My family tends to get along pretty well. We're just weird that way. But no family meal is without its little tensions and near the end of every holiday dinner, when I'm feeling like okay, it's been a long afternoon and evening, but I'm really doing pretty darned well, there comes a moment that I had forgotten I dread until it is upon me.
Dessert is served. Coffee and tea are served. No one takes coffee but my father. He is French, so he is able to withstand vast amounts of caffeine late into the evening and still sleep like a medicated baby.
Someone or other pours for him. I am on the opposite side of the table, always. I study him, because he is in front of me. He sits rigidly in his chair. Never have I seen a straighter spine. And here it comes, the moment I always forget and then, horrified, remember. He stays willfully upright in his chair, as though tied to a whipping post. He raises his cup. His lips, being French, seem to have a life of their own. You've all seen my lips, perhaps my terroir comes from the feeling that I'm gazing into my own future. The cup is there, over the table; the mouth is here, by the whipping post. The lips--oh my GOD I can't stand it--they reach out, pursed and terrible, at least 6 inches, and GRASP the edge of the coffee cup and "sscchhhhlluuurp" the hot liquid up, over and all the way down into the Frenchman's mouth.
I gently, tremblingly, put down my fork. I want to scream, cry and/or die. I want to let all my muscles go slack and face plant into my gluten free pumpkin pie. I want to drown my dismay in whipped cream. I want brandy in my eggnog. I want to stay face down until they all go home.
Oh wait. My father lives with me.
And that is when, if we are all very lucky, I turn to the Tea & Yoga Society's Holiday Mantra.
"If you want to find peace of mind don't find fault with others."
That's it. We are all so unique and interesting. Our differences are what make the world go 'round, but also what gets our knickers in a twist. If we can allow ourselves a quick and quiet moment, we might find that those very eccentricities that drive us up the wall are simply trademarks of individuality. Those individualities that will die with the bearer. And then they may begin to seem dear, and we may even miss them. Sigh. If you're feeling ambitious, you can even try to love those quirks, go for it.
It's not always easy for me to find common ground with my dad, let alone embrace all of his singularities. But what is the alternative? To stay face down in pie? No. I have to lift up my head and try to smile. For my own health I need to keep my peace no matter what is going on about me. I also need to do a lot of dishes. So I try always to choose that second option. At the very least, I try.