When you're a second-generation Seattle native who's spent every second of his waking life (save vacations) within the city limits, most holidays tend to hold the same cachet as your cousin Luther's 12th birthday. Whereas, for many, Christmas serves as the one time of year when they crisscross the country to quarrel and kiss with their relatives for a week or so, it is not unusual for a bloke like me to see my folks two or three times a week, sometimes randomly.
To complicate things further, I have a reasonably healthy, open relationship with my parents and have suffered from frequent bouts of inebriation in front of them by way of a mildly impressive list of controlled substances. The occasional public dustup with a scorned lover in my folks' presence is not out of the ordinary, either. Where most young adults have the luxury of keeping their dirty little secrets dirty and little, my life's an open book.
Come Christmas, there's no "So Michael, how've you been?"—because they know how I've been. Ditto with my two bros. Instead, there are sweet attempts to recapture the innocence of our youth, as my mother still fully expects us to sleep at her Martha Stewart-esque abode each Christmas Eve, despite the fact that my brothers live just four blocks away.
This typically works but with debauched results. Last year, my brothers, both of them rock stars sorta (they play in the Actual Tigers), agreed to stay over—contingent upon their having license to plow through every last drop of bourbon in the kitchen, which culminated in a 5 a.m. rendition of "With or Without You" as Santa Claus made his approach toward our chimney.
Fortunately, I myself had managed to slurp enough Jack Daniels to snooze right through this cacophony and arose that Christmas morning as I had the 26 prior: anxious to receive my standard issue Safeway gift certificates, stocking-stuffer tangerines, and the hallmark box of Cocoa Puffs that has become Seely family tradition.
Such gifts took on added significance once I stopped believing in Santa—which was later for me than most kids. For me, the Rudolph fantasy was alive until roughly third grade, when "Santa" failed to take note of my eleventh-hour mental wish shift from wanting a Kellen Winslow (San Diego Chargers tight end) jersey to needing a Wes Chandler (Chargers wide receiver) jersey.
The more valuable gifts become secondary to the five bed-headed adults in the room, each of us acting like little fucking kids. If, later that morning, there is a bit of a verbal dustup between my dad and one of my brothers over when to leave for Christmas dinner at my grandparents' home in Kirkland, it only serves as a reminder that, yes, this is a day different and more special than the less formal occasions I spend with my family and, yes, this is the same feisty Irish Catholic, Seatown-to-the-core household I grew up in.