We all piled into the living room for a ridiculous family photo before Christmas Eve Mass, and it went just about how picture taking with our family always goes.
We put the camera on it's timer thing and set it on the top of the couch. This meant that whatever blanket Mom had tossed over the couch would be in the forefront of the photo. Naturally.
Once we were all in front of the Christmas tree, somebody noticed that the tree was leaning slightly to the right. Dad said we should all lean the other way and then maybe nobody would be able to tell in the photo, so we all commenced leaning. The camera flashed right about the time my little brother exclaimed, "You idiots! You're all leaning the wrong way!"
And another of our usual family portraits was born. In which my dad looked like Uncle Fester doing jazz hands. My dad doesn't usually look like that. For the record.
It used to be that church was the only place my brother and I didn't get along. He would fidget about and shake his foot until the whole pew was vibrating. It drove me ballistic. I would hiss at him to "Please, for the love of waffles, STOP!", and he would hiss back that he had a condition that couldn't be helped. He would then shake his leg harder just to prove his point.
Inevitably, it ended in me tackling him and Mom frowning disapprovingly at us and shaking her head no. A few times she sent me to sit in the crying room to play with the babies just so that Weezle and I would quit causing a ruckus.
Weezle and I, being adults in our twenties, no longer fought in church. We did, however, find our A.D.D. tendencies hard to combat when note passing and the tiniest giggling whispers seemed so inconspicuous.
This Christmas Eve Mass, Mom had been seated in a pew across the room from us. Just perfect glaring distance.
The thing is that my mom's really not the glaring sort. She is kind and pleasant and understanding. When she attempts a glare it just kind of looks... unnatural. Like she's trying really hard to look like she means it.
So when we looked up from our prayers and saw Mom glaring and shaking her head no at us, we tried not to glance at each other. We knew that if we made eye contact, we would lose it. Until then, we had actually been still and quiet! We had no clue what she was saying no about. Too late. I heard my brother snort and I peeked over.
That was it. We were done. The harder we tried to stop laughing, the more impossible it became. It didn't help that every time we caught our breath and looked up, Mom was there scowling harder, trying to look more and more cross.
After an elderly lady turned around to take a swing at us with her purse, we snuck out into the fellowship hall to compose ourselves.
Mom joined us shortly and I asked her what all the glaring was for.
"I don't know", she chuckled, "but some old lady in front of you was giving you guys looks, so I thought you two were up to something!"
"She would have knocked us flat if our reflexes weren't so awesome!", Weezle was still trying to get ahold of himself.
"She sure offered us one heck of a sign of peace, huh?" I managed, holding my sides.
So goes Christmas with my family. And I love it.
I spent the rest of the break helping Mom paint over the gray walls that whoever had lived in their house previously had left behind. Sunflower gold in the master bedroom to combat white Indiana winters, and orange-y red in the room I was staying in. Weezle chose a navy blue paired with a soft yellow/green wheat grass color for his room. I thought it looked pretty good.
Joseph was a telephone in my hand. At night I crept downstairs to sit on the floor and talk with him for hours. We didn't hang up until we were on the verge of falling asleep on the phone. He was resisting the temptations to smoke weed with his friends, and I was proud of him for that.
Missing each other immensely, we made up a game we could play online. I would leave a comment on his Myspace that would just be some words or a phrase, and then he would creatively illustrate it on paint and post it back to me on my wall with a word or a phrase for me to creatively illustrate.
So, I sent him the words, "Old shoe" and he sent me a picture of a shoe that was smoking a pipe. He had flowers growing out of himself, a beard, and bushy old-man eyebrows.
And then he sent me the phrase, "Never ever make me a sandwich", so I drew him a picture of a T-rex handing him a human-sandwich. Humans on bread with lettuce.
I said, "Probably not" and he made a picture of a dude with a mug of hot chocolate telling a Christmas tree salesman he was likely not interested.
Then, I responded to his phrase, "Whooped my tuckus in chess" with a picture of a knight kicking a pawn off a chess board.
As much fun as this game was, I couldn't wait for Joseph to be Joseph again. Instead of an instant chat box, or a telephone.
I was no stranger to missing.
My little brother was missing his long distance girlfriend, too. And she wouldn't be at his school when he got back.
We sat on the couch missing our significant others together.
Drinking hot cocoa and watching Firefly.