As is typical in my family, we have a fondue for new years. It’s somewhat of a tradition my mother started when I was a young skinny boy growing up in an ordinary middle-class residential neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest. Winter here involves rain and cold, but rarely snow. Fondue is a great way to celebrate. It’s hot, delicious, and you can set it out and graze on it. Unlike me, my parents both enjoyed football. I remember sitting around with them in the downstairs living room, watching the games, getting chunks of cheese covered bread, fruit, and vegetables from the fondue pots. There was also beef and shrimp from the boiling oil pot, and later there would be fruit from the chocolate pot for desert.
This year I wasn’t so ambitious. I have one fondue pot. It’s electric, and maintains a constant temperature without needing the sterno cans my mother used to use. I made cheese fondue, but skipped the oil (or bullion) and chocolate. For dipping, I laid out cauliflower, mushrooms, french bread, and chopped pears. In addition to this, we had a salad and I barbecued rib steak. So it was a steak-fondue combo. Quite tasty.
We were invited to a new years party at the house of one of my son’s friends, but neither my wife nor I really wanted to go. I took my son over where I was then invited to stay. It was uncomfortable having to leave – awkward – as they wanted me to stay, and had quite a spread of good food, and would have been interesting company. But as my wife was waiting, I had a drink and then left after about twenty minutes, explaining that she wasn’t feeling like doing anything but watching television and relaxing. They are extroverts. I don’t think they understand how introverts work. For extroverts, spending time with people is energizing. For introverts, spending time with people is draining. I can be an extrovert if I need to be, but I’m innately introverted, as is my wife.
Once home, we proceeded to watch movies. I rented Beasts of the Southern Wild and Looper. My wife wasn’t really interested in either movie. She enjoys drama, but not science fiction or fantasy, whereas I will watch almost anything. Unfortunately, there was nothing out at this time that fit in her narrow genre range. She tolerated Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was somewhat of a miserable movie, although she did enjoy watching the little girl, who was an excellent actress for her age, and cute enough to make the movie interesting. The ending wasn’t totally depressing, but it wasn’t exactly uplifting either.
After Beasts of the Southern Wild, she informed me that I should go retrieve my son, and I headed down the street back to party central where I found several couples involved in a card game. They insisted I join them and asked about my wife again. I avoided the topic, and tried to excuse myself, but they offered me another drink and donated a bunch of pennies so that I could play. Reluctantly, I sat down and figured I would play for a few minutes before leaving.
I won the first three rounds in a row, and a few minutes became an hour and a half as I gambled to lose what I had won so that I could return home. Finally, at about 11:30, they took a break and I grabbed my son and departed post-haste back to my house. My wife had already gone to bed. I could detect a chill in the air, and the scent of her disapproval. Rather than go up to bed and face her icy wrath, I decided to watch Looper with my son. Fireworks went off at midnight around the neighborhood as we watched the movie. I enjoyed Looper, it was rather fun, but I didn’t care too much for the ending.
The next morning my wife was sullen and withdrawn. She spoke little of the previous night except to ask why I had not come home. I explained that I’d become tangled up in a card game. She told me that I should have called. She might have come over if she’d known we were playing cards, and that the party was so small. (There were only three couples present). This was not something I had considered at the time, since she’d been so adamant earlier about not going. I felt bad about it. She’s good at making me feel guilty. I made a mental note to call her if a card game was in progress and I found myself in this situation again. Frankly, I hadn’t wanted to be the one shuttling my son back and forth from his friends house in the first place, and had told her I was going to get stuck. She said I was too easily manipulated – that I should have been stronger. But, in truth, I had only planned to stay there for a short time. It just never works out that way. I was having fun, and she had not wanted to come.
In the morning, I looked out the window at 2013, and watched the news about the fiscal cliff resolution over a cup of coffee. This holiday was too long for me. I had “use it or lose it PTO” for three weeks. My company would not buy the time back from me, and would not roll over the time I had, so I had been forced to take vacation for a week and a half. That, combined with the holidays, put me at home for three weeks. I will never do that again. It’s simply too hard spending that much time with my family. I love them, but I can’t take them in long doses like that. And I can’t write at home. Something always happens to distract me.
I’m glad to be back at work.