It is never too late to begin a family Christmas tradition.
My grandmother died this year so this Christmas was a little tough because it was the first one without her. But when she was alive, we liked to tease her mercilessly about her John Wayne obsession. She adored the man and had all of his movies. Not only that, she had likenesses of him that adorned the walls of her apartment. And whenever we’d get fresh with her, she’d say “You just wait. When I kick the bucket I’m leaving all of my John Wayne pictures to you.”
So yesterday, as we finished our Christmas dinner and silently expressed our lingering sadness over her absence, my uncle pulled out something that’s going to affect our lives forever. It’s a painting of John Wayne. Not only that, it’s an awful picture with his mug and horses pulling wagons. And it’s painted on a piece of wood and the sides are tree bark.
It is truly hideous.
My family is big on board games of all kinds, and we routinely play them after we’re done with holiday feasts and present-opening. But this year, we decided the winner of our games would be entitled to more than just bragging rights. From now on, whichever household wins the game will also get to pick one of the losers, and that loser will have to hang the ugly John Wayne picture somewhere in their house for an entire year until the following Christmas.
My grandmother would’ve appreciated the thought of any one of us grudgingly hanging a picture of her favorite actor in our homes.
This year my Aunt Val, Uncle Arthur and cousin Bradley won. And despite my incessant lobbying for them to send the picture home with my brother to Baltimore where he would have to explain the “art” to his girlfriend, they did not choose my brother. I think you can see where this is headed.
The Duke is currently hanging in my living room for the next 363 days. And somewhere, my grandmother is laughing her sick, twisted ass off at me. She always told me I’d end up with John Wayne in my house. But I guess it’s fitting, because none of us could ever say no to her anyway.
However, getting saddled with John Wayne was not my favorite part of Christmas. In fact, my favorite part of Christmas wasn’t even on Christmas Day itself.
On Christmas Eve I ended up spending time at my parent’s house while Will and MJ were visiting with her dad (Papa) and his girlfriend Donna (Grammy). Little did I know, that meant I had unwittingly volunteered myself to help assemble the present my brother bought Will. What was the present you ask?
That’s right, a 125-piece wooden train table set. And that’s in addition to the dozens of Thomas the Train Engine gifts that Will received for Christmas this year. But Nate’s present was easily the largest in both size and generosity. And while I appreciate the obvious amount of thought that went into the gift, I soon realized actually giving it to him was going to be easier said than done.
You see, Gouveia men are a lot of things. Witty, intelligent, handsome and humble to name a few. However, the one thing we are not, is handy. In a nutshell, we’re mechanically deficient and putting things together or assembling anything even remotely complicated is not our strong suit. Not only that, but we’re also all extremely argumentative, short-tempered and sarcastic.
Not exactly a winning combination.
Things started off…well…poorly, to say the least. The instructions had no words, just pictures. And not all the parts were labeled correctly. And did I mention this thing had 125 FRIGGIN PIECES?!!?!? Not only did we have to assemble the table, but once that was done we also had to build the multi-level train track. The first half hour left me convinced the night would end in bloodshed.
But then a funny thing happened.
We connected a few of the pieces and started working together, knowing it was all for Will. Then we kept on working, but we also were talking and kidding around. The next two hours featured some testiness, but mostly laughter and good-natured ribbing while my mom cooked delicious smelling Christmas food and the speakers played some Christmas tunes. It may have taken awhile, but in the end we got it done and Will absolutely loved it.
And, strangely enough, it ended up being the best part of Christmas.