• My brother told me, a couple of years ago, that families should have a new baby every 30 years … a fresh bit of excitement that would pull everyone back together again. My brother’s daughter is four months old, and she definitely added bright spots of cuteness to our many family Christmas traditions. Sure I missed some Christmas Eve dinner conversation because I was bounce-walking her around the house, but after kissing her good-bye and pointing my car toward LA, I was hit with the pang of missing how her little head smelled and the sound of her voice as she “talked” to us.
  • A hometown tradition: when extended family gathers for a meal, one of us poses a communal question, and everyone around the table gives their answer. What’s your favorite word or phrase? Where would you live if you could live anywhere? If you were going to spray paint something on a wall for strangers to see, what would it be? What’s something you wish people would ask you? Those have all been bounced around the table for parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles to ponder. I’m not sure when or why this tradition started, but it ensures that everyone gets a chance to talk and be listened to at a family gathering. It’s natural for multiple conversations to break out when more than four people are seated together, but a group question gives a kind of order to the conversation and maybe some would find that stifling, but I think it’s nice. It can bring little tidbits of information to the surface that would never come up in ten minutes of small talk, and break through the usual topics one discusses when chatting with a relative they don’t see all too often. This year the Christmas Eve question was this: 2016 is a leap year, so we get a bonus day… what’s your ideal way to spend a bonus day? Answers could be realistically achievable in one day, or fantastical. My grandfather would have lunch with Churchill and FDR. My brother said after a night of uninterrupted sleep (parent of an infant), he would have no traffic on his commute, all his work meetings would go well, and dinner ingredients would automatically be on hand. I’d spend my bonus day on a long and scenic train ride with my lady, nibbling little delicious things I’d packed for the occasion, and looking forward to exploring our destination.On Christmas day, the dinner question was: when you’ve been abroad, what have you realized about how other people view America or Americans? It was a nice way for us to be able to talk about politics without talking about politics.
  • In 2015, I felt “busy” more than I can remember feeling in the past. I think it’s because I saw more people and did more things. So how should I understand “feeling busy.” I talked to one of my cousins about this. From Easter 2015 to the first week of June, I had travel or another major obligation (party, after work meeting, lunch with a parent, that kind of thing) every single week. My cousin had a similar busy stretch later in the year. We both felt exhausted when our stretch was over. “But what should I have said ‘no’ to?” my cousin asked. Not take that weekend trip that ended up being so much fun? Not make time for a family member? Not join a celebration with a dear one? What is “being busy”? What is “balance”?
  • I really enjoyed this article about trying to live like Ina Garten for a week to become a better spouse. I started reading it on my phone in bed and giggled so much my girlfriend asked me what was so funny, and I read it aloud to her. There are 10 episodes of Barefoot Contessa on my TIVO at any moment. I’ve heard heroin addicts get addicted to the needle stick, that’s kind of how I feel about the intro music to BC. I’m envious of Ina’s TV life in a way that may not be healthy. As the article points out, attempting to be that fabulous IRL is expensive and draining. But why I like the show so much is because Ina seems delighted by her circumstance. She trades goodies with friends, she roasts a chicken for her husband, she ends a walk to a wintry cabin with hot cocoa in a thermos and a bag of candy she picked up at the perfect local candy shop. She appears to know how to enjoy her specific life, which I’m realizing more and more is a true accomplishment. Long live Ina!
  • For years I was the only member of my family in LA, but that’s changing. I moved here for school in 1999. A decade later, my cousin and her future husband moved here. Seven months ago, another cousin, her husband and their daughter moved here. Over Christmas, another cousin said she and her boyfriend are seriously considering the move. A new tradition may have been born a week ago when we hosted a Cousins Holiday Brunch at our place. We had ham and an egg casserole that took forever to cook, but ended up being delicious. I made champagne cocktails and the toddler in the bunch showed off a few new words like “stahhhh” and “treeeee.” It felt warm and natural to be together, even though that was the first time we’ve ever gathered in that way as adults. For years, my brother has shared his chosen city with cousins. And sometimes when looking at pictures of their get-togethers, I’ve felt envious. Now I have that for myself, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little weird. In my hometown, I’m one piece of a whole, but LA has always been Me Town. You can be whomever you want in LA and I’ve taken advantage of that. I’ve been a student, a pot head, a restless barista, a 9 to 5er. A disquieted loner. A comforted introvert. A longtime girlfriend of a guy and a longtime girlfriend of a girl. When I look back, I can count the identities I tried and shed. That’s my history in this city. My history in my city. But now I’m getting married and I’m not the only family member in town. I embrace both of these things, but the evolution is a bit unexpected.I’ve felt a certain distance between myself and my family since moving away and coming out. What I’ve realized this year is that distance is comfortable to me. It doesn’t always make me feel good, but it is comfortable. My girlfriend has had the same experience with her family. This marriage process has bridged familial distance for both of us with both families. It doesn’t feel like a bad thing, but it feels a bit alien. We were talking about this the other night… how we’ve both been satellites and part of what felt special about “us” is that we were satellites dancing together in the night. Now we’re watching the sunrise in a changing sky.
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