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Grandma got run over by a Blue Light Special

On Christmas morning, Esteban and I woke up bright and early and exchanged presents with each other in our pajamas. Then we wandered around in a flurry because my family was coming over for brunch. In a rare bit of forethought, I had done a lot of the food preparation on Christmas Eve, so the cheese was sliced, the dip mixed (with my new shiny red Kitchen Aid mixer that I have inappropriate feelings about) and the Alpine puff pancake batter was waiting in a pitcher in the refrigerator. I whipped up a quick apple cake and the eggnog bread and even had time to concoct a rum glaze for said eggnog bread. Everything was primed and ready to go. Mo brought over an egg and cheese casserole thingy and my mom was scurrying around trying to warm up her store bought cinnamon rolls (sometimes she Marthas and other times she Oprahs), so my tiny little kitchen was abuzz with three cooks scurrying around.

Then we retired to the living room to wait for the brunch to finish cooking and Mo said, ‘What’s that crackling sound?’ I hopped up and went into the kitchen to find a sizable fire blazing on the back corner of my stovetop. What an unfortunate time to realize that we don’t have a fire extinguisher.

I tried smothering it with a towel, but then finally filled up a big cappuccino mug with water and put out the blaze that way. During this time, Mo came in and panicked and called for Esteban, which irritated me because what the heck was Esteban going to do that I wasn’t already doing? Subliminal sexism much?

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this on this page, but on December 22, 1994, my mother had a house fire and lost pretty much everything. It was an absolute horror show, that fire, and I had nightmares about the aftermath for some time. Then, six years ago, on probably December 21 or so, my sister’s ex left the house without turning off the Christmas tree lights. Big gigantic house fire number two, and again with the unfortunate coincidence of being within days of December 25. Mo’s fire wasn’t nearly as bad, however, because once it used up the oxygen in the house, it snuffed itself out. She only lost her living room furniture and all of the baby stuff, because she didn’t want to put a two-month-old in smoky onesies. However, given my suspicion that the universe operates on systematic coincidences, I was certain that I too had a Christmas fire in my future. Hopefully this incident fulfilled my inescapable fire destiny, and the only casualties were my stove and countertop, both of which will never be the same.

After the pyrotechnics portion of our Christmas variety hour, we opened presents. My extended family has got a bad habit of just buying things that ‘would make a good gift for someone’ and then flinging names on the packages by chance. Or so it would seem. My mother has gotten away from this habit, with intervention by my brother, so I was pleasantly surprised by my Buffy DVDs. Mo too occasionally struggles with gift giving. This year, she had purchased Mom a food processor and casually showed it to my brother. He replied, ‘Oh, that’s the same one you got her two years ago. Same box and everything.’ When Mo remarked that she didn’t remember giving her a food processor and how come she’s never seen it, Jon explained that it’s down in the basement because she doesn’t have room and never uses it. So Mo gave the food processor to someone else (see above re: flinging names on packages by chance) and Mom opened a reasonably sized crock-pot instead. Mom’s reaction? ‘Oh, thank you! You finally listened to me.’

I’m pretty accustomed to being the redheaded stepchild when it comes to my mother, so this comment sent me into a peal of giggles. For the record, the redheaded stepchild gave Mom a DVD player, a copper thingy for her garden, and a gift certificate for the good meat place (because she’s always complaining that it’s too expensive so she won’t shop there, even though the meat is real meat and not the scary pink Soylent Green stuff that is sold in the grocery stores). All told, it was a lovely Christmas morning, in spite of the property damage.

After brunch and present opening, Abby, Mo, Esteban and I played ‘Scene It’. I trounced everyone’s ass, but then Esteban managed to actually win the game, having answered all of two questions. The dice, they love Esteban. Even with the outcome, it was a really fun thing and I sort of like this weird normalcy on the holiday. Maybe we can make that a tradition.

When we could stall no longer, we all hopped in our respective cars and headed to Mafia Grandma’s house. I was sort of shocked by the appearance of Aunt Brumhilda. Not shocked that she was there, but rather, how she was even more gaunt and emaciated than she had been this summer. The woman no longer has an ass. The pants just hang there. It’s disturbing, especially when you realize that our family is good healthy farm stock with hips ripe for childbearing. I feel so bad for her, but then she was talking smack about the dip I brought, right in front of Esteban, who is as worthy of Aunt Brumhilda’s attention as the wallpaper. Of course, she probably feels as though I should have nothing to do with food whatsoever and should quietly sit in the corner sipping water with lemon for several months until I have starved myself down to a Brumhilda-accepted size.

Crazy Old Cane Lady was there again. I could do with less Crazy Old Cane Lady, quite honestly, even though it makes me feel like a bad person for saying that. I wouldn’t care if she’d just sit there, but instead she loudly wrangles every conversation back to herself, even by means that are crass and tacky. She swears freely and talks about gross things, and while I do exactly that, I only do it on my diary and certainly don’t interject someone else’s family Christmas with descriptions of rim jobs. I am not making that up, either. What was the context? There wasn’t one. And no, she hasn’t had a stroke and doesn’t have Alzheimer’s or anything like that. She apparently isn’t in many situations where the attention is not focused squarely upon her, so I think she gets more and more outlandish to get noticed by people who are just trying to have their family get-together.

Speaking of being noticed, Esteban is pretty much ignored by my family, especially when contrasted by the fact that I received hugs from each one of his cousins the night before. He contented himself with watching football in the front parlor while we opened presents in the back parlor (my Mafia Grandmother lives in a ridiculously old house and yes, they are actual parlors). Although I got irritated because each gift was To Weetabix & Esteban, however, like Esteban cares about Aunt Brunhilda’s gift of a vanilla scented bath set (well, not like I do either, but that’s my family) or the second bath set from the other aunt. And from Mafia Grandmother, a second set of fugly plates. The first set, received nine years ago, depicted teddy bears with big blue bows around their necks. You can imagine how horrifying that was, but again, this is the gift giving paradigm, as she thought the plates were adorable. Maybe if I were eight. Or blind. They never even made it into our home, though, going directly to the homeless shelter. This year, we received ‘holiday’ plates, with holly berries and red bows, exactly the kind of tacky shit that I despise. Looks like we’ve got at least one of our white elephant gifts for next year.

It’s not about the gifts. Really it isn’t, because everyone has a holiday horror story or accidentally gives someone something that they are not interested in. And it’s not like I am giving them gifts with the expectation of gettin anything in return. It’s just about finding out where you are in the pecking order. Mo and I get different variations of exactly the same thing every year, as though we are interchangeable. Then I started getting ticked because not only is Esteban an afterthought on the gift tag, but they all but ignore him in general. He’s only been a part of our family for the last fifteen Christmases.

After we made our hasty escape, I got all worked up about it and was going to make a proclamation through the channels (aka tell Mom, who would tell everyone else and rev up The Drama) that they shouldn’t even buy me a gift next year and rather buy one for him, but then Esteban pointed out that it’s not like they’re really picking appropriate gifts for me either. I agreed that somehow we’re both the plus ones of my family and have half a mind to skip it completely next year, just sending my gifts along with Mo and being done with it. Very charitable attitude, I know. God bless us, every one.

So then Esteban took me for a lovely drive along the windy roads along the Bayshore and we looked at the Christmas lights and held hands and agreed that the best part of the holiday was that we got to spend it with each other. Let the barfing commence.

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