Dear Lily June,
Your dad says I’m a good person. I call “Shenanigans,” or rather, “Bah Humbug” to that.
The truth is, I live a pretty self-serving little life. I work my job to pay off my debts and bills; I clean my apartment so I don’t get sucked into a foul, fetid cesspool of used diapers and coffee filters; I (occasionally) cook because my digestive system, like the overgrown flora from Little Shop of Horrors, has grown accustomed to being fed.
I love you and your dad because it fills my heart with a warmth to do so. You suckers are just my reason for breathing, which means you’re more like a life-support system than you are homeless street urchins, begging for a handout. As such, anything I do for you two feels selfish, aimed at expanding my own life by insuring I have a husband to wipe my butt when I can’t and turning you into an ego-inflated popstar who will, using the rocket boost of self-esteem I bestowed you with (because I can’t afford to give you much else) draw into orbit the money to buy me a palatial estate to retire in. I require a lanai, my dear.
But every year around this time, I catch, amongst the other hacking, coughing, making your head feel like a lead balloon symptoms, a touch of the giving spirit. Call it a social infection; call it a spiritual possession; whatever it is, I can’t stop saying “Yes” to favors requested from about now-ish until December 26, at which point, like a venus fly trap, my heart promptly snaps shut again.
I suppose this is the curse of The Godfather on the day of his daughter’s wedding though I prefer it be the problem of Ado Annie in Oklahoma who “cain’t say no.”
I will say that I recently got filled with those feel-good giving-tingles when I volunteered, last weekend, to help a friend clean out her hoarding aunt’s house. Her aunt, who has dementia, had been cared for by her uncle, but he had a stroke. As such, neither of them was capable of cutting through the collection of crap and dust and dirt and dander and litter and expired fridge contents and surprise cats that threatened to form one sentient blob capable of swallowing them all.
Being the only one who was under 50 in a small army of cleaning women , it was up to me to climb on top of cabinets to remove the dust original to the 1800’s farmhouse, just as it was on my list to limbo down on my knees to clean out the terrifyingly melted contents of the not one, but two fridges in my friend’s family’s possession. What had been a tomato had become gazpacho; what had been gazpacho became primordial ooze. And yet, I scrubbed, dusted, scraped, scratched, scoured and swept until my own bones ached like I were the age of her octogenarian relatives and not my usual jaunty three decades (sarcasm alert: Thirty hurts, too, Lily.)
Don’t get me started on the evolution of the substances and bodily fluids in the bathroom. Suffice it to say, my friend saw fit to toss me fifty bucks for my effort, and if I were a smart, sensible woman, I’d have pocketed that fifty and sprinted off to find the “right pair of shoes” in which, Marilyn Monroe once said, a girl can “conquer the world.” But my sweat-soaked feet were basting in a hot tennis shoe after the effort, and I didn’t care a lick about the way they looked bent into the unnatural bridge a high heel might torture them to achieve. My feet shouldn’t be capable of more gymnastics than my back, anyway, and so I literally paid it forward.
It went towards the groceries to throw a Thanksgiving extravaganza for nine family members in a one-bedroom apartment. Our “close” family is about to get
unbearably a lot closer.
The insanity of “Yes Brain” reached full fruition in your mother this year, Lily. Despite its being your first Thanksgiving on the planet (as opposed to inside of your mother who was as large as a planet last year), as well as, on the same day, your dad’s birthday, I decided to draw all the Lonely Hearts of my family in with the Moth Wallets of your dad’s to throw them all a Thanksgiving. Your Grandpa Edward and Aunt Loren, recognizing the insane premise of spending the holidays together, had the good sense to turn me down. That, or the one has a new girlfriend; the other, an old car.
However, your dad’s family–complete with Matriach, Granny Gramma Alison (who usually undertakes the feast-making), your Uncle Bryce, your Aunt Jan, and their three
gift-bloodhounds boys Bryden, Elijah and Cal–haven’t yet learned that to spend a meal with me is to descend into the heart of darkness overcooked turkey and undercooked green bean casserole.
