This post is not a story or an anecdote. It doesn’t have an intro, a climax, or a punchline. It is simply a look into my family life in Montana to help you understand why I love it here so much.
Like many people in this country, I am lucky enough to have 2 families. Since my mom celebrates Chanukkah, my brother and I usually spend Christmas with my dad and then a few days either before or after with my mom, her husband, and the stepsibs.
On Christmas Eve, my dad, my brother and I put up and decorated our tree (most of our family traditions stem from habitual procrastination) while listening to a Christmas music mix I put together. My dad complained that the music was all by “living people” instead of Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, etc. Then the three of us, all hopeless romantics without significant others, curled up on the couch and watched Love Actually. My dad is 60, my brother is 22, and I was the only one who hadn’t seen it at least once before.
On Christmas day, we went over to my aunt and uncle’s house, like we always do. This tradition stems from habitual laziness mixed with the desire to be with family for the holidays. My dad’s sister is one of his best friends and she takes good care of her single brother (and his kids) on holidays. I honestly don’t know how she does it, but she always makes amazing meals for us and makes it look easy. Anyway, my brother and I are very close to our cousins and their spouses, so it’s always loads of fun. This year, Terence (my cousin Kristin’s husband) brought his Wii to the house for everyone to play. My aunt Carol was by far the most excited about this, and she also proved to be a master at the game where you saw a log, hammer a nail, and then paint a wall. For Christmas, Carol and uncle Fred gave Terence Guitar Hero. So, naturally, we all played. All night. We were almost bummed to take a break for dinner. The quote of the day came when Terence asked my brother Peter if he thought they had GH in India, where Pete will be spending three months this spring. Pete responded, “Naw, but they have Sitar Hero.”
Also of note, Kristin got me a shirt for Christmas that says this:
Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don’t make sense
The day after Christmas, Pete and I left with my mom, her husband Ed, and our stepbrother Ben to go to Chico Hot Springs for 3 days. Chico’s right next to Yellowstone Park, so we spent our days cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through the park next to bison, wolves, and coyotes. Then we’d come home and sit in the hot pools and drink beers. The temperature ranged from 1-5 degrees Fahrenheit while we were there, and I did not leave the car with less than 4 layers of pro-performance gear during the whole trip.
We exchanged presents on the first night in my mom and Ed’s “cabin” – a gutted and refinished caboose from the old railroad line in Montana – and my mom gave me (among other things) a pair of earrings made from PBR bottle caps.
Chico was a lot of fun. Excitement included my mom getting the car stuck in a snowbank and Ben digging it out with his “avalanche test” shovel, as well as a bartender asking my mom to verify my brother’s birthday before serving him beer, to which she responded “June 15th.” Like he was really asking if Pete was a Gemini. We were happy to come back to Missoula, though, because it’s always a little disconcerting when every building you enter has a sign outside saying “All Hunters: Please Do NOT Bring Guns Inside.” In the car ride back, my mom, my brother, and I rocked out to Michael Jackson for over 2 hours. It was beautiful.