. She moved my gifts and wrapping supplies off the table where I left them, but she absconded with the roll of tape I had just purchased the day before. It wasn’t a big deal, as I didn’t want to use all of her tape but having a second roll meant that we could wrap gifts more efficiently. In the end, we were surrounded by gifts and exhausted from being up so late. We called it a night and rested our heads.

The next morning, the couch I slept on was against the wall but facing into the dining room where the tree and presents were located. I could watch the kids opening gifts and I didn’t even have to sit upright. The next thing I knew, I heard the sounds of a banshee but it was my friend scolding her children for not reading the signs posted on their bedroom doors. The signs specifically told them not to open any of the gifts, but one of them had the bright idea to defy that directive. I came to, and I was still on the couch, which still faced the television, and i still had to sit upright to see anything that was happening. As much as I love dreams like that, I prefer it when a song I’m playing while I sleep is heard in my dreams, not the booming voice of an adult trying to discipline their child… except if I’m the child and I need to wake up.

As my friend’s children opened gifts when they were finally allowed to do so, I would check the time every so often. My brother had demanded that I show up at his house no later than nine in the morning, and while I cared about not making him mad, I also didn’t want to skip out on the fun of small children getting amazing presents. It was sometime after 10 by the time I left for my brother’s place, but the delay was worth it to see two young boys become ecstatic when they unwrapped an Xbox One. My brother didn’t even complain that I was late, which was good because I might not have cared if he did have something to say.

Sometime after dinner, I was speaking with my brother’s significant other about life and everything going on. She’s trying to make me see that my brother isn’t the same as he once was, and that he does care about me. It’s hard for me to see that, because everything we disagree upon reminds me of every time he has refused to see my side of things. That’s not to say that I’m always right, or even that I’m ever right about things. I have different opinions which he doesn’t understand. I know a few things about the world that he doesn’t see, which I chalk up to him being an able-bodied white male and having the world at his beck and call. I have book smarts, but to some extent he has street smarts. He’s more into physical labor, whereas I’d rather do white collar work and not get my hands dirty. He’s a gear head and I’m a geek. Neither of us understands the pursuits of the other, figuring that the pursuit is rather trivial.

New Jersey did change me while I was there. I haven’t had the sweetest tongue, and I never really said what I meant. Dealing with my brother’s cruel rhetoric, I realize when I give it back as a survival technique, but some of the things that come from him seem to be more rude than what I say. I know I need to change that much about myself, so I asked my brother’s significant other if she wouldn’t mind talking to my brother about the way he talks. Maybe if we can speak to each other more lovingly and respectfully, I’ll be a kinder person to people I have yet to meet. Then again, if we just learn to respect each other, I might not be so bothered about being around him.

After a slice of apple pie, I left my brother’s place and returned “home.” I was by myself for an hour or so before my friend returned from visiting her family, and in that time I learned of George Michael’s passing. I played a few of his songs on YouTube and sang along. It wasn’t Christmas music, I wasn’t surrounded by people I knew, it was a moment to unwind from everything and just embrace a moment in time. Christmas, for all intents and purposes, was over for this year.

And then an hour after it would have ended, I remembered that I had a Christmas party to attend earlier tonight. It was my extended family on my mother’s side, and it was an annual tradition. Maybe I really did have too much socialization for the rest of the year.

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