In our Polish family the tradition was to have your major festivities on Christmas Eve. My Mother insisted on it. That made Christmas more than a bit of a logistical nightmare since two of my older brothers were living six hours south in Dayton, Ohio. However, this one Christmas little brother showed eldest brother exactly how to get it done.
My eldest brother was supposed to be doing the driving north and had told little brother to meet him near the expressway so they could get an early start. John had the snow, wind speed, and traffic all figured into his analysis of the trip. Today he might be diagnosed as obsessive compulsive but back then Mike liked to look at it as John’s Achilles’ heel. Playing jokes was a natural part of Mike’s modus operandi. Christmas Eve was going to be no different.
John arrived at their meeting point his customary fifteen minutes early only to find that as usual Mike was not there. So he waited and he waited. Fifteen minutes turned into a half an hour as the inside of the car windows became covered with the remnants of John’s increasingly heavy breathing. Finally he had enough. He was going to teach Mike a lesson. He put the car in gear and left. He was going to make his little brother miss Christmas Eve dinner. Never again would Mike be so irresponsible. At least that was the plan. John got on the freeway and let his little brother find his own way home for the holidays. That would show him. Uh, huh. Right.
Now just where was Mike? Late as usual with everything. Getting up, getting dressed and showered, then packed when he realized something was missing…..gifts. He had not taken the time to shop. Mike hated malls so that was out of the question and way too late. So he headed to his personal shopping place, the golf pro shop that he managed for NCR.
In a flash he had filled his bag with sweaters, socks, and a rainbow of golf balls. Then he headed to the freeway to meet John only to find no John. He knew that John had left him behind. @##%%^&%$#%*^%^
Not to be beaten, deterred, or shown up by anyone, especially not John, Michael decided to throw a “Hail Mary pass” via a regional airline. He called and found a puddle jumper leaving shortly for Detroit and headed for the airport. Before boarding he called my husband and asked him to pick him up. We were all more than a little puzzled by what was going on. All we could do was wait for one of them to arrive to explain.
First in the frosty door……Mike. He did as he always did and went straight to the spot where we kept one lone ashtray, just for him. He pulled a wine glass from the cupboard, filled it with Chardonnay and did what he always did at my house……anything he would never dream of doing at my parent's house.
Mike explained what had happened and especially delighted in describing he was going to smile when John finally arrived after his snowy six hour drive. He had managed to find a half hour flight to Detroit, was picked up and brought home while John probably still had a nearly three hour drive left. As he explained to all the siblings as they arrived we got caught up in the anticipation of John’s arrival. Even Mom seemed to get a chuckle out of it.
True to form John arrived approximately 5 hours and 45 minutes after he had hit the highway. Mike sat very still on the couch with cigar in one hand and wine glass in the other. John came in the door stomping the snow off his feet and began to tell my Mother that he had no idea where her other son was. How he had told him a million times not to be late and that maybe this would teach him a lesson. We all had been biting our lips to keep from laughing and finally from the couch Mike let loose.
“Hey, I have been right here. Where the hell have you been? Driving a little slow?” said Mike while with great finesse choreographed in a long draw on the cigar and a sip of wine.
The rest of us were hysterical. Little brother had more than one upped his elder brother and I don’t think John ever tried to teach Mike anything again. The rest of the holiday was special as always with Mike as Santa/comedian and John as coordinator. Mom was visibly happy as were we all.
****Note this is a repost but very appropriate for this assignment.