Today is one of my favorite days in the whole year. (Shame it happens so early in the year most years.)
Each Christmas, my parents give my SIL and me a Macy’s gift card. The SIL and I make a date, usually around my birthday, to shop at Macy’s. We hit up the clearance racks, and we hit them up hard. I usually have to talk her into buying color (she likes her beiges and blues; I try to get her to buy reds or greens). She usually likes what I pick out, although she is also honest enough to say she likes it on ME, but wouldn’t buy it for herself.
Some years we get lunch, too. This year, we are actually going to meet our husbands out for dinner. That will be nice. Many times, when my parents come to town, it’s for an event that we would have to all see each other anyway. So having dinner just the four of us, for the heck of it, is a treat.
Neither my SIL or I are extravagant spenders or fancy-pants dressers. She doesn’t currently work outside the home, although between volunteering at her boys’ schools (they have four boys, ages 16 to 8) and at her parish, she’s not exactly a house-bound, housewife by any stretch. We try on jeans, shirts, sweaters, and pants; I usually look for work-appropriate skirts and dresses, and I am always on the lookout for something a little funky, a little fun. Sometimes I splurge on jewelry to match an outfit — it’s the only way I get coordinating jewelry. One year, I got a pair of Guess boots for $27.
We mostly talk about the children and extended family. My SIL is fun. She’s a little more conservative than I (both she and my brother are more conservative), and no, I don’t know who they voted for. But we have a good time.
My brother is… he’s deeply funny. It’s kind of hard to describe him. He’s very quiet. He doesn’t have a big personality. He is probably one of the smartest people I know. I can’t think of a time we spent together (as adults) that I thought, “Ugh, that was torture.” I wish we saw each other more. He gets worked up about sports, and loves his Steelers and Penguins. He loves to read, and manages to get through more books than I do. If he recommends something, I usually try to check it out.
I think we share some core values, values we were raised with, about the value of people and Catholic values regarding loving one another. He is loyal, family-oriented, sarcastic but not mean. We share the same tastes in music.
My brother and I are NOT opposites. If anything, Dan and my brother are opposites. They are passionate about different things, smart about different things, and where my brother is reserved, Dan wears his heart on his sleeve.
That’s what we will probably talk about at dinner with each other, books and movies, music, children. We’ll make fun of each other, but not in a mean way. We’ll share good food and good beer. I am looking forward to it.
Then on Sunday, another annual ritual. My husband and I bought the building he works in from a couple, one of whom is a colleague of Dan’s from Duquesne. He is semi-retired, and brought Dan into his practice several years ago; we signed the lease on the Crafton building soon after Michael was born. Each year, this couple take us out to dinner to celebrate the occasion. We always go to Bella Fruttetta, and the food is always excellent. The couple usually orders the same thing every year; Dan usually gets a special, and I try to change it up if they have a new vegetarian entree on the menu.
But it is another good night of lively conversation, some reminiscing, and a celebration of sharing. Sharing lives and paths, food and drink.
This is why we are here — and I do mean this in the larger philosophical sense. To share, to cross paths and find people with whom you share values. We don’t choose our family, it is true, and I realize how blessed I am to have family I love and enjoy being with. And then I am doubly blessed to have a tribe outside of my family, of like-minded friends.
We will raise glasses and toast to our good fortune (and, possibly, wish for the impeachment of a President), and for this weekend, it will be enough. It will be what I do for myself in 2018, and gather strength to do more hard work.
What will you raise a glass to this weekend?