When I was a kid, my house was the place to be, without a doubt. I can remember, just as I’m sure many of you can, having my mom in the kitchen cooking her ever-loving ass off to get ready for the massive Thanksgiving spread she put out. Turkey, ham, beef, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, stuffing, cookies, cake, pie, pie, pie, sparkling cider, egg nog, coffee … Over forty people each year would make their way through our doors to chow down on the food she put out, and when it was over there was still enough food for us to live on leftovers for a week!
As I grew older and the family did what families do, the spread got scaled back a bit, but was still incredible. Then, about the time I was getting ready to join the Navy, and my parents had realized that they each thought the other was a total dick, the spread pretty much went away. My sister and I left home, and most of the “clan” was divided on either side of a divorce or family death, some just realized if the food wasn’t there, they didn’t want to go, and the holidays became a day you made a few phone calls and nothing more.
Any of my regular readers have probably already come to the assumption that I’m not a religious person from the way that I write, and that assumption is pretty much dead on, but that doesn’t mean that the holidays didn’t or don’t mean something to me. On the contrary, they were always a great time, especially as a kid, and I looked forward to them just as much as someone of faith. Yet as a young adult I lost the excitement of the holidays, and like many people I know, eventually came to downright hate them. I hated them for their commercialism, I hated them for the traffic they caused, the money I had to spend on gifts so I didn’t look like the dick who wouldn’t buy a present, or didn’t want to say Merry Fucking Christmas to every person I walked past in the store when all I wanted was a pair of shoes …
Skydiving didn’t really do anything to change my newfound disgust for the holidays. Not at first. Then I started working at Cross Keys. As many of my skydiving stories tend to, this one links back to the craziest, coolest and most dysfunctional group of jumpers I ever had the great privilege to jump, party, and live with.
Mr. Mark Norman … Many of you out there just started grinning. Beside the fact that he’s one funny motherfucker, a general joy to be around, and filled to the brim with European dry wit and one-liners, (“Don’t be shy, your mother wasn’t.” “If you hadn’t have eaten it, it wouldn’t have made you sick.” “Up your bum, no more babies” …) he’s an absolutely incredible fucking cook! He and the Cross Keys crew were who showed me that the holidays didn’t have to be about religious pomp, it didn’t have to be about surrounding yourself with the family members you can’t stand at any other time of the year, paying penance for past sins, or even some fat fuck in a red suit. It could become a great excuse to surround yourself with the people you’ve taken on an amazing lifestyle with AND it could be about stuffing yourself with the most incredible chicken curry and poppadums ever to be served outside India!
Gypsy skydivers can be a notoriously difficult group to get together without a doubt, but if you toss in an amazing meal, some booze, and a great list of guests, you’re more than likely going to have a hell of a turn out! Funny thing is, as a skydiver, you are a member of a community that is always open to good times with good friends. If you’re able to make the holidays about that more than anything else, forget about the bullshit the world has turned the holidays into, and focus on great times with great friends, then I think you’ll find just like I did—the holiday season can be just as exciting as it was when you were a kid.
I still hate the traffic. I still hate the fact that I’m forced to buy crap to keep from looking like the Grinch. I hate that I’m forced to paint on that fake expression of holiday spirit for a general public that, on the whole, I couldn’t give two shits about but I love the fact that it gives me the opportunity to spend time with the family I’ve made for myself. Times like Christmas at Ray Farrell’s house with a drawing for the goofiest joke present, getting shitty-ass drunk and piling 20 people on his guest bed to try and wake up our passed-out buddy Jim … And of course, the chicken curry!
The Fuckin' Pilot
About the author: The Fuckin’ Pilot has more than 8,500 hours of flight time; 5,000 of those have been piloting jump ships for skydiving.