Dinner Party:  Holiday

So, maybe publishing triptych type blogs isn’t going to be my thing.  It was a great idea.  Maybe.  The execution has – admittedly – been a bit haphazard.  First with the handwringing about in what order to post.  Next with the accidental premature posting of a draft I was just typing thoughts into.  Then I failed toeven go  back and edit/complete that accidental original post…let alone complete either of the remaining two posts, including this one.

But on the upside, obviously my procrastination has been spot on.

Screw gold star, this has been gold medal level procrastination.

I left the atypical Galby family Thanksgiving ready to write on this topic. Flash-forward five weeks to Christmas and nothing has happened, but I’m again inspired after spending Christmas Day at my sister’s house with my awesome little family.

But, now – as I’m chilling at the airport bar procrastinating heading to my hotel room for the night during the third Snowpocalyse of the season, but first of 2017 – I’m thinking my entertainment/procrastination options are sufficiently curbed to the point I may be able to focus my thoughts and tell this story.

Or a third of it, anyhow.

Holidays.

Ok, fair warning: this may not be funny, although I will try.

It may be depressing, although that is not my intention.

And it may just inspire you to live every week like it’s a holiday week.

Ok, that seems a bit overreaching…

The reason that Holiday even earned an entry in the Monday Night Supper Club triptych is because of the importance holidays had in my evolution and growth as a gay man into the person I am today.

Most folks grow up with their family holidays.  Basic.  They continue to come home to the family holidays until they meet an appropriate and opposite-gendered person with spouse potential. Then the negotiations about holiday plans begin.

It’s different for The Gays.

For The Gays, there’s the dutiful holiday appearances at the family home and then there’s the Chosen Family holiday with the people who only know you as the gay-you and are there for you every damn day of your drama filled life…even though you’re honestly the least dramatic person you know.  No, really.  Nevermind those of us lucky enough to find a guy that ticks off enough of our superficial relationship boxes for us to risk introducing him to our friends, Logical Family and even <gasp> biological family.

That’s a lot of damn holiday.  Doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or Memorial Day. If you’re lucky enough to partner-up, you’re probably in for a day of break-neck travel.  And, Father’s Day?  Well, in Portland, it’s “Sorry, dad…you’re welcome to come to Pride with me/us, but otherwise you’re not gonna see me this weekend!”

And my holidays have run that whole gamut.  There was never an easy “my family for Thanksgiving, yours for Christmas” negotiating for me.  Sacha was an “only” child – his older brother having died before we ever met – so his parents were always a priority on my holiday radar.  But our Chosen Family and my family divided our focus for those days, too.  What our couple’s holiday compromise looked like was starting at his parents’ house in Vancouver, driving to my sister’s house in Scappoose – about 30 miles away – and then back into Portland to end the day at our neighbor’s house or the home of his partner, Doug, depending on the holiday…BBQ holidays were at my neighbor’s and “big” dinners were at Big Doug’s just a few blocks away.

We’re glossing over how far ahead of their time these guys were:  apartners, committed couples that don’t live together.  And, yeah…just made that word up.  Chrisism.

What I didn’t know during the early days of my relationship with Sacha was how much I’d come to not only love his parents, but to sincerely think of them as friends.  Just a thumbs up from them on my Facebook status can put a smile on my face for the day.  

That level of enjoyment and friendship I felt for them?  Yeah.  Not unique to me, our immediate group of friends felt the same and it wasn’t long before my boyfriend’s parents were invited to holiday gatherings, too.  They didn’t attend every one of them, but I bet that over the course of my relationship with Sacha that they hit all the majors at least once, from BBQ holidays to some of the fourth quarter holidays.  But don’t hold me to that statement, it’s been about a decade, more likely longer.

Between the three familial groups, I couldn’t say that I preferred one over any of the others.  They were each different and each completely enjoyable in their own unique way.  The memories.

Some of the things that stand out about holidays with my family were that it was generally the only one with a child, my nephew having been born a couple of years in.  To be fair, Sacha’s cousins had kids, but it wasn’t the same to me as my sister’s kid.  It lacked the same familial relevance to me, but that’s probably because when I was growing up, my cousins were second cousins so they were the kids of my great aunt, and our families were just fundamentally different:  city/country, holiday religious/strictly religious, they were homeschooled.  

Ok, like that last one wasn’t enough to be a stand alone argument for the differences between the relationship I had with my second cousins versus Sacha and his first cousins who were basically raised like step siblings…but take this one as a bonus argument:  the only TV I ever remember my cousins watching was Lawrence Welk.  Let me tell you, no matter what my siblings and I couldn’t agree on growing up, we were fairly united in our opinion that none of us wanted to be at our cousins’ house after dinner on a weekend.

Back to my family holidays – I know, me digressing – this was back before my parents realized their divorce wasn’t gonna work out and remarried, so once the ‘phew came on the scene my dad became a regular fixture at most family holidays.  Big plus for me, as I’d really developed a comfortable friendship with my dad after my parents divorced in Cali and my mom and siblings all moved back to Oregon.

