This year's celebration of "Sinter Klaas" was different at the massive Mijnssen house in Zug. It was not catered, but a pot-luck affair. We all learned how to use the foot-pedal operated player piano (still don't know why this was neccessary). We did Secret-Santa. Instead of the same story I've heard for the last 7 years from Ivo's uncle Nick, I heard insensitive laughingly-delivered questions about why we were there with a puppy and not a baby. And there were cousin's girlfriends!
I was in charge of secret santa, so it was no secret to me. Not because I saw who got who, but because after the website emailed everyone about whom they would gift, I got emails asking "why the hell did I get _______". At the party I realized that they all thought the idea was my fault. They didn't realize that I took it on two months after my father-in-law had had the idea.
I got the aforementioned Nick's new wife. She works in cinema and is German. That's about all that I know about her. I got her the film "Beginners" I love this film and I'm proud of the contribution that my brother made to it, so I thought that it would be a heart-felt effort that she may appreciate it. She opened it and seemed intrigued and I said "It has cancer in it!"
When I saw Beginners and the (*spoiler alert*) mother died of cancer, I started bawling. It was a matter of timing. Now, when there's a cancer death in a film, I warn people, in case they have the same kooky reaction that I've recently acquired.
Last year, when mom was deeply in chemo, she and I were talking about favorite cheesy holiday movies. We talked about how Love Actually and Elf still choke me up every year. We talked about the sweet comfort of Home for the Holidays and the cheer that It's a Wonderful Life brings. Then we talked about a movie that we both love and feel differently about but will likely never watch again: The Family Stone. I have loved this movie since I first saw it and rent it every year. There's Deafness, adoption, in-law trouble, over-bearing family with no boundaries, a great cast with great banter. It's a treat; a treat that I will likely never watch again. The subtle and under-lying plot point that Diane Keaton (the cast's mother) is dying of cancer has now spoilt this movie for mom and I. It's all about carrying on traditions when someone dies; at least it is now. It used to be about the awkwardness of trying to incorperate onesself in old family traditions. Now it's about moms having cancer.
Marion liked Beginners and I got a subscription to the New Yorker. All the cousins (and said girlfriends) left on a train to Zürich for drinks. The idea had been mine. The cousins had only ever seen one another at big family functions and had never had any contact beyond the watchful eyes of their parents. I thought that they might enjoy shooting the shit in a more comfortable atmosphere. I wasn't feeling well so I stayed behind to get a ride home from my in-laws. There was talk of the next year's Sinter Klaas party and what people liked and disliked about the new aspects of this years. Ivo's grandmother implied that we needed to start thinking about how we will plan it and celebrate when she's no longer there. I guess that's true of all family traditions. Nothing is ever exactly the same and the cast changes.