At the risk of sounding like a lush, Christmas dinner is just not Christmas dinner without a glass of Viognier – my favorite turkey pairing wine- or at the very least, some liquid containing alcohol, be it moonshine or cognac. Like Art Garfunkel’s lackluster solo career without Paul Simon, turkey dinner is bland and tasteless without wine, and my mood is certainly not as festive.
That I have married into a family that does not drink is a source of considering wrangling, not to mention countless thoughts of “what was I thinking?”. Imagine, if you will, spending an entire day trapped within the confines of your in-laws house, a pack of sugared-up children squealing in delight as they chase each other around, and no rum for your eggnog in sight?
Without beer goggles, hopelessly mundane conversations become unbearably hopelessly mundane. That story about the time my sister-in-law was doubling her Barbie on her bike, and turned to watch her hair blowing in the wind causing her to fall and break her wrist is not as charming the tenth time around. With a glass of wine in hand I suspect I would be more patient. I consider weighing in with my own memories of the time I mistakenly drank my father’s glass of whiskey – I was pretending I was in the Flintstones, I was Betty, Wilma was giving me medicine, incidentally – and my 5-year-old self drunkenly fell down the stairs in front of my parent’s company. I keep this memory to myself – this would be akin to blasphemy.
Years ago, when I got myself into this mess, remaining sober on celebratory occasions was not a big deal. Back when my social life was in full swing (another way of saying pre-children), waking up without a hangover, or at the very least that sour taste in your mouth, was a welcome respite on Boxing Day. Those sweet stories of my betrothed’s childhood were charming the first time around. But as my family has grown, so has my need for a cocktail once the clock chimes five. My social life now null and void, occasions like Christmas can provide the perfect excuse for even earlier cocktails.
Alcohol causes nothing but trouble, my in-laws argue. Admittedly, alcohol has gotten us into some hiccups along the way in my own family (a family where the question is would you like a dash of eggnog with that rum?). There was the time my teenaged brother fell into an alcohol induced sleep with a cigarette burning on our ottoman, and we narrowly escaped our house being burned down. But for the most part, spirits add festivity and fun to our gatherings. Those tiring stories become riotously funny. Tongues loosen, guards drop. Very rarely, scores are settled. Always people are teased mercilessly.
The hard stuff adds color. Christmas dinner with my in-laws is conducted in black and white, and yields ho-hum, stilted conversations. For instance there is much discussion over the done-ness of the turkey. The conundrum of keeping the white meat moist while cooking the dark meat properly has been dissected and debated to the tiniest detail. The hours spent on this topic would surely have produced world peace had that been the debate. This year my in-laws barbecued the turkey: a whole new day dawned. The teetotalers were so enamored by this progression that the lumpy mashed potatoes and dressing (with or without raisins – always good for a fifteen minute discussion) were scantly noted.
If you happen to be my mother-in-law, I’m sorry to be disrespectful, but offer me a glass of wine next year and I guarantee you will prefer my slightly intoxicated state. If this makes me an alcoholic, then so be it; the first step is admitting it. Next year I’m bringing a flask.