This is a practice that is alien to me. Oh, the family get-togethers are old hat to me. But having someone not related to you come to my house and not get paid to do it is a new concept.
Only once while I was growing up did my parents host a Christmas party. My parents decided to “have the neighbors in.” These were people we knew vaguely. They waved when we saw them outside. Some of their children had briefly been our playmates. But by and large, they were total strangers to us.
My brothers and I were given strict instruction on our part in The Christmas Party: We were not, under any circumstances, to show our faces. This was an Adults Only Christmas Party, which sounded kind of sleazy to me. We were to pick a place in the house and stay there. My younger brother, only three or four at the time, would be in bed. My older brother and I opted to stay in his room because we could get to the bathroom from there without anyone seeing us.
All this was fine with my older brother. He had no interest in what was going on, no desire to meet anyone or for them to meet him.
I, however, was dying to see what was going on and why, exactly, it was so important that we not be there. I wanted them all to see me and how glib and advanced for my age I (thought I) was. Besides, who did my parents think they were, locking us away like we didn’t exist? Like the Kirbys in Topper.
Suddenly my little brother sneaked by me, barely tossing me a glance. Just before entering the living room, be began rubbing his eyes and yawning. Having negotiated the hallway just fine, he stumbled into the living room.
“Look who’s here,” I heard someone say. He was in trouble now!
“Wha-What’s going on?” my brother said sleepily. Give me a break…
Squeals from the women in the room. “Isn’t he adorable!”
Yeah, yeah. He had those pretty curls and all and his hazel eyes always match the sleeper he’s wearing, a sleeper he put on himself because it’s a new sleeper and my mother didn’t use the new sleepers that were for hospitalization or death, only the old sleepers with the holes in the knees and he has those cute curls because my mother refuses to cut his hair because he has cute curls and you just think he’s not smart enough to stage this whole “the-noise-just-woke-me” thing, but I know better because he’s smart enough to take over the world – or at least my part of it – and stop encouraging him because I’m the good one who listened to my parents and never showed my face and he is the evil spawn who wasn’t that sleepy when he walked past me perfectly awake 30 seconds ago.
Well, two can play at this game. I knew “cute” to be beyond my abilities, so “competent” would be my tack. Like Princess on Father Knows Best. She was the Good Daughter,
I entered the living room timidly and said softly, “Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’ll take him back to bed, Mother.” My parents looked at me, speechless. Mother?
I reached for my brother who clung to Ma with an emphatic, “No!” (He’s smarter than I thought…)
“Go with your sister.” My mother said this with through clenched teeth and my brother knew better than to refuse (heh-heh!).
Then she gave me The Look.
Holy Mother of God, The Look!
In the hallway my brother yanked his hand back and stomped into his room. I returned to my older brother’s room, where we passed the rest of the night playing Stratego or something (just like Muldur and his sister in X-Files, only without the alien abduction.).
The next morning I expected at least a lecture or a list of work that had to be done in retaliation for my transgression. Instead my mother, probably tempered by my father, sneered, “Well, you held out longer than I thought you would.”
My younger brother stared into his cereal bowl. He’d obviously already been dealt with.
And then my older brother walked in. My mother’s gaze bespoke admiration and pride.
Then I realized. He was John Boy Walton.
That made us, my younger brother and me, minor Waltons, ones whose name no one remembers; ones who were rarely told good night. They always said goodnight to John Boy. But if you were a minor Walton, it was a coin toss whether anyone would say goodnight to you. Maybe in one episode. But it was always, "Goodnight, John Boy." (Harmonica chord)
Naturally this is why all the minor Waltons hold homicidal thoughts for John Boy and it's a wonder he can sleep at night, with all the minor Waltons sending him evil thoughts.
But that was a long time ago
The minor Waltons We’ve all grown up and realize that my parents just didn’t want little kids interrupting the adult talk and, also didn’t want the neighbors to bring their kids.