Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas #32

So, another Christmas has come and gone and for the most part it was a good Christmas. I was more excited about seeing the reactions of people I gave presents to, than anticipating what I was getting. A long, long time ago, I picked up the idea that having very low expectations at Christmas would mean that I'd rarely be disappointed in whatever I received, even if it was an ugly sweater, or a rattlesnake bolo tie. I was satisfied with what I received this year, because I really did need socks and underwear, and anime soundtracks are always a good buy, especially when I've posted an Amazon Wish List listing which ones I wanted. (For those of you who care and/or understand I got : The Cyberia Mix from Serial Experiments Lain, Day of Second Impact from Neon Genesis Evangelion, Yoko Kanno's Be Human from Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex, The End of Evangelion Soundtrack, and The Adolescence Rush soundtrack from Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie. All of which made their way directly into my iTunes Library that night. Though some of them are duplicates, they are legitimate duplicates finally.)
As is the tradition in many Latin American households we spent Christmas Eve with family and at midnight we opened presents. When I was much younger, I remember that Christmas Eve was really a big party with relatives. These days, it's just my immediate family and it's much less subdued by comparison. My Mom cooked dinner, with my sister's help, (Since her tumultuous and tempestuous teenage years, my sister and my Mom have become an inseparable team.) which is a rarity these days. And we sat around the dining room table, ate and entertained ourselves with highly irreverent conversation. My brother and my sister like to bicker, and they do it well, so a lot of the entertainment came from them.
For Donna's benefit, my parents retold the stories of how hard they had work to convince me, as a child, that Santa Claus had delivered toys. And yes, they were glad when I grew out of that stage quickly.
I don't mind spending time with my family at, all really, except maybe when Gus and Ana are bickering in public, especially since Gus has no "inside voice", it's one of the Aviles family traits to be easy to get along with. And when we're all together as a family no topic is really off limits, I mean it, nothing is sacred or profane in my parent's house. If you happen to get uncomfortable, try not to let it show, since that will always mean that we will continue to discuss the topic, until either you leave or we eventually find something else to talk about. ;)
This year we started a new tradition, I think. Which is saying something, as we've been shedding traditions lately, my parents stopped having a Christmas tree about 2 years ago, since that would mean a lot of furniture shuffling and there really wasn't a lot of room for a tree to begin with, as my parents are pack rats. Also, they stopped decorating the house as well, not even a wreath on the door, you'd think we were Jewish or something to look at our house around Christmastime. And the last time any of us when to Church on Christmas, I was in High School.
But, I digress, our new tradition this year, as we tried to kill time between the end of dinner and midnight, when we could open presents, we all took turns taking The Dante's Inferno Test. Because, as the saying goes, the family that goes to Hell together, stays together. ;) And yes, according to this prescient test, we're all going to Hell. Ana, apparently being the only true believer in the family ended up in the 2nd level for the Lustful, Dad, the Atheist, ended up in the 3rd level for the Gluttonous, Donna ended up in Level 5 for the Wrathful and Sullen, Mom and I ended up in Level 6, the City of Dis for the Heretical (which surprised me, frankly, since Mom was the impetus behind our getting religion as kids in the first place.), and my brother ends up in Level 7 for the Violent, which makes more sense for him when you read this passage:
Beyond the wood is scorching sand where those who committed violence against God and nature are showered with flakes of fire that rain down against their naked bodies. Blasphemers and sodomites writhe in pain, their tongues more loosed to lamentation, and out of their eyes gushes forth their woe.

