This year we all decided not to go overboard with presents at Christmas. Some people read the memo and disregarded it. Some people gave practical gifts, like socks and potholders. One family member asked for clouds in a box or the wind. That was an easy one. My sister and her daughter love to shop and are good at it.

My sister's daughter also happened to be dancing for peace in Jerusalem in November where she picked up some mementos and gifts. One such item was given to my family, a small ceramic plaque purchased in Jerusalem, in the Arab market, sold by a Canadian young man to my dancing pre-med Southern Baptist niece. Dark blue background with gold painted letters saying, "Shalom Y'All."

My niece was born and raised in Virginia, has a Southern accent, mannerisms and customs. Her father takes the Bible so literally, he refused to attend our wedding, writing a letter quoting Scripture as to why what we were doing was wrong in the eyes of the Lord. My marriage lasted twice as long then he remarried, but I had become a Methodist on purpose by then and wished him well. Shalom y'all.

We don't drink alcohol for various reasons, but if someone were to invisibly observe you would think we were all heavy imbibers, three or four sheets to the wind, drunk as drunk skunks. We talk over and under several conversations at once; hands are flying, people are choking from laughter. It's a deadly proving ground for newcomers.

The college age cousins were comparing classes and possible career paths. They are all astonishingly good at mathematics, and there may have been some discussion that I tuned out. At one point, there was a lull in the conversation and I casually mentioned that I had managed to go through five years of college without coming out of the closet. Then there was a LULL of shock.

One sister grabbed her Bible, thumbing through gold edges for verses on homosexuality. Her daughter lifted her graceful dancer's arms saying, "Welcome, my favorite aunt!" Someone asked if my husband knew. He sat at the far end of the table, buttering an ear of corn in silence. His reply, after being told what I said, was that I constantly surprise him, then went back to eating his corn.

I realized slowly that somehow what I had said was far different than what I had meant to say. As it was still pretty quiet at the table, I explained that I meant to say I had managed to go through five years of college without taking any math classes. But by then, the damage so to speak was done. Shalom y'all.

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