Not this homo, though.

SoCal was where I was first exposed to the idea of Chosen or Logical Family.  You see, there was this boy…stop rolling your eyes.  This was an important relationship for me, because he was my first real boyfriend.  Ok, my second, but I routinely don’t count the first boy I was serious about because he used to…let’s say, slap me around.  And not in that way that those kinky people enjoy.  This was bad stuff, so I typically disregard him when I talk about my relationship history, kind of like the “first” shot you don’t count when you really screw up on the tee while golfing.  Yeah…this was my Mulligan boyfriend.

So, Mulligan and I were basically living together after a month, which was great since the One That Doesn’t Count would just randomly show up at my old place and knock the crap out of me or use my bedroom as a fuck pad for whoever he happened to pick up.  God, I loathe this guy.  Oh!  And he was the only older guy I ever dated.

Read everything into that, please.

One of the things I got with Mulligan was his friend group, including his roommate – who happened to sound pretty much exactly like the moviefone guy.  He loved to entertain and the townhouse I shared with them had this great fenced in patio area that we could all gather in to celebrate all of the holidays the way the gods of SoCal intended:  outside.

Of course, the friends in this cobbled-together family were pretty much one of a kind, too.  MovieFone guy, The Billys: White and Black, The Impossibly Natural Blonde, Les – who can really only be described as More plus more than a few others.  Spending time with them was as natural and effortless as you could possibly imagine.  Surely a once in a lifetime confluence of Chosen Family good fortune.

Until

The group of homos I fell into after buying my house after moving back to Portland before the turn of the century.

Dougs Big and Little, The Curator of the Ricksonian, Big Word Ben, Princesses Frode and Stacinia, the latter of which will live in infamy in my heart for her first words to me – or my back, anyway – “Your trees are DISEASED.” which was punctuated by the scream of tabacco being burned alive, a bellows being drawn as she inhaled and a popping sound as her pursed lips opened in a perfect circle before she delivered her introductory line in the perfect blend of Bette Davis and Harvey Fierstein.

I’m shuddering and laughing as I recall that introduction.

They weren’t, for the record.

Here I was, for the second time in my life being welcomed into a pre-existing Chosen Family group of fantastic, accepting, gay men.  And Stacinea, of course.  I was lucky enough to live next door to the anchor of the group, who hosted most of the holidays and birthday parties.  His apartner – Big Doug – would usually host a dinner for Christmas or Thanksgiving, but everything else was pretty much at The Ricksonian – which pretty much needs its own blog post, so wait for it.

Things got a little more sporadic around holidays with this group after Big Doug passed himself away the day after one the Thanksgiving dinners he hosted.  It takes a bit to come back from that without the specter of suicide darkening the event.  But they did rebound and are actually still happening today, although in a new location.

Yes, The Ricksonian was gone before you ever knew it existed, kind reader.

But, Princess Frode – Joanne Worley impersonator (retired) – can still be found holding court from her club chair.  The hairpiece may come and go with the decades, but the ice clanking and ring tapping when her drink needs refreshing are a welcome, eyeroll inducing constant in the holiday dinner party universe, the old queen.

When the PDX Logical Family quasi-scattered after the loss of Big Doug, I got to re-experience the value of the quieter, smaller family get togethers at Sacha’s family’s home.  It was generally a super intimate affair:  us, his parents and his maternal grandmother – who also happened to be one of the first female officers in the US Armed Forces.  

Naturally, he called her Sarge.

Oh, and Max!  The family dog.

Holidays with his family were great.  Spending time with a small group of family – much like what I have with my family these days but with one less person, two fewer dogs –  was the perfect way to celebrate a holiday, in my humble retail-career-minded opinion.  No muss, just show up, take the cocktail you’re offered, enjoy some stories and conversation while dad man’s the grill, eat, play cards…perfect.

I’d be doing his mom a disservice if I didn’t mention the flip-side of these holidays that were more formal than grilling.  The attention and emotion she invested into the evening’s menu was a physical demonstration of the genuine love she had for her family.  The “aw, shucks” self-effacing manner in which she poo-pooed the praise her hostessing earned was part of the low-key charm of these slightly more formal holidays.  But even on the casual holidays, dad would grill but mom would pretty much do the sides, which were also always well thought out…even if it was just salad and corn on the cob: it was salad with trimmings and plenty of dressing options and corn on the cob with upgrades like cayenne pepper in addition to butter, salt and pepper.  All served with the same “aw, shucks” demeanor present for big holidays that basically was her way of demonstrating her love for her boys: her husband, her son, me…and of course, Max.

With dinner history like this to warm my heart, you’d think I have the good sense to not compete with greatness and attempt my own dinner party.

Alas.

But maybe it’s these role models that drive me to strive to attempt to give something back to the people in my life these days to create – hopefully and in some small way – an opportunity to foster similar memories for the folks that I share these dinner parties with…

Dinner Party:  Holiday

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