We parted ways in the land of mutton and noodles and found each other back in the land of tuna noodle casserole. I knew Kyndyz was in the Twin Cities, so I called to invite her to celebrate Christmas with my family. It was perhaps the most persistent invitation I’ve ever extended, taking me at least 3 phone calls to convince her that she would not have to work at the mall on Christmas. While the Kyrgyz have caught Valentine’s Day fever, a Christian holiday simply does not resonate in a country that is predominately Muslim.
After church on Christmas Eve, my brother and I drove across the cities to pick up Kyndyz while the rest of the family went back to my grandparents’ house to prepare our standard meal of beef stroganoff. In preparing all of the side dishes, my grandpa remembered the no pork rule before grandma sprinkled bacon bits into her broccoli salad. Something I had forgotten to mention. They also set out a few presents for Kyndyz under the tree.
In customary fashion, Kyndyz asked if her Kyrgyz friend could join us – a welcome Christmas stowaway. I alerted family of the addition, so they could rearrange for another guest. Anyone unfamiliar with Midwestern culture should be cued in on the inherent urge to avoid conflict, even when it just entails curbing an uncomfortable moment of having to add another place set to the table when someone unexpected shows up. Best to add that chair and pretend to be an infallible hostess – anticipating the needs of unforeseen company. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but this helter-skelter hospitality was apparent in the gift exchange after dinner.