Thursday, December 30, 2010


It is damn hard to work the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

The end-of-the year goals I had—to finish off this review article, to organize all my constructs, cell lines, and viral supernatants (yes, good times), to clean off my desk, organize my papers, and read through and revamp my old project goals—those are all falling by the wayside, collapsing into puffs of dust. People have been trickling intermittently in and out of the lab all week—an hour here and an hour there, a morning shift of students that leaves at 10 am (just as I’m getting in) for lunch, another shift that rolls in at noon and leaves at three. I assume there’s probably a late afternoon/evening shift, but I’m not around to see it. The cafeteria is still open and reasonably busy at noon, the Christmas lights are up and cheery, but thank god the Christmas carols are banished from the cafeteria speakers and off my car radio.

Christmas was here, chaotic and fun. Six extra adults, all members of my family, moved temporarily into our house and stayed for two nights (well, the sister from California stayed for three). Dinners were the usual mishmash of Thai/Chinese/American. Are Christmas dinners usually like that? my poor non-Asian brother-in-law asked at brunch on the 26th, after my parents had departed. I agreed with him that Christmas day dinner had clashed a bit more than usual, though it was partially his pregnant wife’s (my middle sister’s) fault for demanding cooked sushi rolls. And my mother’s, of course, for bringing out an entire pot of Thai brown eggs (kaipalow). And tempura-fried soft-shell crabs. Which did not entirely mesh with the braised lamb leg and brussel sprout gratin that Husband and I had prepared.

We learned that the little Legume must not be woken early on Christmas morning. She spent the last part of the season quite hostile to the concept of Christmas presents. “Santa won’t bring you presents if you’re naughty,” I overheard Bean-girl lecturing her. “I don’t want presents!” Legume cried. “I want to be naughty!” And true to her word, she was naughty and kept yelling that she wanted no presents at all. Okay, no presents for you, Husband and I soothed. We wrapped her gifts late at night with help from our houseguests and placed them under the tree. The girls put our milk and cookies for Santa before bed. In the morning, Bean-girl was up at 7:30 am, hopping with excitement, eyes bright. Husband was excited, too. While waiting for the others to wake, he showed her a computer animation of Santa purportedly still flying his sled through the night sky, still delivering presents to children on the other side of the world (I was both annoyed and impressed by the animation; I detest the deception of Santa, but that’s a whole other post. We keep up the Santa myth because my husband beat me to the punch by telling Bean-girl all about Santa when she was only two, and now I can say nothing against it). After waiting a scarce seven minutes, neither my husband nor Bean-girl could take it anymore, and went upstairs to peek at Legume and see if she were awake. A few minutes later I heard an angry cry, and an angry, sleepy-eyed Legume appeared on the stairs. She may well be the only child in the world who is not cheered by the sight of Christmas presents. As her older sister tore happily at wrapping paper, Legume sat sulkily before her gifts. Husband unwrapped a huge truck for her, and Legume angrily pushed it away. “I hate it!” she cried. The sky lightened, other family members stirred, Legume continued to sulk. I went up to take a shower. An hour later, Legume cheered up, and she later spent most of the day playing/riding on her new yellow truck.

It’s hard to sum up a holiday with my family, as they are so very very crazy. I am aware that everyone thinks their parents and siblings are insane, but I really do think mine are unusually so. Sometimes I think I should start a Twitter feed titled “Shit my family says” ala the famous “Shit my dad says” that garnered a book deal and sitcom deal for one enterprising young man. My feed would lists posts like this:

My father upon learning what my youngest sister paid for her car rental: “I don’t care how smart you are, you act stupid every day of your life.”

My sister, being impervious to insult, simply continued to rant about the political and economic philosophy of Henry George, kombucha tea, alternative medicine, religion, sugar beets and jello scuplture.

It’s quiet now, the family guests gone, the mess at least partially cleared. Husband has most of the week off, and played stay-at-home parent today. I’ve been trying to finish this review article, but it’s hard to stay motivated when everyone else is drifting in and out of the lab for only an hour or so. Bean-girl and I are on a Narnia kick: our Tivo recorded “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” which she saw about 9 times over the course of one weekend. Then TiVo recorded “Prince Caspian,” which she has seen an additional three times (I didn’t know how violent the sequel was, or I wouldn’t have let her watch it the first time). Now at night we are reading “Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” and making plans to watch the film this weekend. My head is full of dashing boy kings and girl queens and Telmarine armies (weirdly speaking in Spanish accents in the movie) and talking mice and dragons. I plan to cuddle with the girls this weekend, maybe get a little shopping done, and indulge in some fantasy escapism.

Anyone have any good recommendations for escapist fantasy when we’re done with our Narnia kick?

And that scientific review article, and those construct lists, and those dozen other items on the work to-do list?

They’re going to have to wait until after the New Year.

(Happy 2011 to everyone!)