While Momma, Daddy, and Arthur were alive, I was forced into doing the traditional Hallmark, Currier and Ives Christmas. Starting in September after Labor Day, I cooked, cleaned, bought, decorated, ran myself ragged for one afternoon of another’s glutton pleasure without so much as a thank you.
I hauled out the same old decorations. Dusted them off. Put them in the same places. The pinecone bell hung in the bathroom hallway. Wreathes were nailed to the doors. The tinseled tree stood before the picture window in the parlor. Always had to search for Baby Jesus, He kept falling out of the manger. Through the years, I must’ve peeled a crate of oranges for ambrosia, wrapped a present for everybody in Alabama, licked a mile of stamps, and baked a ton of fruitcakes.
Tapped her right forefinger against her chin. I do believe that there is still an orange sliced one in the bottom of the freezer from the year Arthur died. Dropped her arm. Sighed. Snorted. Humph! Pish and pshaw! Oh well, freezer burnt now.
Christmas is a melodrama staged, rehearsed, and performed. You follow a script embellished through the years by Moore, Dickens, Irving, Hallmark, Currier and Ives, anybody else that can make a buck off the season. Even the churches chime in. When Frankie was little, for the first time Christmas was pleasant, almost enjoyable. Seeing his eyes sparkle on Christmas morning was a joy.
After Frankie died, Christmas, like everything else, became a burden. Something to tolerate like dreadful kinfolks. Even when I was a child, Christmas was an overwhelming chore. Getting ready for all the aunts, uncles, and cousins. In her younger days, Momma put on a grand production with all the trimmings. The other holidays were dreadful too, Thanksgiving dinners, Easter egg hunts, Fourth of July picnics, but Christmas was the winner. You always expected something that never happened.
Humph! Pish and pshaw! Kept up the charade while Momma, Daddy, and Arthur were alive to make them happy, but when it got down to just Milton’s family and me, I wised up. Asked myself, “Mildred, what’s the use?”
We would all sit around the table pretending to be happy. Hoped each other would choke on the next bite. Maybe this year will be different with Catherine here. Maybe she will bring back some of her father’s joy. Surely suffering isn’t what the Good Lord had in mind for His Son’s birthday!
Now Milton’s daughters and daughters-in-law take turns hosting the burden. I’m always invited and always manage not to attend. At my age, aches and pains are reliable excuses even though “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” story lingers in my memory. They think it’s Christian charity to take pity on the poor old widowed aunt during the holidays, but okay to ignore her the rest of the year. Humph! Pish and pshaw! Christmas is the season for fronts. Sorry, but family doesn’t work that way. Either associate with me throughout the year or not at all. We go for months without speaking. We’re blood yet strangers. That’s another one of God’s cruel jokes, making folks kin who don’t care a hoot about each other.
from SECOND BLESSING