Whoop-Dee-Doo Holiday Cheer
By Diane Sesler
It’s a Holiday… it’s a Holiday… whoop-dee-doo.
I ride on this road every Christmas. It’s called Hope. My heart longs to see a peaceful time with my relatives. My vision is filled with mushy love and laughter. Happy, happy, happy! But I get lost and my detour takes me to the Highway to Hell. I repeat to myself, I will remain calm, composed and full of joy. The last three words should probably be rearranged to read “full of something else”.
It begins. The first hours of hugging and kissing happen. It’s all good. I look at my watch. Wow. It’s been four hours and all is well. Curious.
I’m about to wash my hands. My sister reminds me that I may have some loose screws in my head. She casually informs me that the left handle is for hot water. Right-o. I shrug it off. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
This is hard to explain. It’s about trying to describe a human being who pushes everyone’s buttons (except my husband’s and that’s mainly because he can’t speak French, smart man). This human being makes you want to guzzle down a bottle of Xanax with a martini. Her name is Mom. She loves you. The problem is her mouth. It’s filled with painful daggers. Her words can slice you in half.
She chirps to my sister, “I lost another five pounds and I’m not even trying.” She shoves a plate of cookies she baked on the kitchen counter. Should you be eating those? she says to both of us with a sparkle in her eyes.
My sister rolls her eyes. Mom can’t sit. She immediately starts to wipe things down. She’s like a defective slinky that never stops. She’s gurgling sweet goo-goo-ga-ga’s to the dogs. “Oh, my sweet pootie-pooh’s — grandma brought you some yummy treats.” Mom’s treats always make all the dogs fart, which makes my folks unhappy. They’re so stinky! “Mom, stop feeding them stuff!” It’s like talking to a doorknob.
I take my dog out in the woods behind their backyard for a poop. Easy enough. When I return, I look back to see my mom in horror. I dragged dog doo-doo all over her perfect carpet with my shoe. Crap. I’m suddenly twelve again. Panic grabs my throat. I feel clammy. I’m reminded of a bigger fiasco with a dog my sister adopted five years ago. Her new dog, Phoenix, was not feeling so well while everyone slept peacefully at my parent’s house. Phoenix became a giant pinata overnight. When he burst, he exploded on my mom’s white carpet, sofa, curtains, lamps and the walls. It wasn’t candy… my sister and my mom both cried over that one.
“Ah, mon Dieu!” Mom says with eyes big as beach balls. She looks like she is about to faint. Perfect. “Hey, remember when Phoenix…” I try to make my sister’s dog look awful to make Nuke appear sweet in comparison. It’s not working. I clean the awful mess and think I may throw up on her germ-free carpet. I carefully wipe off my shoe and throw the smelly stuff into their large outdoor garbage can.
“Ah, non, you didn’t throw the merde in the garbage can?” she says. I hate this part. My parents have very complicated garbage disposal rules. Most items have to be cleaned before you throw them out. Some items are put into a bag that have to be put into another bag and then put into Trash Bin #1 inside or Trash Bin #2 outside. I still don’t get it.
More fun coming our way. Dad is about to cook, a simple sentence that’s loaded like a gun. Apparently my sister and I do not comprehend the art of buying kitchen tools. Every kitchen gadget we own are primitive tools that belong to cavemen, according to our father. Our wheels are square.
Here it comes. It’s the same thing every year. He’s about to peel potatoes. This one particular tool sends him into a fit of madness — it’s a potato peeler. I look at my sister. Here we go: 1, 2, 3… Your peeler is a -+)*&^%$! My sister and I both look at the ceiling. We’re hoping Jesus will come and save us, but he’s too busy with his own birthday plans.
This escalates into WWIII. Dad’s face is going through painful contortions. Every bad word ever invented resonates into the room. It’s like he’s in a boxing ring with Mohammed Ali except it’s a dang potato peeler. Mom to Dad: “Voyons…don’t be upset” which is exactly what happens, and dad disappears. The potato peeler won the first round. I’m looking for the girl with high heels who walks around the ring with a number on her board.
“What happened? Where did he go?” my sister says.
Wow, I’m thinking, we broke a record. We made it without a scene for exactly 7 hours, 6 minutes and 2 seconds.
“He’s sitting in his car,” I say, feeling a weird sort of family pride. Sniff. Sniff. Fumes are coming out of my sister’s nostrils. She is tomato red. I add with well-intentioned cheer, “He’s upset. He feels that we don’t want him around. Personally, I think it’s the potato peeler.”
She marches outside with flames in her hair. “GET OUT OF THE CAR! WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A NICE CHRISTMAS TOGETHER!” Her speaker-like lungs do their work and my dad comes back into the house mumbling. He’s probably still cursing the evil potato peeler. Bad, bad tool!
David is picking at his guitar with a far far-away look in his eyes. He’s grinning. His mind has checked out into a hotel in Brazil. The calmness has returned. It’s as though nothing has happened. I like to rationalize our behavior by saying, “Well, you know the French! We may want to kill you one minute, and the next it’s all beautiful.” Keeps you on your toes. This small family of four equals a loud army of a hundred. We leave some heavy Pig-Pen dust behind us.
Despite the chaos, I find that I love them all no matter what. I’m lucky that they are still around to celebrate the holidays. May the New Year bring us lots of Kumbaya. We need it. Happy 2012.