When midnight struck, presents were exchanged, and I think we scored very well this year. My brother got the first season of Smallville from us, my sister and my mom got little pampering gift packs from Bath and BodyWorks whose stuff Donna swears by, and for my Dad, Donna, my brother, my sister, and I all chipped in to get him, and Mom to an extent, an 80 hour TiVo to go with the 32" Sony Trinitron Dad "won" from work as they're replacing their video conference system. That TV replaces the 27" Sony that they bought when I was 16 that finally died it's final death a month ago. (My Dad, in a fit of laziness, did that ghetto/redneck thing of putting a small 13" TV on top of the dead one, so my brother and sister are very glad that will be going away soon.)
The Donna made out like a bandit this year, In addition to a killer, killer PC she had to buy for herself when her old one finally decided it didn't want to work anymore, she got jewelry from my Great Aunt and Grandma, the first two Authority graphic novels from my brother, lots of girly smelling candles and incense, an HP Photosmart 435 Digital Camera from her parents, and, of course, the piece de resistance: the 40GB iPod Photo from me.
Like I said, she made out like a bandit, but as our friend Kelly put it last night when she called us, "Donnas are meant to be spoiled." And that's certainly true of this Donna. ;)
Christmas Day was an entirely new adventure. The family was supposed to eat dinner at Grandma's or as she's called in our family "Abuelita Lila." (For the Spanish challenged it means: Grandma Lila. Abuelita is the affectionate/casual form of Abuela which is grandmother.) And dinner at grandma's means that we start gathering at 2pm for a dinner at 5pm. It must be a grandma thing.
Anyway, we were supposed to be ready to leave at 2pm, but it didn't happen that way. We woke up around noon, because we like to sleep, and as we were starting to get ready, I noticed that the clothes in the dryer weren't dry, so I turned the dryer back on and took a shower. When we were getting dressed, Donna went to the dryer to see if clothes had dried and noticed steam rising from the dryer. Not a good sign. When she opened the dryer door, lots of steam started to pour out, and she noticed little flames at the back of the dryer. Also not a good sign. Clamly, she asked for my assistance, but when I didn't immediately respond she expressed urgency.
There were several possible ways I could have reacted to "The dryer's on fire" and in hindsight I wished I had chosen one of them. As it was I stood for a couple of seconds wondering what I could possibly do in this instance, until Donna implored me to just do something. We started grabbing clothes out of the dryer, and started moving all the stuff that was in our laundry room/storage area out. I couldn't for the life of me remember that there was a fire extinguisher hanging on our neighbor's door across the hall, so I started to fill a vase with water, hoping that would do the trick.
Fortunately for us, the act of clearing out the dryer and then slamming the door shut and turning off the dryer was enough to extinguish whatever circuits or boards that had shorted in the guts of the dryer. We were both still kinda panicky, but had enough wits recovered to realize that it could have been much, much worse. So, began an afternoon of cleaning. Our dryer was pretty old, the power line ran directly into the wall and to what I'm assuming was a direct power line and it's own breaker. Since none of the breakers were labeled, we had to experiment to discover which one it might have been. We managed to find all the breakers for the rest of the apartment and the heat, but I'm still not sure which one of the three that we left off was the dryer.
Eventually, after a casual message to both the Apartment Office and the security guard "Hi, our dryer caught fire, but we're OK now. Do you think you could get around to replacing that at your earliest convenience? That'd be great, thanks" the maintenance guy showed up at our apartment to scope out the damage. He said that he'd be back on Monday to replace it and I'm hoping we have a new dryer when I get home today, since we really need to do laundry.
So we eventually arrived at Abuelita LIla's around 6pm, a bit shaken but none the worst for the wear. We delivered to Abuelita Lila, Tia Nena (my great Aunt) and my Uncle Robert their presents: a purple sweatsuit with a hood for Abuelita Lila, and a Bath and Body works gift pack and a National Geographic Owl calendar for Tia Nena, and a $30 gift card to Suncoast Video for my uncle. The sweatsuit went over well, especially as it was in her favorite color: purple and Tia Nena enjoyed the calendar far more than the gift pack, because she absolutely adores owls. We were going to get my uncle Robert a DVD player, but my brother pointed out that he was holding out for when the component DVD recorders and players started to become more affordable. My uncle is very, very analog, he's really committed to tape, audio and video, since it was pretty easy and affordable to copy to both.
(As a side note. I went shopping for Abuelita Lila with my brother and sister at Strawbridge's and that was certainly an experience. Ana got it into her head that we should all get grandma the J-L/ hiphop style sweat suit with some tagline on the ass of the sweat pants. Something like Rocawear, or Ecko, or even something cheap as long as it said "Princess" on the ass, as is the style these days. It's one thing to imagine a nubile, young lady in a sweatsuit with "Princess" on the ass, and quite another to imagine your 82 year old, 4'8" and shrinking, shriveled and hunched over grandmother wearing one. There are just some images you don't want in your head. But, Ana kept on insisting and insisting, and didn't give up until she called Donna, thinking that Donna might support her, and was told "No way." So we spent the better part of an hour and a half searching through the rubble of Strawbridge's searching for something that would fit her, if we knew what size she was. My brother and I were convinced that she was a "medium" while my sister insisted that she was a "large." Fortunately, my brother and I ended up being right.)
So, while being at my grandmother's wasn't like pulling teeth, it wasn't the relaxed irreverence of my parent's house the prior evening either, but fortunately, my friend Todd was throwing a bash at his place complete with White Elephant or cutthroat style Pollyanna. (Wherein everybody brings a gift, lots are drawn, and every subsequent person has the option of taking the gift that any prior person had chosen or picking something new.) This, by contrast, was a lot of fun, since most of our friends were there, and a lot of them are really extended family anyway. Though there were plenty of people there we didn't know, which was a bit surprising, but goes a long way to explaining why we ended up with more candles and incense, and a box of sampler vodkas and a bag of nuts. (Yes, both of our initial gifts were much cooler.)
And on the seventh day we rested. No, seriously, we did absolutely nothing on Sunday, well, OK, Donna played with all her new toys, but that was about it.
So, Christmas #32 is in the books and now we prepare to say goodbye to an OK 2004 and what looks to be a splendid 2005.


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