Most of my twenties were spent dreading Christmas, mostly because I was always leery and cautious about how heavy the shit was that my family would be flinging at me that year. But since having a baby four years ago, it’s starting to become something I look forward to again. (Although it also means no one buys me anything because it’s all Chooch Chooch Chooch.)
In fact, I looked forward to it so much this year that I woke Chooch up Christmas morning because I was tired of waiting. And it’s amazing I even woke up on my own, pre-9am after the night of wine and shared tales of a certain ex-hag from hell (oh, what’s up House of Night shout out) over at Henry’s sister’s house. It was nice, because along with dreading Christmas, most of my twenties were spent listening to The Cure and crying into the No One Loves Me pillow on Christmas Eve.
He got your standard boy shit: Transformers and accessories for the Batcave he got last Christmas, etc etc. But I also tucked in some books under the tree.
He was genuinely excited. Reading is something I’ve always loved, and even when I was off pretending to be so fucking cool and awesome, I would never deny my love of books. You know how some people do that? As if admitting to not only know how to read but to also enjoy it might them mark them as a loser. I really hope Chooch doesn’t grow up to be one of those kids. I’ve always said that I don’t trust a person who doesn’t like to read a book. Even HENRY reads books! HENRY. Come on. Henry.
I bought “Donut Chef” based on the illustrations, because I do love a good illustration. But the story is also really cute, too. Childrens books are so fun.
The tradition that Henry and I started back when I was pregnant in 2005 was to have a Christmas picnic at the cemetery. Once Chooch was born, we added to that tradition by taking an obligatory Christmas portrait of Chooch celebrating Christmas in the cemetery. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible this year. Most of the morning it was sleeting, and after that the rain continued all day. So we agreed to postpone the graveyard picnic for another, drier, day.
Before dinner at my mom’s, Henry, Chooch and I met my brother Corey at the nursing home where my grandma temporarily resides. After the traumatic Thanksgiving experience at the hospital, I almost backed out, but my aunt Sharon insisted that she was doing well, was coherent, and also expecting us. She was sitting in her room, wheelchair-bound, looking tired and unhappy, but mustered a smile when she saw Chooch. We stayed for about 45 minutes, giving her presents (Corey got her a Snuggie was so proud of this), and filling her in on our lives. (Or in my case, choosing wise words which wouldn’t elicit tongue-clucking and disappointed “oh honestly”s.)
As we went to leave, I approached her to envelope her in one of my signature awkward embraces. But she stopped me by asking, in a snide tone I might add and I know I wasn’t imagining it, “When did you decide to do that to your hair?”
I could feel the memory of 30-years-worth of put-downs and criticisms spreading like poker-hot cancer through my cheeks. “It’s been like this since September,” I mumbled, trying to keep smiling while all at once fingering a tendril and second-guessing myself as a brunette. “Why, do you hate it?”
“Yes,” she said, and though she was smiling, it didn’t reach her eyes and her reply was curt. Always with the motherfucking judging.
On the way to my mom’s, I tried not to cry in the car. “Does it look like shit?” I asked Henry. And then: “My hair’s not even naturally blonde anyway, why does she care?” All Henry could really do was repeat over and over, “Don’t let it get to you! You know how she is.”
“Yeah, full of hate and disapproval for me,” I wailed.
Walking into my mom’s house, I found her in the kitchen flipping out over one kitchen disaster or another, so I left Henry with her to survey the situation while Chooch opened more gifts.
He finally got his fucking jack in the box, he did. And I was happy that it was a Sock Monkey one, and not some ugly/creepy clown leftover from the 60s. (OK, that’s a lie. I was hoping for the scariest one possible to use in a photoshoot.)
My favorite gift I got, I mean Chooch got at my mom’s house was one of those plastic biospheres that have TWO LIVE FROGS in it. OMG do I love a fucking frog. I named them Chip and Dip. Actually, it was supposed to be Dip and Shit, but Chooch heard “Chip” instead and I thought that was actually better. I love them! I mean, Chooch loves them! They provide countless hours of entertainment for me, I mean Chooch! Ask Henry and the cats! Every five minutes I’m telling them, “OMG look at Chip and Dip!” The cats ignore me and Henry mutters, “They’re frogs, and they’re not doing anything.”
Dinner consisted of just myself, Henry, my mom, Corey and my other brother Ryan. Chooch never sat down once. He was too busy scaring the shit out of himself with that stupid jack in the box. And there wasn’t really much conversation, because I alerted Corey to the fact that he could use his iPod Touch to play Words With Friends, so he and I started a vernacularmundo battle right there at the dinner table. Everyone else cried into their plates of holiday slop, jealous that they couldn’t be apart of a revolution.
My mom’s pork chops might be the reason I turned vegetarian when I was 16, but I have always loved her holiday side dishes. She added some new corn shit to the Christmas ouevre this year and it was fucking amazing; all kinds of creamy and with a top hat of crispy carbs. No one but me ate Henry’s root vegetable mashed potato thing, because their palates have evidently evolved past pioneer years. I love root vegetables. I want to make art with them. And also, make out with them.
Corey, having his mind blown at all of the 7875-point SAT words I throw down.
After dinner, we followed Corey to our dad’s house, who only moved a few streets away after the divorce. I’ve mentioned this before, but he was technically my step-dad, and then legally adopted me when I was in 4th grade. We had a really awful relationship when I was younger, the kind that makes Springer salivate, but since I moved out at 18 things have improved greatly. My only regret is that I don’t see him as often as I should and I always hope he doesn’t think we’re stopping over on holidays just to satiate some innate, greed-filled Christmas propensity.
Luckily, Henry works for a beverage company and was able to procure a case of Faygo’s old fashioned root beer IN GLASS BOTTLES. My dad, being a product of the 50s, is really big on beverages. He has a bunch of old-fashioned pop machines and will sit there and entertain (used loosely, of course) a room with tales of when pop came in glass bottles and JUST TASTED BETTER. He was a happy man that night, accepting such a hefty loot, rich with nostalgia and…glass. He and Henry sat on the couch together and talked about pop for what seemed like eternity while Corey and I snickered openly.
Then came the bombshell.
“Did you guys have any dessert at your mother’s?” my dad inquired. “I have some pie here. Cherry, butterscotch…”
“Whoa, you have butterscotch pie?” I interrupted. The incredulity was overflowing. There was only one person from whom he’d get butterscotch pie.
“Yeah, your mother baked it for me—” he began, and I stopped listening. That is my FAVORITE PIE AND MY MOTHER NEVER MAKES IT FOR ME. And now she’s making it for the guy she divorced?
“What the fuck,” I muttered to Henry and Corey, while my dad was in the kitchen slicing it up. “What do I have to do to get her to bake me a butterscotch pie? Divorce her?” No one laughed but me, because I think all my jokes are the lol’iest. In fact, I was still laughing the next day.