Now that it’s over and I stand back to survey the damage, I realize it’s really not all that bad. I’m a bit overdrawn, hiding my car from the repo man, and the left side of my face is feeling a little slack from all the self medicating...but hey! The kid has a well stocked playroom and I’ve got enough ham in the refrigerator to feed an army of elves. Or just me. I like ham.
Christmas Eve day I did what I said I wouldn’t. I went shopping. My mom had to work so she gave me her debit card, a list of groceries needed to make that night’s fare, and strict instructions to go to the devil’s playground where I could get the most bang for her buck: Wal-Mart.
I hate Wal-Mart, but it’s a necessary evil in these parts. Where else can you get a shopping cart full of chips, dip, rubber soled bedroom slippers, a new hairdryer, and a pack of condoms all in one go? It’s also the stomping ground for the badly dressed. Every time I set foot in there I make sure I look like I walked off a Kenneth Cole runway lest someone decide to put my picture on that terribly funny website: http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/.
It was packed so full you could barely move. I threw the kid in the cargo area and elbowed my way through the aisles, searching for this and that. I was scanning the baking aisle for red food coloring, growing more and more frustrated. For the love of gawd, who wants a red velvet cake anyway! Then I saw one lone box stuck amongst the sprinkles and squeezable tubes of icing. As I strode toward it, arm out, a blonde bimbo in a faux leather and fur coat snatched it up.
Loudly growling and stomping my foot wasn’t very mature behavior, but it felt pretty satisfying at the time. The blond turned around, her red lipstick smeared over her top lip in an effort to add fullness, looked at me and said, “Oh, did you want this?”
“I need that”, I replied.
“Well, let’s see if we can find some more.”
She grabbed my hand and started towing me up the aisle. I glanced over my shoulder at the cart to tell the kid I wasn’t going away because she gets weird about things like that, but she was obliviously having a jug of buttermilk make out with a loaf of bread. The bimbo did indeed find the actual shelf of food coloring at the end of the aisle. She triumphantly handed me one, practically bowed and said, “Merry Christmas”, like she was Santa fucking Claus and had just handed me world peace in a bottle. I hate when strange people are nice when I’m in a mood to be rude.
I grumbled a thank you and hurried back to the kid, who in my absence had managed to pile eight bags of brown sugar in the cart. “Don’t touch anything”, I said sternly as I transferred them back to the shelf. “I didn’t do it”, she replied all wide eyed and innocent.
“Santa doesn’t bring presents to liars.” She promptly burst into tears, making a racket that caused the whole of Wal-Mart to turn around and look. Thankfully my sister arrived to take her away so I could finish what I started. As she carried my snotty child away in her arms, she looked over my sister’s shoulder and stuck her tongue out at me. You win some, you lose some.
After a few more thankfully quiet errands, I headed home. As soon as I walked in the door I was greeted with screams and a blur of red and white. The kid was running hell bent for leather through the kitchen in her underwear and my sister was behind her, brandishing a hairbrush and a pair of tights. I threw my things on the table, went to my room, and locked the door.
Pulling off clothes as I went, I walked to the closet, dug through my secret drawer, and pulled out a small bottle of Jack Daniels and a pill box. My emergency stash, used only for family gatherings and kid induced headaches. I took a Xanax, followed it with two healthy swallows of JD, and then lay on the floor in my underwear to wait. After about half an hour and two more swallows, I was ready to take on my father’s family.
My papa’s Filipino girlfriend is a notoriously bad gift giver. Throughout the night you could go from one huddle of people to another and the conversation was of the same vein.
“She gave me a ceramic yard angel. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?”
“Well she gave me a Hawaiian shirt in a 3X. Do I look like a 3X to you?!” (Actually, you do.)
“I got a framed photo of a pink flower.” (My cousin’s boyfriend)
Then they turned to me. “What did she get you?”
All smiles and sucking my liquor through a straw I replied, “Forty bucks and a sweatshirt. Ha!”
The envy was obvious. The motive was not. She dislikes me more than most of them so I was at a loss to understand why she’d given me a decent gift. Fear is about the only thing I could come up with. Maybe she was afraid I’d cut her. I can be pretty menacing when I’m around family...keeps them at a distance. I’m the cranky and rude, yet darkly funny relative. It could be worse. I could be the pushover or the medical moaner.
Anyway, there’s always one present that gets all the attention. Last year it was a $600 karaoke system that papa gave to his girlfriend. (Thankfully she won’t use it when I’m around anymore after a slightly awkward and drunken version of “I touch myself” in front of her church friends. I should really try karaoke in public...)
