I posted about Christmas 2005 here, seven years ago. I suppose it’s time for an update.
I’m not sure it was apparent from my blogging back in 2005, but I was not looking forward to Christmas in Las Vegas. My parents had just moved there to retire, after 30 years in Olympia, Washington.
They love it there, of course. The weather is arthritis-friendly, there’s no state income tax, and there are plenty of fun times to be had for retired Filipino immigrants. My parents don’t have relatives there, but they do have some friends from Santo Tomás, our family’s hometown back in the Philippines, in the La Unión province. On top of that, there is a steady stream of friends and relatives who are always going to visit Las Vegas.
They are an ideal kind of visitor; for the most part they stay in hotels and have a lot on their agendas; not like in Olympia. In Olympia friends and relatives rarely came to visit, but when they did, they were house guests, and we were obliged to fill their days with company and take them places. Visitors to Vegas are less needy that way.
Anyway, the point is that my parents liked it there.
My sister and I, however, did not like it there. The two of us are pretty averse to gambling, and we don’t find Vegas charming; not the tacky Vegas, not the swingin’ Vegas, not the party Vegas, not the luxury Vegas. Nothing. The casinos on the strip seem to insist that you’re not in Vegas; you’re in Paris or Venice or Monte Carlo or New York City; basically anywhere but where. you. are. It’s a falsehood. My sister took to calling it “La gran mentira.” The Great Lie.
So we didn’t like it, but we couldn’t have stopped our parents from moving there if we wanted to; we kids were out of their hair, and it was time for them to live their lives. But when it came to Christmas… I was sad to have to spend Christmas away from my cowsins for the first time in my life. But what else were we to do? That year my sister and I flew down to spend Christmas with our parents in La gran mentira.
It was somebody’s idea to put us up in a hotel the first two days; I think it was the Tropicana. I don’t even remember. My dad had the rooms for free, and I think we had free tickets to a magic show. Anyway, when you hate Las Vegas, the worst place to have to spend your time is in a hotel on the stupid Strip. We stayed there for a night, but then we declared “bullshit;” we were there to spend Christmas with our parents, not in a hotel.
When we got to our parents’ house, we immediately felt better, we felt at home. I wonder, though, if my parents were as relieved… I overheard her talking on the phone to her friend, saying “the kids are here… they are so difficult, because they don’t want to do anything, they just want to spend time with us…”
I asked my mama, “did you call us difficult?” I think it surprised her that I had understood the Pangasinan.
As for her part, she laughed, rolling her eyes You kids don’t like to do anything! We’re retired, we like to go out!
Fair enough, I thought. There really was nothing in Las Vegas that either my sister or I were interested in doing.
On Christmas Eve we went to Midnight Mass, and I didn’t blog about it at the time, because it’s mean… but I remember thinking that the woman who brought the gifts to the altar during the offertory was dressed what we in Seattle would consider slutty; short skirt, plastic jelly high heels… I seem to remember fishnet stockings, but that can’t be right, can it? It didn’t bother me; what bothered me was the reminder that I wasn’t in Seattle.
When we woke up on Christmas morning, my sister and I were despondent. I was particularly mopey. The weather was wrong, I remember, it was bright and cool in the desert. I stepped outside the front door to mope, my sister was right behind me. We both hated it. We didn’t say much.
After a moment, a desert tumbleweed rolled silently down the street, up the walkway and stopped at our front door.
For me, the tumbleweed didn’t mean much, but my sister snapped a little, laughing sarcastically. Perfect! she said, it’s our Merry Christmas tumbleweed. This is what we were, a dry, ugly, sad ball of life, without roots, blown by the wind into the front door of this rental house. Just in case anyone forgot that we were in the freaking desert, voilà, tumbleweed. Merry Christmas.
This stupid tumbleweed was here to rub it in.
Soon the frustration started to build up in me, as well. So in frustration, I kicked it. I kicked the tumbleweed! F- you, tumbleweed, I thought, and I imagined the tumbleweed sailing like a soccer ball down the street, back where it came from, and exploding vanquished into a thousand pieces, blown apart by my frustration.
Much to my surprise, tumbleweeds do not sail like soccer balls.
Instead, it swallowed my foot up to my ankle. I tried to shake it off, but it was on me like a rash, and the kicking and shaking efforts made me lose my balance. I teetered and almost fell down; my foot was now lost in the amorphous mass of the tumbleweed. I couldn’t stand on it, for fear of losing more of my foot to it. I ended up regaining my balance and leaned against the wall. I asked my sister pathetically to help me remove the tumbleweed from my foot.
We pulled it off carefully, and then I tried to brush off all the remaining tumbleweed fuzz that was stuck to my shoe, my sock, and my pant leg. It became clear that I wouldn’t be able to just brush off all the burrs, I would have to pick each one off individually.
I felt pretty stupid!
Fast-forward seven years to the present day. I’m looking forward to Christmas in Vegas this year. I still don’t care much for Vegas, but our family time is now reduced to once a year, so I’ll enjoy it. We have some approved family activities now, like playing late bingo with the old folks, or taking Mama out to a movie. During the days we go to the Filipino or Mexican markets, at night there is 24-hour phở, tacos, and korean bbq.
Last year I proposed that we volunteer to serve Christmas dinner at St. Vincent’s; I think my mama was into the idea. We’ll see.
So as you can see, we are no longer moping. I still miss the cowsins, but I get to see them during the year. After a handful of Christmases, and one extended 2-month stay back in the summer of 2010, I don’t hate Vegas anymore. I’m looking forward to it.