A Chinese Hip-Hop, Marshmallow Shooter Christmas

This was probably the most unusual Christmas our family has ever spent.  The Nephew’s girlfriend invited nine of her college friends home for the holidays, one of whom is a PhD.  Three left before dinner, which made it possible to fit (barely) everyone around my brother’s table.

The Chinese students were all amiable, friendly, and very merry and very polite.  As we sat around the dinner table, they spoke of their studies and their plans for the future, as well as their families back home.  Soon, they got around to talking about siblings.  They queried each other about their status.  Each one woefully admitted that they were an only child (as is The Nephew).

“None of you has any brothers or sisters?” my mother began to exclaim when my older brother interrupted her.

“It’s China, Mom.  They have a one-child-only policy.”

But then one of the young men spoke up.

“I have a brother,” he announced smiling.  There was great exclamation around the table.

“You have a brother?!”  “I wish I had a brother.”

It was the sort of exclamation of wonder that we Americans save for things like swimming pools, Jacuzzis, horses, and private airplanes.  “You have an in-ground swimming pool?  Wow!”  or “You have your own Lear jet?!  Awesome!”

Imagine if I had told them that one of my former supervisors had seven brothers.  Seven?!  That’s a lot of brothers, even here in America.  My younger brother took it upon himself to combine the prayer and the toast and gabble on about his friends in South America.  As hostess, I intended for my older brother to perform that duty and welcome the guests at the table.

I arranged the seating at this dinner to content my mother, the matriarch of our clan.  To please her, I squeezed the poor Nephew between his father and his grandmother, although his girlfriend was just to the other side of his father.  I learned that seating arrangement from watching Pride and Prejudice.  You always sit across from your partner, not next to them, so that you’re compelled to mingle with the other guests.

After dinner, we Americans retired to the den, where the nephew got an excellent fire going.  He and his Chinese friends had put up a gigantic, 7-foot Christmas tree.  They only got the tree half decorated when they became bored.  My older brother said they had trouble putting the tree into its holder.  They’d only placed the trunk halfway in.  He couldn’t get these young engineers to understand that they had to put the tree on the floor.  But when he put in their terms – “put the load to the floor (so that the floor carries the weight),” they finally understood.

The Nephew finished decorating the tree and then he put the boxes in the basement, which was closer than the attic where the decorations had been languishing these last five years or so.  He was so helpful the entire evening.

As for my brother, he grew merrier as the day progressed and found himself under the dictates of a woman taking charge of his household (for the day).  At first, we had a fuss over a pile of mail that he apparently hadn’t looked at.  Amidst the clutter were unopened Christmas cards, checks, and notices, as well as the usual heap of junk mail and magazines.

“I don’t want you to organize my mail!” he complained.  “How do you know what’s important to me and what isn’t?”

“I think I can tell the difference between a flyer from Shop Rite and a check from your insurance company,” I replied.  And of course, I threw nothing away.  He used to have these same battles with his ex-wife, who finally threw in the dish towel.  Sisters aren’t as easily put off.  We can say some things that wives can’t.  He finally got into such high household spirits that he even ran upstairs and made his bed.

If China is the model for the future Progressive society, with its one-child per family policy, the world is in for somber times, as our Chinese guests could attest.  They are young yet.  My brother’s house looked like a college dorm, with blankets, pillows, empty water bottles and other late adolescent accoutrements scattered about the house.  The Nephew’s girlfriend sounded annoyed, but in the absence of any other Mrs. Big Brother, for that occasion, I was the lady of the house and it simply couldn’t be left in that condition.

They had gone next door to visit with my brother’s ex.  There was no telling when they’d be back, so I cleaned the place up myself, blankets, dishes and all.  I remember that age; almost adult, but not quite there in the household responsibility department (except for The Nephew).

So, as we opened presence in the den, the Chinese students sang Chinese hip-hop.  It wasn’t exactly “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” but it was at least merry.  Merrier than my brother’s house has been in a while.  I gave The Nephew his last gift after everyone had left the room.  I gave him a marshmallow shooter, along with a package of stale, hard mini-marshmallows.

His father came into the room and asked him what it was.

“What are you going to do with it?” Big Brother asked.

“Shoot G.G.,” was the prompt answer.  He went into the living room, took aim at his girlfriend, and his target.  She began running around the house, with The Nephew in pursuit.

“What are you doing?!” she shrieked.  “What do you think you are?  Six years old?”

Ping!  He got her again, and she learned what it means to have a brother.

The next time I go up to Big Brother’s house, I’ll have to dust for marshmallows.

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Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm  Comments (3)  

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