Hosting Christmas dinner felt like a right of passage into adulthood, of sorts. I was a home-owner now. With this title came a mortgage, an electric bill that was almost as high as the mortgage payment (due to the gross inefficiency of ceiling heat), and the joys of buying and installing a new toilet.
It was my first ever time hosting in my new cozy townhouse in the roaming deer and wild turkey-populated forested South hills.
For the last two weeks, my mother had been calling me tri-weekly to go over the meal plan. “I’m making sirloin steak, roasted root veggies, green beans with sautéed mushrooms, gluten free garlic bread, and salad,” I would repeat, wondering if her failure to remember that we had had this exact same conversation two days prior, meant that she was suffering from early-onset dementia.
“That’s so much for you to make by yourself,” she would say angstily, repeating her two days ago speech verbatim.
“How about your father and I bring the steak. Also, I’ll make that cheese sauce that everyone loves. Goldie gave me the recipe for this wonderful carrot-cilantro salad that I’ll bring too!”
Each conversation entailed me saying, “Don’t worry mom, I’ve got this,” but by the last one, I wearily succeeded.
“Great mom, thanks,” I said with tepid enthusiasm. You can bring the steak. I’ll just make the vegetable dishes them.”
She seem to relax substantially when I allowed her full reign in the meat-preparing department.
“Wonderful, luv. See you at noon on Tuesday. Hugs.”
I called my sister after that and announced, “Mom thinks I’m going to botch Christmas dinner. I’m relegated to making a few side dishes.”
My sister chuckled, “she is still going to hyper-scrutinize the timing with which you remove each dish from the over, the way the napkins are folded, and the cleanliness of your kitchen down to the last crumb on the floor. Oh and make sure you have a chance to iron your shirt – that was an unspeakable disaster when you forgot last Christmas. Good luck!”
“Funny,” I said with mock offense. “Now, shall I hook my phone up to my new flatscreen in the living room and set it to that wood-fire burning app? There are cool crackling-log sound-effects and everything.”
I had done this for the small office Christmas party I had hosted the week prior and everyone had loved seeing the crackling fire on the flatscreen. Although, I had been slightly abashed when my boss, a gruff 73-year old orthopedic physician gleefully informed me that Rosco, my x-partner, had just bought a TV.
“Huh?” I asked in confusion.
“A text from Rosco just showed up on your TV saying, ‘I just bought a 50 Samsung,’” he explained.
I had silently thanked the gods that Rosco had texted something benign. He could have texted, “Are your surviving the office party with your menacing boss?” Or, has the annoying front desk lady who’s obsessed with Pictionary made you guys play it yet?”
“Hmm,” I mused to my sister, “since I can’t run the app without turning my phone to airplane mode and avoiding incoming texts, I guess it’ll have to be a no-go for the simulated fire on the TV.”
“But it would be so fun for me if an embarrassing text did pop on your TV,” she said brightly, because she is slightly satanic like that.
“Yeah, last Christmas my friend Rachel texted me a picture of a dude wearing a speedo that read ‘Merry Christmas.’ with my luck, this year she’ll send a ‘Season’s Greetings’ with a full monty dick pic with painted reindeer antlers that will pop up on the flatscreen while we’re eating pudding.”
“A dick pic,” my sister repeated, savoring the words maliciously. “Mom would turn bright red and change the subject with her, ‘this never happened’ attitude. It was true, my mother had an aptitude for completely denying unsavory things that had, in fact, very much happened, and she would never speak of them or acknowledge their existence again.
I was pretty sure that her brain had a special mechanism for erasing memories, like in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” It was actually kind of a superpower.
…”She’ll pretend it never happened until…” my sister continued maliciously, “she’ll ask me for material ideas for her annual Year-End letter, and I will reminder her of the epic Christmas dick pic incident, and encourage her to include it in the letter. I mean, it would provide for a much more entertaining read for friends and relatives than the kitchen remodeling that her and dad are doing…”
(Fast forward) Christmas morning:
…I was just beginning to curl my hair when the doorbell rang, at 11:47 – twelve minutes earlier than the noon agreed-upon arrival time.
I took the stairs two at a time, swung open the door, and pasted a maniacal grin on my face as my mom, dad, and sister filed in bearing ice chests and gift bags.
“I told you she wouldn’t have her hair done yet,” my sister mouthed under her breath to my dad with a smug grin. My mom gave me a quick once-over, rose her eyebrows in her kindergarten-teacher “we’re about to start singing The Wheels on the Bus” facial expression, and said in her sing-songey voice, “Oh darling, you can go finish your hair. We were early, silly us. We should have waited in the car until noon. We’ll just start cooking the steaks, shall we!”
She motioned sharply to my dad who quickly set the cooler down on the kitchen counter. She then clicked into her “I’m the queen of the kitchen” mode, and started delegating tasks, quickly reducing my dad and my sister to scurrying helpers. The kitchen soon resembled the Disney version of Cinderella where everyone springs into action to make her ballroom gown – except with my dad and sister in lou of the singing mice helpers…