When Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos snuck up on me, I made a conscious effort not to be caught off guard by holidays in this life. I called Kari and got details on traditions and plans and roles for all the major holidays. I knew weeks ahead of time we were going to her parents for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas Eve. New Years is out with Rosita and some friends at some party in the city. Ashley's Birthday is in March, "My" birthday is in May and all of those dates a few minor ones are written in my phone calendar as well as on the wall calendar in the kitchen. (I bought it when Ashely started school, a little low-tech but its good to have a constant reminder of upcoming events).
Holidays are a big deal, even when they aren't. If you asked any random person to remember a day from the past year, odds are their most vivid memories would be of a holiday. The routine and traditions and happiness that surround them stick in people's minds. If I mess up as Kari on one of these, it would do the most damage, so I'm being proactive.
It also gave me time to prepare for Thanksgiving. Normally Thanksgiving back home involved watching football on the TV, trying to avoid relatives who want to start drama, and drinking when they eventually do. No such luck this year. As much as I hoped for a more progressive viewpoint, apparently traditional gender roles are enforced on Thanksgiving at the Cruz house, which meant that I was going to have to cook....and bake. I was looking up how to make stuff like turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes when I got an email from Kari. Apparently her mom took care of that stuff, I was only responsible for the Cherry Pie and the chili, and she had sent recipes for both.
I know what you're thinking, chili? Yeah, apparently its not a Mexican thing or anything like that, its just some thing the Cruzes (Cruces? I really should look that up) do. Unlike a lot of families they eat Thanksgiving dinner at regular dinner time instead of early afternoon. This means that between breakfast and dinner there's a lot of cooking but not a lot of food ready. The Chili is made the night before in a crock pot which gets turned on very early in the morning so that around lunchtime you have a nice, light meal that's great on a cold day. I was able to make both dishes pretty close to what Kari did, because if there is one thing I've learned to do in this life is follow a recipe. I eat out a lot back in New York, but we can't afford that here so most of the food preparation falls on me and whatever cheap and interesting recipes I can find on the internet. It was a lot of hot dogs and Kraft Macaroni at first, but I've improved since then.
I managed to pull myself away from the cooking a few times to chat with "Dad" and catch a glimpse of a little football. Thanksgiving football is a big deal in Detroit because apparently the tradition got started here or something and Eduardo is a huge Lions fan. He, like everyone in Kari's life, was simultaneously curious and pleasantly surprised at my sudden knowledge of sports, and he was a bit curious about why I was so happy when Dallas lost but it was nice to have some bonding, even it if was artificial.
I actually did a lot of bonding that day, both with Kari's parents and Ashley and it kind of made me a bit emotional. Having my brain dunked in estrogen has really made me susceptible to watery eyes when something kinda sad happens, and all this family time made me miss my real family, dysfunctional as they are. I really don't talk to my parents more than maybe once a month, and I only really ever visit them for holidays and that's mostly out of obligation. I think it's the fact that I've disappeared from their lives and they have no way of knowing, or even believing it. I snuck away during the day and sent a text to Jennifer telling her to give everyone a hug for me, even thought it would be totally out of character. I hugged the Cruz family for Kari, even though there wasn't any specific request to do so.
I ate what would be considered a lot for a large man, let alone a tiny woman. I still need to get my eyes in step with my new stomach. And while it is a myth that turkey makes you sleepy it is true that eating a lot of food in general will make you sleepy and I wound up crashing on the couch watching a movie. Ashley wound up curling up on a big chair nearby and without it ever being said it was assumed that we'd be staying the night there because it led into the next family tradition.
Getting up at 4 in the fucking morning to go shopping.
I generally look down on the idea of following up a holiday designed to be thankful with one designed to be ruthless in the pursuit of cheap stuff (And this is coming from an investment banker) but apparently Pilar liked to do the bulk of her Christmas shopping that day to stretch her dollars as far as they'll go. Shopping and I have an interesting relationship since I've taken over Kari's life, in that I really only do it when we need something. Kari didn't really follow that rule as evidenced by the giant closet full of clothes that probably were only worn a few times.
Most of the shopping done that day was done by Pilar for Eduardo and relatives who I'd never met and lived far enough away that probably wouldn't. I mostly gave advice and helped find things in stores. Ashely came along to, and would occasionally stand by an outfit or electronic device and drop obvious hints that she wanted that, and I made mental notes. I am glad we came along, even though I didn't buy anything because store openings that early in the morning are brutal. The crowds are animalistic even, and its mostly middle aged moms pushing each other and occasionally yelling. Ashley and I were there to watch Pilar's back to make sure she didn't get trampled.
It was 5 pm when Ashley and I finally got back to "our" place with a couple of bags that she kept hidden from me and a pile of leftovers. As I curled up on the couch in sweatpants I started thinking about Christmas presents. Not only what to get the Cruz family and what I COULD buy them, but also to get input from Kari. I also composed an email for Jennifer so she could buy stuff for my family and friends and I got a little blue again thinking about them.
It's gonna be a challenging season.