Chooch got his main present before Christmas (that bed thing), and while he was over the moon* about it, I was still worried about actual Christmas Day, in terms of “shit for him to open.”
*(Oh my god, what an old lady thing to say.)
He still had one more decent present left (a TV for his room), and several little things like CDs, a Five Nights At Freddy’s backpack from Hot Topic, and a Bluetooth speaker so that he can listen to Spotify in his room. So like, not super junky presents by any means, but I would have been breaking the good China over my mom’s face if there were any less than 30 gifts under the tree for me when I was a kid.
Creepy-ass face, ugh.
But shit, you guys. Turns out my kid is actually pretty grateful. He seemed extremely appreciative of all the stuff, even the lame crap Henry picked out, and didn’t once peer under Trudy’s sweater and spit, “IS THAT ALL!?”
Not that I ever did that.
My family’s Christmas tree didn’t wear a sweater.
I’m not going to lie, I was really excited for him to open one present in particular:
I couldn’t resist wrapping up Doll! However, children are now born with a firm grasp on Reverse Psychology, so he has been acting like he and Doll are BFFs lately, but that will not deter me. I know deep down, he is still sickened by her charred face.
As evidenced when he tossed his backpack on top of her a few minutes later and mumbled, “I can’t look at your face anymore, Doll.” So the new plan is to stall my mission for a little bit until he starts to forget, and then BAM.
DOLL STRIKES AGAIN.
Thank god he has a good sense of humor, because he was just as excited to read the gift tags as he was opening the actual present. Since he doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, I get great joy out of making up random people for the “from” part of the gift tags. It’s always an inside joke, too, and he thinks it’s so hilarious.
(OK SO DO I.)
For example, his TV was from Paul Eugene, the gospel aerobics instructor. And Donna gifted him Doll. He even got something from NHL player Shane Doan, an inside joke we share from the first hockey game I took Chooch to last year. Henry kept saying he didn’t get it and Chooch and I were like, “NO SHIT BECAUSE YOU WEREN’T THERE.” God, go back to ‘Nam, Henry.
Circa Survive, ya’ll. My kid has good taste in music.
In his stocking, he got a ticket for the Never Shout Never show on Valentine’s Day and several scratch offs, on which he won $30 — I never win on scratch offs! Chooch is a huge lottery fanatic, so he was definitely not hating this Christmas.
Then Henry set up his TV, which comes with Roku, so basically we never see him anymore.
I honestly didn’t even know what else to get him, anyway. He’s at that weird age where he doesn’t play with toys anymore (RIP Imaginex sets) and I didn’t even see any board games that looked exciting when we were at Target. (And by “exciting” I mean “something that I could play without losing my temper”.)
“All I need is love,” Chooch said in a perfect Shirley Temple, and we all started cracking the fuck up.
Later on in the evening, we went to my dad’s house. Henry brought a carrot pecan pie he had baked that day and I brought a bottle of spiced wine. My dad and brothers had already eaten, so Henry and I just kind of sat there with growling stomachs, uncomfortably watching an Impractical Jokers marathon with my dad and brother Ryan.
Until Corey came barreling down the steps and asked, “IS THIS THE PIE!?” And then thankfully declared he was having a piece so then I had a piece too and it was better than any pumpkin or sweet potato pie I’ve ever had, tell that to that guy who thinks Patti Labelle’s shitty Walmart sweet potato pie is the greatest.
Because it ain’t got SHIT on Henry’s carrot pie, bitches. Go cry to your mama about it.
Anyway, yes, that is how awkward and not-belonging I feel in my own dad’s house, that I don’t even feel like I can help myself to my own pie without Corey doing it first.
I guess when you only see your dad once or twice a year, that’s just how it goes.
Some visits are way better than others though, and we’ll tell stories and crack up. But this time, it just felt off and only reenforced my stigma of not being welcome anywhere.
It was hard not to think that this was the fifth anniversary of the last fight I had with my mom, the fight on Christmas that turned into 5 years of not speaking.
Five years and counting.
I try to be positive and enjoy the time I have with Henry and Chooch, but sometimes I just can’t help but wish I had a family that wanted to see me on Christmas.
Meanwhile, my dad had just noticed for the first time that I have tattoos on my fingers (five years later) and made some almost silent grunt of disapproval, but don’t worry — I caught it! About the time he started talking politics is when I started gathering my stuff to leave.
“What do you think about Trump? Oh, don’t tell me you’re voting for HILLARY!?”
NOPE, NOT DOING THIS ON XMAS.
Man, I love my dad but sometimes the vibe in his house is just really tense. I had a feeling he was stressed out about other things, and maybe OPENING THAT BOTTLE OF WINE would have helped, but I figured our 90-minute visit was toeing the line of overstaying our welcome, so we peaced out and went to Denny’s for dinner.
On the way inside, we passed a man leaving with an armful of take-out bags.
“Thank god for Denny’s!” he laughed merrily JUST LIKE SANTA.
Thank god for Denny’s indeed!
The vibe in Denny’s was less depressing than I anticipated. The waitstaff was exceptionally giddy and there was a decent crowd of wanderers, just like us. So, in a way, we finally found somewhere we belonged on Christmas.
Afterward, Henry mentioned that when he was at the nearby Toys R Us a few days ago, he saw a kitten behind it.
“TAKE US THERE!” I battle-cried, to which Henry started wording about how “there’s no way it’s still there” and “it’s getting late” and “I want to go home and dream about my days in the SERVICE.” But of course, Chooch and I got our way and Henry drove the whole 10 yards to Toys R Us, where I seriously immediately saw the glow of the cat’s eyes from under a pine tree as soon as the headlights hit it.
So we made Henry park the car and then Chooch and I spent a good 25 minutes on our hands and knees, meowing and bargaining with this feral cat to come to us, which turned into another 20 minutes of us climbing through bramble as the cat backed away onto a hillside.
We determined that what we needed was CAT FOOD, so we made Henry drive us down the street to Walgreens, where he then bought three cans of it to appease the queen and prince of cats. (That’s me and Chooch in case you’re struggling to keep up, Barb.) But by the time we made it back to the Toys R Us parking lot, the cat was gone. That didn’t stop Chooch and me from spending an additional 25 minutes clucking our tongues, whispering “here kittykittykitty,” and looking up cat summoning spells on a Black Magick for Dummies website.
“JUST LEAVE THE CAT FOOD AND WE WILL COME BACK TOMORROW AND CHECK!” Henry yelled from his post inside the idling car. “For Christ’s sake.”
This could have been our Christmas miracle. Thanks a lot, feral cat.
Maybe next year, we’ll just go away for Christmas. Ooooh, or have a cat PJ party!
(That carrot pie, tho. Good lord.)