It was a dark and dismal midday in December. The clouds hung low and pendulous in the crowded sky, yet curiously this offered no comfort. All the morrow the sky threatened to storm, yet the storm never came. It kept trying and trying, until you just wanted to say, ‘Give it up already. It’s not going to happen.’
On this cold and disconsolate day, nearly one year ago to the date, I pierced the gloom with my rented Datsun on the way to my Uncle Ed and Aunt Flo’s, The Nases, to commemorate the protracted labor and pain of a putative virgin named Mary some two thousand or so years ago. And, believe me, today was to be no less bloody.
Along the way, I stopped at a 7-11 for some Funions.
As I pulled up to the brick ranch house on street of nearly identical houses, saving the year-round display of random gnomes in the lawn, my thoughts naturally turned to those more fortunate than I - to those without ‘families’ to suck them into their webs of insinuation and judgment once a year – to those whose families were chosen – to Marcel and Luis, who, at this very moment, were likely sipping mimosas while deconstructing the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol.
Inside were the usual cast of miscreants of my formative years. Ok no… these people weren’t that bad. I just really didn’t want to come here to today, okay. The weather outside is
frightful. And my home is
so delightful. And since I just dread it so, I don’t want go, want to go, want to go. Does that me some kind of monster? No, no matter what my third grade teacher may think, I will never believe that!
My mother with her ubiquitous cigarette and the gravity defying ashes came to over to give me a holiday hug, while my father, who in honor of the occasion was wearing pants, looked up from his plate of select baby cheeses to offer a holiday grunt. In addition to the aforementioned Ed and Flo, there were my sisters, Eustace and Edwina. My grandmother on my mother’s side was trying her very best to blend into the upholstery on the davenport. This year she even wore a very similar pattern and color. This proved to be a mistake, as my terribly near-sighted and morbidly obese cousin Willie “Tiny” Nase nearly sat on her. My cousin’s nickname used to lead me to think that my family was fond of irony, just not very good at it. This was until I realized that he acquired the sobriquet as an infant and that, in fact, my family was simply singularly lacking in imagination.
Ed was my mother’s brother (from another planet
). My father’s sole living relative, who had long ago managed to worm his way into any gathering of people, related or not, my father was a part of, was my uncle Sam. (Think about it… okay my
last name is… and we’re there. Yes, I know.) Unfortunately, Uncle Sam was enormously fond the joke his name lent it self to and fancied himself quite the comedian on account of it. Unfortunately, that was really the one and only joke at his disposal.
What in Sam Houston…? Heh heh heh.
And, It’s Christmas.
He even explored ways to legally change his name to add the initials I and T to the end of his name. Oh, yes. Yes, he did.
Sam is the ‘confirmed’ bachelor of the family. (Don’t get your hopes up.) I say ‘the’ confirmed bachelor because there is still a residual of expectation floating in the familial ether that I might someday take a wife, which I always thought was an odd thing to do, if no other reason that the ‘taking’ part seems so rude. At any rate, I remained as yet ‘unconfirmed’ in their eyes. I once tried to engage my uncle in a conversation about exactly how one goes about this confirmation process. This led to a strained and gratuitously inappropriate joke involving his fictitious eponymous Institute of Technology. I never asked again.
Where’s your ‘friend’, Bob?
Asked Eustace with her usual mixture of condescension and disinterest.
What’s that you ask? Who is Bob? Is it so hard to believe that I had a boyfriend? For I did at this time. We met the New Year’s Eve prior in a honky-tonk in Sheboygan. Lust turned to passion, passion turned to a deep affinity and spiritual bond, affinity led to a brief and regrettable episode involving matching jumpsuits. Yet for all that, he never could or would be my amorino.
It was doomed from the start. For one thing, I was raised Catholic and he was an âne du cheval
. How would we raise the cats? Okay, yes, I am a little bitter for how it ended. And it would be only one week after this day, one year to the date of our meeting, that it would all blow up in a very messy disagreement involving recriminations, accusations of infidelity and Liza Minelli. Plus, he refused to come out to his constituents, so was there really any future?
Today, in the cool light of memory, I don’t regret a thing, okay, almost not a thing, okay, you know where this going.
He couldn’t make it
. I responded. But Eustace had already been distracted by the smell of pan drippings wafting from the kitchen.
Who couldn’t make it?
Asked Edwina, joining the moment late.
pause, pause, too bad…
awkward silence. Edwina isn’t specifically homophobic. But she has an odd discomfort with any relationship she is not a part of. Naturally, she’s very religious. She’s also the only one of the three siblings who is ‘married’. Her husband, Roger, was lurking in a corner, as is his wont and habit. He chose this moment to slide out and move just the rear and the left of Edwina. He has this odd ability to walk without much moving his upper body, so if you saw him move from the waist up, you’d swear he was gliding. Also, I’ve also never actually seen him touch another human being, except by accident, yet he habitually invaded other people’s personal space, and, as often as not, to their rear and left.
Roger had managed to accomplish this move without speaking a word. We exchanged forced holiday grins and I was about to inquire about his new position as the senior assistant night manager at the local Stuckey’s when our collective hearing was pierced by the shriek of one the consequences of the union of Roger and Edwina. One of their three children, which the whole time had been running around the room for no apparent reason, chose this moment to stop and release a squeal that surely will be heard by some alien civilization on some distant galaxy millennia hence. Roger and Edwina remained undisturbed, that is until another shrill voice pierced the awkwardness of the moment.
Announced my Aunt Flo. And the whole family began to converge upon the dining room, slowly and steadily, as if this where a scene from Night of the Living Dead
and my aunt had just announced, Brains!
Dinner itself was uneventful, by which I mean, the entire meal proceeded without the shock of flavor or the distraction of moisture. Luckily I was prepared and had been saving up extra saliva for the event.
This was followed by the exchange of gifts. In past years I had spent time and effort to find or create thoughtful and tasteful gifts for each member of my family. This was invariably followed by confused and dazed looks of befuddlement. This all ended the year that Eustace began using my hand-knit vibrator cozy for vegetable storage. Since then I’ve recirculated back to them the same gifts I received from them the previous year. This has proven to be a much better strategy, not only for my family, but also for the local re-sale shop which most certainly did not want another World’s Greatest Golfer
With all of that excitement behind us, we retired to the living room to watch holiday re-runs on the holiday TV while enduring the holiday moratorium on holiday conversation. Luckily I had thought in advance to write myself a note as to which year this was, so that when I emerged into the world where time has not stood still, it would be easier to acclimate myself.
I cannot tell you precisely when I made my escape, or if anyone even noticed, given the mesmerizing effects of Burl Ives. I stepped out into a darkened world of damp and bitter coldness. As I drove home, the sky finally released its wet and white load. Satisfied at last, I found a radio station playing Wagner and raced home.
I won’t bother to report back on this year’s holiday festivities. If you’re interested, simply scroll to the top and repeat as necessary.
Souhaiter vous le fromage sur la Terre et les hommes bons et disposés.