This ended with a feverish last-minute dash through stores and mall kiosks. A woman in front of me in line at Bath & Body Works is pulling sighs from way down deep. They start in her socks. She's tested every Cherry Apple hand sanitizer and every Vanilla Mocha Lip Balm sample she can press into her flesh. "You've got to be kidding me," she says watching a single apron-ed cashier give each individual customer a final positive Bath & Body Works experience. The chance to be mentally lubed, full body, in Sweat Pea scent.
I'm hot, too. Reeking of fruit combinations not found in nature. Still, I don't understand Christmas shopping on December 23rd and then bitching about lines and delays. Self-induced seizures from rolling your pupils directly against the surface of your brain. You have options, Deep Sigh. You going to get dangerous and complain about the 2-hour wait at Olive Garden, too?
Still, I find myself matching her sigh-for-sigh when I finally get to the front of the line and the cashier tells me, cheerfully, that if I buy three of their signature scents I get three for free. Leaving line. Shuffling to the wall of signature scents, sticking my nose into bottle after bottle after bottle.
We time our drive to Rochester to get a sweet-ass parking spot in my parent's driveway for the Christmas Eve party with the Pista side of the family, but late enough to avoid the awkwardness of trying to remember all the church rhymes of Christmas Eve mass. Word on the streets is that the Catholics have recently initiated some changes in wording that have church goers fumbling with cue cards throughout the service. I thought Brother Pista was yanking my chain when he told me. One of those "Oh yeah, and it's a costume party" tricks that would find me genuflecting my way into a pew dressed as a zombie French Maid.
This edict from the Pope seems to be a way of getting the flock away from the rock 'n' roll masses favored in hip suburban churches. To remind them of what is truly important: Not eating food an hour before taking communion.
We stopped at Target for new toothbrushes. We can never remember toothbrushes. I studied the faces of shoppers, mentally Photoshopping away 10 years of wear-and-tear, laugh lines and squint creases, looking for one person to nuggie while screaming "THAT ONE TIME ... BUNSEN BURNER!" I never see anyone I know at Target in Rochester.
Personally, I recommend having one of your aunts marry your high school track coach. My personal highlight reel unfurled over lasagna. I believe he was surprised to see that the back window of my car didn't have STRAIGHT TO STATE in balloon lettering penned in fluorescent washable marker. I never tire of his stories about long jump-this, triple jump-that 4-by-400 relay. I've always referred to him as Mr. M--. He might be sans whistle, no baseball cap, nowhere near a track. But he still seems like a Mr. M-- to me. And, subsequently, to Chuck.
"You know, you don't have to call him Mr. M--," my mom told Chuck. "In fact, it doesn't even make sense."
It's a Christmas miracle. My parents let us share the guest room, even the guest bed. This has been, in the past, an annoyance for me. We are, according to some, middle aged. We have a house together. We are at a point in our lives where there is little that would skeeve either of us more than to do anything more than sleep on a bed surface in my parent's house. This isn't a sexy and defiant college break for two bodies throbbing Morse Code messages, a genital and pheromone stereo of "Now I'm an adult." This is real life in a room decorated in browns and golds, paintings starring beautiful Native American women hanging on the wall. The work of my late grandfather, with some cues taken from John Ford. This is a maroon landline that was in my childhood home and a hope chest with 35 pounds of black and green tulle my Grandma Pista crafted into a freshman year homecoming costume. It's sharing space in cedar with my mom's wedding dress. This isn't sexy time. This is, if possible, stone cold, dead to the world, sleep. We might touch feet beneath the sheets, if neither's foot temperature deviates too significantly from the other's foot temperature.
I find myself grateful for this one concession. Almost as grateful as I am for the black out blinds in this room that keep the sun from boring through the window and burning a crop circle into the crown of my head at daybreak.
I don't feel that I've won, per se. Not at all. I feel like they have just acknowledged that this is my person regardless of whether we've filed paperwork about it at City Hall and crammed sheet cake into each other's gaping maws in front of an audience. Now if my mom can figure out how to use the Nook we got her, the planet will probably explode.
Christmas Day is nice. Chuck and I over-coffee ourselves to death on Folger's Crystals while my mom and dad trade off telling me stories about people and places that I've never heard, or at least never heard with this newfound interest in what went down before I was born. The trip my parent's took with my grandparent's to the Boundary Waters, but first getting hopped up on pitchers of Vodka Gimlets. It rained and rained. First one of my grandpa's knees went out, then the other went out when he began favoring it. He couldn't hoist his half of a canoe. My parents saw a moose. My grandparent's saw an eagle nest. My parents thought that sight paled in comparison. My great aunt was a party girl, always with a glass and a cigarette. She lost an eyeball (and the twins she was carrying) in a car accident caused by her husband. They hit a bridge embankment. She got a glass eye and eventually a new husband and never had kids. I used to make poetry chapbooks for her using wrapping paper, yarn and the cardboard from a box of Rice Krispies.
Gifts were exchanged. I am now a gift certificate to the Guthrie and Barnes & Noble, clothing, scarves and mittens, an Apocalypse-style crank radio and a Kindle richer.
We missed the party with Chuck's family, but caught his dad before his afternoon nap. We visited for awhile. I performed a commercial for life in Phoenix, Arizona. He showed us his growing gun collection.
"Do you want to hold it?" Chuck asked me, a size of his hand.
"Probably reminds her of the one that was shoved in her face," his dad accurately predicted.
"I don't think so," I said.
Chuck wiped his prints off the gun.
"Were those loaded?" I asked him later.
"I don't know," he said.
I passed out 15 minutes into our annual viewing of "Gremlins." We went to bed at 8 p.m., but sleep didn't take for me. I read 62 percent of the novel "Ten Thousand Saints." Now I speak the language of percents.