Christmas. It’s over. I have tales. A new dog. A relationship so toxic Baby Jesus winced even as Baby Jesus gave the two the side eye. A funeral. Ah.
The death of a mother. A friend of mine. Right before a big holiday season. Not pleasant when there isn’t a string of days devoted to this or that. Horribly nasty when it takes place during festive times. A Buddhist funeral. I’ve never been to one. I went with another family member, who’d never been to one either. This was a neighbor lady, Japanese, who had lived at the house across the field for eons. Farmers. Everyone about here are either farmers or teachers. Or cook meth. It’s that kinda world here lately.
Bells. Incense. Chanting. Very dignified. A sort of foggy Christmas Eve day. No snow. Wet, muddy, foggy. A reminder that Dicken’s immortal classic began with a funeral on Christmas Eve. Marley’s. More bells and the sweet odor of incense.
Christmas Eve is spent with the hillbilly side of the fam’ly.
Christmas Day was and is traditionally spent with the other half of the family. Both sides of my family got along very well, in case you were wondering. Both sets of grandparents really enjoyed visiting with each other. Both sets migrated here to Oregon and Idaho from Nebraska, where they grow corn and manners and tornadoes. That’s what I’ve gathered from all that talking back and forth over the years. Christmas Day was giant meal, the women did all the cooking, and we played cards all afternoon.
Christmas Eve was spent with the hillbillies.
That’s my own pet snarky nickname for my mom’s kith and kin. I did get to see pictures of the cougars my cousin trapped and hear about how the price of coyote pelts is through the roof right now. I silently wondered who’s buying fur anymore. Who the fuck is that? Cause you’re not eating the cougar meat. You’re not eating the coyote meat– though I did see where you can cook it and turn it into haute cuisine sort of food. That was when Andrew Zimmerman still wandered through the Travel Channel. But anyway, before I get distracted and this gets super-ass long as hell!
I do cuss. If you’re new here, well. I do cuss on occasion.
Yes, now to Xavier and Vickie. Which is not their real names.
My little group trundles off toward the Christmas Eve festivities. It’s a foggy, muddy, somewhat rainy Eve. No snow. No real cheer. Just obligation and the thought of the chips and dips. Which tell me the holiday season is truly nigh. Sad. Chips and dips is what I look forward to, not halting awkward family interactions and hearing that the lib’rals have attacked God-fearing red-blooded ‘murican farmers.
I’ve done entire blog posts about what I hear pooped out of human mouths around me. M’kay.
We get there, it’s cool. As in groovy, not my auntie needs to turn the heat on or stuff some wood in her wood-burning stove.
Most of the people showing up for this gathering are already there. It’s mellow. My aunt has enough food to feed Boise bubbling, boiling, baking or waiting to go into an oven. Ham. Turkey. Taters. Stuffing. Bacon mac and cheese, from scratch…with six kinds of cheese in it. OH MY WORD. Oh look, chips and dips. And then someone else brings bread and HOMEMADE DIPS THAT ARE SUPER TASTEFUL.
Veggies? No. I have yet to see a veggie dish show up since the death of my own mother over ten years ago. No salad. No squash. No weird green bean casserole attempt. Just meat and carbs and DIP.
However, I pick up on how watchful people are. Waiting. One cousin is not yet there. I hear, nearly five seconds after I enter the house, decorated with red and green, blue and silver, gold and sparkly lights, that Vickie is a bitch. There’s the oh no, don’t start that yet admonishment. Do I already know what is thought of Vickie and her California ways? Yes. Yes, I do. Yep, she’s from California. California is a bad word in Eastern Oregon/Western Idaho. It’s kinda the queen mother of bad words here. You want to really insult someone, ask if they’re from California. [Because it’s run by liberals, the housing, the myths and legends people absorb as truth, the…uh huh. Then, Californians are all moving to Idaho and Oregon, ruining everything. Uh huh.]
I’ve mentioned that one, too. I know I have.
Okay! So we’re all waiting for Xavier to show up. If he and his little woman show up. It’s that kinda crowd.
Ah, the two arrive. The lights splash along the driveway! We’re all tensing already. What will walk through that door? Stay tuned to find out! Where’s the dip??!!
It’s just Xavier and one of his very young chil’ren. She’s fucking still out there in the car, he snarl-snaps at the startled, still sorts watching this entrance.
Suddenly, we’re watching a Eugene O’Neill play, except with modern language added. [The f bomb, mostly.]
Xavier dumps his first load of baby stuff– as it takes several Sherpa loads these days to take babies anywhere– to fetch the other kid and the rest of the stuff, presents and stuff. Vickie has not yet made her appearance. We’re all…uncomfortable audience members to this kitchen sink reality show of epic proportions. It takes perhaps half an hour before Vickie makes her DRAMATIC ENTRANCE.
DOG SHIT. ON MY SHOE. BIG PILE OF DOG SHIT. RIGHT THERE BY THE CAR DOOR. WHAT THE FUCK? DOG SHIT DOG SHIT DOG SHIT!
She’s more wound up than a barrel of rattlesnakes and twice as poisonous. Something like that!
Instantly, as we’ve been enjoying the two very young babies– both under two years old or so– the tension goes to eleven.
Xavier bristles. Vickie uses Wet Wipes to clean the poo from her shoes. Instead of just removing her shoes, leaving them by the door. Or laughing about stepping in dog poo right out of the car door. Or…so many other choices here than what she chose to do. [It’s family, you pretend you have manners. If I learned nothing else, I learned that, hello!]
