This Way Lies Madness…
The scent of pine stings my nose. A blast of cold air through the front door announces yet another visitor. There’s the pitter-patter of my niece’s little feet against the floor as she runs back and forth, trying in vain to take it all in. The lights, the decorations, the spinning star on top of the tree, the fiber-optic snowman trio sitting on the windowsill, the bubble lights above the fireplace, the never-ending crowd of family members talking, eating, laughing, shouting and Lord, there is never a dull moment. Or a quiet one either.
The satisfying heaviness of Mom’s cooking hangs in the air. Soft lilts of Christmas songs pour relentlessly from the stereo speakers and the twinkling lights on the mantel cast an almost-magical, relaxing glow that reminds me of hot chocolate with a candy cane. At the moment, I’m surrounded by this familiarity. Don’t worry, I’m not being rude. I’m writing and interacting, which helps the flow of words and my crazy family is too busy being crazy to notice I’m putting all of this down on paper. Then my oldest sister sits next to me, bumping my arm so that my pen skitters across the page. She gives me a goofy look before casting a critical eye on the “interior illumination” as she likes to call it. For a moment, she’s silent and then she says something that breaks this soft bubble of relaxation, of Zen.
“The Christmas tree is crooked.”
“Whatever,” I reply in true-sister eye roll.
But I nonetheless look at the tree…
Indeed. It’s crooked.
It’s listing to the left like it forgot to take its daily slurp of V8. Since I’m the one who put the tree up and failed to notice its slanting appearance, I, of course, was indignant. I’m sure you can imagine the conversation that followed her acute observation.
What is it about our families, especially around the holidays, that make us feel warm and fuzzy yet also prompts us into screaming and jumping out of the nearest window? These people who are related to you (and believe me, there is nothing you can do to change that) drive you nuts, they make you laugh until your stomach cramps but somehow, they’re the ones who can hurt you more than anyone else. They’re the ones who can make you positively stupid with anger. Strange, isn’t it, that the people you’re supposed to love most in the world are the same ones who can wield the power to rip your heart out of your chest.
I find that when I’m writing, a lot of my stories have that underlying two-sides-of-the-same-coin theme of family and I had no idea I was even doing it until I was halfway through my latest novel, Traffic Jam. The story is about sex trafficking, told from an outsider’s point-of-view. I chose that perspective because I wanted to or at least, I hoped to convey that not only is this illegal act a destroyer of the person unfortunately caught in its darkness, but also a destroyer of that person’s family. And whereas I don’t personally know the hopeless despair of such a dark world, I know family.
That much I know and armed with that, I was able to write the book.
So even as my sister sits next to me, nit-picking at my Christmas decorating skills and I begin to seethe in irritation, there is a huge part of me that recognizes, that knows that without the bickering, the complaining, the bantering back-and-forth in ways that only family members can do, I can’t imagine my life without it.
Oh, sure, there are plenty of times I forget that. My family’s probably just like yours—crazy, opinionated, argumentative and clearly not all there. But hey, we all have our issues, right? Have you ever met a family that didn’t have problems? If so, then I’d start to worry.
But for now, my family and yes, the whole package, flaws and all, is what drives me to do what I do.
Even if they do drive me crazy at the same time.
Enjoy the holidays everyone!
© 2012 by Melissa Groeling