When I was growing up, my parents had this Boxing Day tradition where they would do a big open house for friends and family. There would be food and drink and Christmas dinner leftovers – just a big ol’ party. You’re probably thinking “who in their right mind has a gigantic party the day AFTER Christmas, that is just messed up.” And you’d be right, of course. It’s crazy. But it’s a tradition that dates back to the early 70s when my grandma died just before Christmas, and the visitation and all that was on Boxing Day, and my parents lived closest to the funeral home, and had everyone back between the afternoon and evening visitation times – and thus, a tradition was born.
We lived in a little postwar bungalow and we would sometimes have 60-70 people in the house on that day. I remember having to go outside frequently to get away from the heat and the cigarette smoke and the crazy relatives. That was about the only place that didn’t have people in it from noon until whenever all the food was gone or whatever.
This was mostly my dad’s family – he was one of 10 kids, whereas my mother has only one brother who is divorced and has no kids, so it was my dad’s family that descended upon our place. And what a madcap cast of characters they were. One of my dads old aunts was particularly bizarre. There were lots of rumours about Aunt Nikki (that wasn’t her name, that was just what they called her. I still don’t know why or even what her real name was) that she’d gone off the deep end after marrying a Protestant (the horror) and felt to make amends or whatever, that she needed to give as much as possible to the church – this often included the family’s furniture, money – a lot of money – and food for her kids – which the church, rather nicely, would always return to the family posthaste. She also spent a lot of time at mass, and basically just lost touch with reality and in a lot of ways it was really quite sad. But she never missed Boxing Day at our house! She would arrive early – usually by taxi – and stay late – usually by hopping into the car of someone who was leaving – and they’d be compelled to give her a lift home. Aunt Nikki had a huge purse that she always carried around and it held some of the most amazing things you’d ever want to see – missals, squashed After Eights, photos of children (her grandchildren? Maybe, maybe not) silverware (we were usually missing a fork or two after Boxing Day festivities) newspaper clippings and obituaries, and many other odd things. She was wild and hilarious in so many ways, and the contents of the purse was just the icing on the cake, really.
Today I ran some errands at lunch. I hit the library, the drugstore and the Lebanese grocery store. Being the environmentally conscious UIG I am, I refused all offers of plastic bags, and instead chose to carry my purchases in… my huge, giant purse. Let’s take a look, shall we? Right now, I am carrying a tube of Canesten, a new eye liner brush, a book about knitting, and a package of whole wheat pita. And if I stopped in to visit a friend after work and and needed to rummage through the contents to find a picture of my kid to show them?
Batshit old lady? I might just have to rethink Aunt Nikki.