Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas Time with the fam
My family's Christmas parties are wild. I literally just spent about 5 hours eating, doing an impromptu set of poems (mostly new, though I got some requests for poems from my high school days lol), and watching two of my favorite NBA teams lose (darn you Tim Duncan, you no-style-having, unfresh-lineup-rocking, fundamentally sound superhuman athlete!). Before I even got to the Boogie Down for the party though, I had quite the illuminating Christmas morning. See, it was my first year of getting "grown-up" gifts. The presents ranged from a fleece to luggage a CD holder. Its crazy, you know? How you go from brand new PlayStations to unwrapped pajama pants in a couple of years. Don't get it twisted, I'm certainly grateful for the gifts my parents got me (as I was in dire need of both pajamas and suitcases without gaping holes in them) but nevertheless today served as a salient shifting point for me. My first Christmas as an oldhead. Today was the first December 25th where I was the one screaming at the TV with my twentysomething cousins as I thought back on Christmases past, remembering when we are all just kids and none of us had facial hair or girlfriends or any of that other crazy stuff that comes along with old age. There were also a lot of babies.
A whole lot of babies.
I counted at least six distinct sub-5 year old life forms, but there may have been more. Just all these little brown children that I'd never seen before, bursting at the seams to tell me their names, playing their little video game thingies, rocking in their baby seats and performing strange movements with their abnormally tiny feet. It was beautiful to see all of our generations connecting in that way, from my grandma (at the ripe, young age of 80) down to my nephew Miles (not even 4 months old yet). It was another reminder (like my out-loud, spontaneous moment of revelation when I told my uncle that I only have 3 remaining semesters of college left) that time is fleeing...fast. Too fast for any of us to catch. Even if we wanted to.
On a a lighter note, the food was amazing. Imagine about 5 or 6 of the illest chefs ever convening in a single spot and constructing a culinary collage of about twenty different dishes from across the soul food spectrum. That is what I experienced today, that shangri lai of yam souffle and collard greens, beef ribs and red beans and rice, macaroni and cheese and baked chicken all warmed to protection and laid out before me like a map of something to be conquered. Wild, I know. But there's something marvelous about it, seeing the hours that goes into these meals, into delicately crafting the aesthetic and visceral pleasure of both looking at and eventually consuming them, and then cleaning everything up when it's gone. A metaphor for temporariness. The beauty of that moment before that first bite may be the best you ever feel, so savor it. That's what the spatula wielding warriors of my clan taught me today. That its never just the food or company or fierce games of Taboo. Its all of it. At once. We are always remembering and forgetting; in a constant state of limbo between the past and present, bare-knuckle brawling with the hands of time as we strive to hold on to the things that matter most.
But you know what I believe? I believe that when repentant tastebuds die they go to my mother's kitchen. That's their Heaven, that spot right behind the oven that none of us ever take the time to look at to see if they're there. In the form of a grease spot on the wall or a lonely muffin crumb, i'm willing to wager that reincarnated tastebuds tell stories to each other about the Christmas parties the women of my family have strung together over the years through their magical manipulation of pan and pot.
I wonder what they will say about me when it's my turn.