Though dog poo on velvet shoes or delicate little spendy numbers you adore…but. I saw the shoes, just some old cheap ass boot looking things. Then the mutters, from Vickie, about the baby crawling on the floor…mm. If the tap water was drinkable. To keep so and so away from Baby X. Mutters. Oh the mutters one overhears at times.
Xavier and Vickie apparently fought the entire time they drove to the Christmas Eve gathering. Apparently, they’ve been fighting since before they met, if you know what I mean. So, there’s muttering. So much under the breath muttering, just muttered loud enough for all of us to hear. Those not front and center in this O’Neill gritty reboot, have the side eyes down to an art. We’ve all become experts in body language communication exchanges. There’s selective deafness goin’ on! Whee!
The holiday air seems stained with invisible dirty bomb emissions. The chips and dips, so good! Everyone’s munching or in the other room, shoulders hunched up. Because surely, this ugly pimple is gonna burst. Spray noxious fluids all over us. Ever had one of those ugly angry white-topped pimples? Yeah, like that. Ever watched cysts and infected pimples get drained?? So gross and yet so satisfying!
Where was I.
The presents get opened. Ah. Thanks! The sound of ripping paper, the asking if those pretty boxes were bought at Joanne’s. [The local craft store.]
The food, the literal mountains of food, become available for consumption. The alcohol has been flowing, so actual food that’s not chips and/or dip, nice. Xavier, shoulders hunched to his angry earlobes, slaps some of that food on a big disposable plate, prepares to chow down. Vickie mutters she’d sure like a hot meal as she slams about getting out baby food stuff. Xavier about comes out of his angry skin, like a butterfly bent on rampages, bursting out of a cocoon, ready for carnage. He shoves that giant disposable plate away. He goes off for cartons of baby goo to shove at the youngest kiddo. The older kiddo gets mac and cheese and other tidbits. The two sit on the same side of the table. We’re…careful. Watching. Afraid to breathe.
Are the guns locked up? [I had that actual thought. Both sides of the fam’ly are totally into GUNZ.] This is the lead up to one of those Christmas Eve drunken fam’ly shootings. I’m watching it in real time. That was the impression I had.
Now, the two are shoving food at the two kids. Neither talk. The one year old can barely crawl. I see Xavier about once or twice a year, if that. My other cousin’s little woman fills me in on all this so…I have the gossip and what I observe. Okay!
Not long after the most uncomfortable dining experience I’ve had to sit through in years, Xavier and Vickie pack up their spawn, their shit, and head back ‘home’. Without a kind word for each other, without much enjoyment shown toward either kid, with faces like death masks from a Greek tragedy. A Greek tragedy channeling Long Day’s Journey Into Night with big handfuls of Mamet’s way with certain words thrown in.
During this brief, awful family drama unfurling, I go outside where people are smoking the funny weed that’s legal in my state. I burst out about the tension, what the hell is this, does anyone have any heroin, because it will take the edge off that scene in there. We all laugh, gossip fiercely, suck down some smoke. Because hey, why confront directly when you can smoke funky plants and gossip in half-whispers?
No. I don’t do heroin.
Okay! I’m not around Vickie on a regular basis so I don’t really know her but it does seem she got painted early on as a bitch, and unlikable. That she never really had a chance. When you’re around people who don’t like you, no matter how nice they’re pretending to be, you tend to get defensive. A lot defensive. Poor Vickie can’t avoid her own kid’s grandma. Well, she can and has, I gather. What a mess, a hot sticky this is gonna hurt to actually resolve this MESS.
That was my Christmas Eve. I had pecan-flavored whiskey, but did not get drunk. A bit high, but not drunk.
The fate of those four caught in some loop of resentment, outright hatred, commitment entanglements, children, obligations, job loss…ugh. I don’t know. Counseling might help, some neutral party that can weather the pimple bursting far better than family members can. I see a nasty as hell breakup galloping down the two-lane. Maybe people going to jail for assault. [Yes, that’s the air I got from all this.] I don’t want to hear Xavier and Vickie imploded and took everyone around them downward, too. I want to hear they took a realistic look a their situation, their relationship, worked out custody and money matters, then parted for good. So they could both heal from all this and become far better people on the other side. That’s my Christmas wish this year.
And the writer part of me…sadly…goes– how to use this? They don’t read my stuff. Or if they do, I don’t hear about it. [If that side did read my collected works, they’d tar and feather me, after asking me if so and so was them…] Family drama fuels a thousand percent of literature is my humble opinion. Usually first-hand family drama.
Except those writers who grew up in a vacuum somewhere in the wilds of Oregon on a communist commune where nothing happened except the day’s baking of nan bread. They grew up, wrote nice poems about flowers and were politely puzzled at another writer’s seething three-book rage-athon on why their dad was a POS.
Xavier and Vickie, poor things. Their two little peanuts. You just want to offer to take the two kiddos, let the two adults go destroy each other all they wish…
But hey, found a stray dog. Cream underbelly, dark brown silky soft short coat. What we call a cow dog. But there’s something else in there. Rottweiler? German Shepherd? Maybe even a bit of pit bull? Boxy head. Smart, female, no collar, skinny. I did post her on social media. I did ask the folks living where I found her if she was their dog. Nope. I found her where we’ve found other dogs, it’s a spot to drop unwanted canines out. Brigit. Or Miz Bridge. As she was found by the bridge. Yeah.
So far she’s torn up some mats and a old magazine. And my flip flops. But. She’s a big puppy yet.
I’ll end on a nice note instead of the intense sadness that is my cousin’s life situation at the moment. New dog! Oh and it snowed. It’s not a muddy spring-like mess without. Snow. I do love snow.