Monday, December 25, 2006

Get Your Merry On 2006, Part I

Christmas Eve

12:06 PM—It’s 5 O’clock Somewhere

I’ve had my first sip of alcohol. I am driven to drink at such an early hour because Kristy and I are failures and Stacy is perfect. I feel like I’m reliving Christmases past. I feel like I am a kid again being scolded by both my parents.

Despite the fact that I have been driving for fourteen years in this little section of Connecticut, on the way home from the mall today my father decided to scold me for trying to get off the exit into Farmington “because it’s going to be way backed up.” Then when I continued on 84 toward the 72 exit that is the next closest to our house, he directed me to take the Route 6 exit instead and made me drive all the way down route six, effectively going 10 minutes out of our way to avoid (nonexistent) traffic.

I got home and started to prepare the shrimp because my mother and Stacy were not home yet, having left the mall 30 minutes before the rest of us. (They make secret side trips all the time.) The shrimp was still frozen because someone had not removed it from the freezer early enough, so I ran it under cold water. Yes, this is not an ideal method of thawing shrimp as it loses some nutrients and flavoring but given that it is noon and we are supposed to be at the Grandmonster’s right now, prepared shrimp in hand, I chose the only method that won’t take another 24 hours.

Kristy made the ziti last night. She cooked the pasta and the sauce so it would require only warming today. She preheated the oven.

Then in stroll my mother and the Wonder Sister. At this point, I am already in the basement preparing my drink because I must get buzzed to deal with the Grandmonster anyhow. As I come back upstairs, I hear the water being turned off and ask my dad, the culprit, to turn it back on. No, he informs me. My mother told him to turn it off. “Look,” she shrieks. “The shrimp is losing its flavor! You can’t do it this way!” She brandishes a raw, half-frozen shrimp in my face as proof.

“Ah, but you see, mother,” I say, “the shrimp are still frozen." She has no answer for this, so she goes on to search for the pasta.”

“Is Kristy cooking the pasta?” she asks. I inform her that Kristy is warming it in the oven. She opens the oven triumphantly to reveal to me that in fact I am wrong because there is clearly no pasta in the oven, so I point out that the oven is still preheating and that Kristy will insert said pasta into the oven when it reaches a temperature much greater than 145 degrees.

It is at this point that she realizes Kristy cooked the pasta last night. She starts a rant about how the pasta needs to be cooked now and mixed into the sauce. Yesterday was wrong. The pasta will be too soggy. But it’s already been done last night, I try to reason with her. “IT HAS TO BE DONE NOW,” she practically screams. “THE PASTA NEEDS TO BE MADE NOW AND MIXED IN WITH THE SAUCE!”

I tell her in a restrained voice that it is too late for that now and decide to walk away before my control snaps. I know she has cancer and I know she’s in pain and on a lot of drugs, but this—this is the old Mom that I used to butt heads with constantly. This is the judgmental, harsh woman that I fear turning into as I age.

As Kristy comes up the stairs, and I am heading into the living room to have my first sip of rum and Coke, I stage whisper to her:

“You and I are both screw-ups.”


4:36 PM—Peace On Earth, and Goodwill to Men

Okay. One rum and coke, two glasses of wine, and a delicious meal later, things look better. We visited the Grandmonster, who was pouring Pinot Grigio. While I prefer reds, this white is not bad at all. Also visiting were my Uncle Jack and Aunt Maurie, my father’s older (half) brother and his wife. They call each other Mom and Dad and talk incessantly about how well they eat and how much they will have to exercise to burn off whatever naughty thing they have been enticed to eat by us. They see it as their personal mission in life to show fat people the way to being skinny. The wine helped get through that one, and now here we are back home with some wrapping and cooking and cleaning to get done for the evening, nothing overwhelming.


11:50 PM—'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

At 6:10 tonight, my niece informed me that she had asked Santa for Butterscotch, the Furreal Friends pony that is 3 feet tall and costs three hundred dollars. Now, not that we have the money to get such a thing for a 10-year-old who is as irresponsible with her things as Victoria is (or that we would have the money to get a super responsible 10-year-old this toy anyway) but at this time, all stores including Walmart have been closed for at least ten minutes. Shit. This is the year she finds out the truth, I thought. I have been upset about this all evening because I know that she is at about the age when most kids no longer believe, but I can tell that she really still wants to believe, that she wants to be proven right about his existence. With everything going on in her life—her grandmother and primary caretaker sick with cancer, her parents totally unfit and she getting old enough to realize this about them, being made fun of at school—she really needs to believe at least for one more year.

I expressed my dread at her finding out to Kristy, who didn’t think it was that big a deal. Kristy was about that age when she stopped believing, she told me. I was too; I know that. But my life was like heaven compared to this kid’s. I talked to Stacy about how this is upsetting me, and she said that if Vicky wants to believe, she still will. I’m not so sure. She doubts too much in her life right now, and while she wants to believe, she needs just a little bit of help to do it. I told my dad. I told him how much it upsets me and how important I think it is to give this kid just one more year of being a kid.

She took the time to write him a letter before she went to sleep tonight, no small task for a kid that has a documented physical disability that causes her to be unable to write at the fifth grade level. My dad disguised his handwriting and wrote a letter back to her, telling her how very sorry Santa Claus is that he can’t give Victoria Buttercup this year and he hopes she can understand that there are a lot of poor kids in the world and he needs to be able to give a present to everyone. Santa Claus hopes that she will still like what he was able to give her, and he’s very proud of how she’s been doing in school.

It was the best that could be done. I hope it’s enough, the nudge she needs to be able to continue to believe in magic just a little longer. It was a small thing my dad did but it means the world to me that he listened to what was upsetting me and found a way to try to fix it. He believed in what I was saying and wanted to help. A little present to Victoria and me from Santa Claus, courtesy of my dad. Thanks, Dad.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


dan said...

I hope in the end, Tina, the good outweighed the bad.

Some people feel the need to control everything because so much is out of their control. because they're whacked. I know, I am one.

You're perfectly fine. And although I wouldn't have had the shrimp, any idiot knows that for the most part, most Italian foods are better the second day... (lasagna anyone?) So I suppose that means your sister is perfectly fine too. :)

Here's hoping 2007 goes your way. :)

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Tina. I loved the story about your Dad and Vicky. It made me tear up. I was about the same age when I realized Santa had the same handwriting as my dad AND he misspelled my name the same way. Although the presents wrapped in boxes marked from work were the final clue.

Hope the rest of your holidays were merry.