Luckily, your dad will baste and bake the bird this year, using the roaster your Gramma Alison bought us. Bear in mind, this is the same Granny Gramma who “couldn’t afford” to buy the groceries for this year’s meal. But by an act of financial magic equivalent to David Blaine letting loose a flock of flying debit cards from his sleeves, she was able to afford a roaster large enough to tackle two turkeys, and the gas money to drop it off from across state lines. C’est la family vie.
While your dad does the turkey and the stuffing, I promised to make pumpkin pie and pumpkin roll, along with the traditional five side dishes of the holiday: green bean casserole, “smashed” red potatoes with gravy, two kinds of rolls, a pan of yams only I’ll eat, and, my water-boiling specialty, Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Add to that not one, but two offers to cat-sit for faculty who’ll be whisking themselves off to exotic holiday locations this year (read: to Chicago with some purchased pumpkin pie) and you’ve got everything but a partridge in a pear tree taking up roost in my sanity. That’s, if you’re keeping score, one home of hoarders, two hangry kittens, three gift-starved children, four non-blood relatives, five SIDE DISH-ES, etc. etc. etc.
What else might I say yes to this year? I know I want to donate to my university’s Adopt-A-Family program. I know I want to teach you to pick out items for Toys for Tots, which your dad and I did with you in utero last year. (I believe you kicked towards some winter coats.) At six months, you might be a little young for the picking out this year, but still, I’d like to get in the practice.
I’ve already offered for your Grandpa Edward to schelp his new chick out here (both dry drunks in recovery) for a not-quite-Christmas-yet yuletide sober-celebraganza. And I may end up back at the hoarders’ house. And there’ll be a whole new crop of hungry cats for me to sling leftovers at by Christmas proper. AND in tribute to your first Christmas with us, and as a present to you, I’ve promised to your dad to quit smoking for real, for good, for forever this year. On December 26. Because ain’t nobody tryin’ to have their holidays ruined like that.
Sometime around the New Year, the pressure of being a “good person” will break like a bad fever, and I’ll make some incredibly selfish proclamations that I’ll (finally) eat better for fully superficial reasons (i.e. to have the body more resembling an hour glass than a snow globe), and I’ll start taking the stairs more for my heart health (and so I can huff, and puff, and blow my office door down), and then my old curmudgeon ways will be restored.
I’ll laugh in the face of friends who’d need helping moving without a promise–in writing–of prior compensation. I’ll scowl at skinny colleagues who swing into my office emptying the chocolate basket I keep on my desk and asking with their slim little outstretched fingers, “Please, Alyssa, may we have some more?” I’ll scoff at the infirm and the elderly and kick yellow snow into the mouths of any puppies who cross my path.
Or, you know, I’ll just go back to loving you and your dad without making any promises to the rest of the world to exit our apartment on any deed that doesn’t directly benefit you two. Because, Lily? I’ve smelled what it is to clean out a diaper of a daughter who has only, so far, eaten peas, carrots and squash. I can’t imagine what my own diaper, full of decades worth of festering pizza, might reek like in my Golden Years. And I’m going to need that palatial estate, replete with the lanai to air out my own
Diaper Depends Genie in.
And if you and your dad don’t have my future’s back, Lily? I will haunt you two like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And I will start using your Diaper Genie now to hide a cup of eggnog here, and a bit of undigested fruit cake there. Don’t test me on this; I’m ready to say Yes to the mess.
- “The Last of the Spirits-John Leech, 1843” by John Leech – http://historical.ha.com/common/view_item.php?Sale_No=683&Lot_No=57424&type=&ic=. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Last_of_the_Spirits-John_Leech,_1843.jpg#/media/File:The_Last_of_the_Spirits-John_Leech,_1843.jpg
- “Flickr qmnonic 123431456–Kraft Dinner and veggie dogs” by Matt MacGillivray from Toronto, Ontario, Canada – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_qmnonic_123431456–Kraft_Dinner_and_veggie_dogs.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_qmnonic_123431456–Kraft_Dinner_and_veggie_dogs.jpg
- “Grumpy Cat by Gage Skidmore” by Gage Skidmore. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grumpy_Cat_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg#/media/File:Grumpy_Cat_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg
- “Diapergenie”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Diapergenie.jpg#/media/File:Diapergenie.jpg