I am truly not a peeping
tom. If ever asked, I would completely deny my actions at this time. I'm
just taking a walk. The wind-chill factor brings the temperature down into
the teens, but I always enjoy a little bitter cold air in the morning.
Like I said, I'm simply wandering the streets for fun. In all honesty, I
just meant to get out of the house for a few minutes. It gets tiresome
sitting alone, knowing that almost everyone else is celebrating this big
important holiday, and I'm not a part of that tradition (not that I'm
bitter or anything). My wife left for work at the hospital, so I simply
wanted to occupy myself for a little while. And now here I stand--staring
through my neighbors' bay window into the sanctuary of their family life.
I don't know how long I have been standing like this. My feet have long
since turned to popsicles in the icy water that seeped through my cheap,
pseudo-L.L. Bean rubber boots. This tweed hat with the snap-brim is doing
nothing as my body warmth basically flies right through my head and into
the arctic air. As I stand here in the blustering snow, I wish I could
make myself go home, but these people are just so damn intoxicating (or
should I say intoxicated).
It's so easy to be swallowed up by this
world of theirs, like driving past a car crash--happy not to be truly
involved but curious enough to gawk as I pass. I count twelve, no
fourteen, bottles of champagne strewn around the room. And right there on
the gargantuan tree, smothered in lights and baubles and trinkets and
tinsel, I catch a glimpse of the Celtic cross. Even if I wanted to dispel
the stereotypes of drunken Irishmen, no one can deny that these neighbors
of mine fulfill that myth quite well. Dad plays the silent overseer; he
just sits back, dressed in an oh-so-jolly plaid vest, with a drink in hand
and watches his swarming brood. Here comes Mom with a glittering (perhaps
a tad tipsy) shine in her eyes. Did her extravagant brunch turn out
perfectly--yet again--or is she just so overwhelmed with the love in the
air? I can't even fathom being in a room with this many people, even if
they weren't drunk, loud, and dressed in garish colors. Yet they all seem
so overjoyed, as if Norman Rockwell should come in at any moment to paint
their portrait. The youngest child, the only girl, the princess, still
passes out presents, even though the noise and her inebriated brothers are
starting to aggravate her. The three middle boys--I'll call them Sean,
Brendan, and Patrick, (isn't there always a Patrick in these Irish
Catholic families?)--wrestle on the floor with one another. Their
submissive, angelic women sit in a cluster, chatting amongst themselves.
And the oldest son opens his gifts dutifully, laughs at the appropriate
times, toasts to the dead relatives, and hopes to God he can escape from
these hooligans before they start the drunken bear hugs. Most people
probably deem this kind of chaos enjoyable, but I am happier to stand in
the snow, sober and solitary.
Maybe I am reducing this family to
shadows of real people. I suppose that's the pleasure of peeping in on
other people's lives--I can shape their lives into whatever I want.
Creating lives seems painless compared to honestly knowing these people
and then feeling obligated to care about their actual triumphs and trials.
My wife and I keep our curtains closed--no neighbors peer in, and I like
to think they don't imagine our lives. I am cynical. I am not like my
neighbors. I think next year I will go to the movies on