This year it was the interactive robot dinosaur papa gave to the kid. It walks, attacks, and makes over 100 noises. Even I was impressed with it. Everyone was crowding around, waiting on a turn with the remote. Somehow my cousin’s 3 year old brat got her sticky paws on it and we couldn’t get it back for about 20 minutes. Finally I intervened.
“Hey kid, give me that.”
“It’s mine”, she shrieked.
“Actually”, I said as I reached out my arm, “its Hannah’s, which means it’s mine by default. Hand it over.”
“Mine! Mine!” She started to back away, the look of a rabid dog on her face.
I picked up a stray pompom from the floor and waved it to the left. “Swish, swish, swish. Look!”
Momentarily distracted, she turned her attention to the pompom, allowing me to snatch the remote away with my right hand. She immediately began to wail while I danced gleefully away. Children love me.
By the time we got home with our booty it was around 9 and the kid was running on empty. I stuck her in the bed and she immediately passed out. My sister and I sat out the stuff from Santa Claus and soon followed suit. We had to be up early in order to open up presents before The Grandmother and the rest of my mom’s family arrived.
I was up and smiling at 6:30. I put on my new pink plaid bathrobe, started the coffee, and went to wake everyone but the kid. We were all situated in the living room with steaming cups when she came stumbling in, rubbing her eyes at 7. I took pictures of her awed expression as she looked over her new art desk and plethora of supplies that I’ll be sure to regret later.
We began to pass out presents. My mother, sister, Ray, and I all sat ours aside in a pile to be opened after the kid made her way through her enormous stack.
Everything was great until she opened the last present. She wanted more. “Dear gawd”, I thought, “I’ve raised a greedy little shit. No, no. It’s mom’s fault.” I allowed her to help open my presents to keep her happy. Sigh. The duty of a parent is never done.
I have to say, I got quite the haul this year. Even if my car does get repossessed and my cell phone gets turned off, rest assured, I will still be well dressed.
After a frenzy of cleaning, my sister and I decided that we were going to stay in our pajamas all day. And much to everyone’s disapproval, we did.
The Grandmother arrived with my Aunt D, Uncle B, and Aunt C in tow. My uncle stationed himself on the couch with his mandolin. That’s right, mandolin.
A harried Aunt D immediately approached me and said, “What have you got to drink around here?” I knew she didn’t mean soda, so I pulled a half empty bottle of rum out of the cabinet and mixed her a drink. Not an hour later I was walking through the kitchen and saw her emptying the last of my wine into a Solo cup.
“What are you doing?”
“I found this in the fridge.”
I sighed. I’d been saving that for later. No wine, no rum, and only one serving of Jack left in my hidden bottle.
After dinner I was sitting on the couch next to The Grandmother when she suggested my uncle play his mandolin. So he started a rousing rendition of “Dead skunk in the middle of the road” which sent Ray into a fit of laughter and my Aunt D to the bedroom to lie down. I got it all on video.
Later, when my drunken Aunt decided to emerge for a snack, the neighbor’s son happened to be stopping by to say hello to my mom. As he was walking out the door she said, “Is that your boyfriend?”
“No, that’s the neighbor’s son.”
“You didn’t invite a man to dinner?”
“Well, why not? Don’t you have a boyfriend?” She was swaying at the entrance to the living room and I attempted to brush past her.
“No, I don’t.”
“She doesn’t date”, my sister said.
“I sure wish you’d meet a nice man and get married”, The Grandmother said.
That sent the majority of the room into peals of laughter. Irritated, I looked at TG and said, “Well what if I like women?”
“I’ve been thinking that’s the problem”, she replied calmly.
“Yes, I should have brought my girlfriend to dinner”, I said sarcastically.
“Where is Rachel today?”
Evidently The Grandmother has been under the impression that my best friend and I have a closer relationship than we let on. Seriously. I’ve joked about it before, but on Christmas day she decided that she would tell me how deeply disappointed she was that I’ve been secretly seeing a woman...and an atheist woman at that. I was relieved when they finally left.
The rest of the weekend was devoted to spending my gift cards on outfits they’d never allow me to wear to work and taking down the Christmas stuff. Usually we wait another week or so, but I wanted it all out immediately. For some reason it makes me feel better to have it out of sight.
Right now I’m deeply enjoying my quiet office. The boss is occupied with catching up on her phone calls and everyone else has been put on notice to leave me alone. This week is all about recovery.
After all, I’ve only got four days and then it’s New Year’s dinner at The Grandmother’s. Maybe I can find someone suitable to bring while I’m out getting shitfaced the night before. That ought to put things to rights with this lesbian nonsense. I'm thinking someone with a few tattoos and a leather fetish.
Proximity, and Revelation.
2 days ago