so read the subject title of an email from my brother. not a forward of a cartoon santa getting his nuts caught in the chimney, rather a multi paragraphed instructional on how to conduct my holiday travel plans to the middle east this year. re-check your luggage when you get to chicago; get in the club class queue so you don't have to wait with all the riff raff; when you get to heathrow meet us (he and my infinitely patient sister-in-law) at the first class lounge by 9am so we can sign you in as a guest- unless you want to sit in a plastic chair with the riff raff, waiting 5 hours for the flight to bahrain; make sure your presents are wrapped before you leave so we don't spend christmas eve waiting for you to wrap yours; make sure you put some of them in your hand luggage in case your suitcase doesn't arrive (it hasn't the past 5 years, why change the habit of a lifetime?); don't put any liquids in your hand luggage. perhaps this should be called a christmas bum wiping?
the night before departure i got out my suitcase, and the unwrapped presents (that's what gift bags are for anyway), and my passport, which apparently expired last month. shit. i was not going anywhere. my worst nightmare was real; landlocked and unable to leave. not only that, christmas has always been "my" holiday, or the expanded version "my day to bicker with my parents/brother with an illuminated red and green backdrop". for 31 years. this was bad. and then my mother called.
"christmas is just a day". no, it is no longer about tearing downstairs in pyjamas to eat all of the cadbury's ornaments off the tree for breakfast and rip through presents by 6am, to pass out in a sugar coma amongst the wrapping paper. now it has evolved into sleeping in, getting a buzz on by 11am (champagne and OJ), peeling potatoes while my brother and i harass my mother (and she returns in kind), to pass out in a mimosa/red wine/vodka tonic/port coma amongst the wrapping paper. it has changed. i have been trying not to. because christmas is also "just the day" where no matter where we were in the world, my mum made sure we were as griswald festive as we could be. when we lived in saudi arabia you couldn't buy trees, ornaments, paper, or mulled wine, so she made ornaments on her sewing machine. the grown ups made wine out of grape juice, sugar and yeast, and we pulled christmas crackers my mum had bought on shopping trips to london earlier that year (and smuggled back in her suitcase). during my (miserable) years at boarding school/undergrad in england, christmas was always the one constant that i would be reunited for the purpose of getting into adolescent power struggles with my mum, my brother would find a way to fart on me (repeatedly), and dad would lecture me about how i should just get on a plane to go teach in hong kong.
my first goal for the new year is to renew my passport.