Holidays on Eggshells, Day 1 (cont’d.)
Day 1 (December 20) — 10:38 p.m., Sitting in my childhood bedroom
I am sitting on the bed in my childhood abode, staring at the crucifixes on the wall and giving the stink eye to the Sean Hannity book “Let Freedom” that’s mocking me from the bookshelf. My mother (Mavis) has thoughtfully laid out my old equestrian hat and other horsey items from my childhood as well as my tattered and dusty monogrammed Mickey Mouse hat. Why, oh why? I find this weird and I’m slightly suspicious as to her intentions. Oh yeah, I know: “Let’s make her feel right at home as the 12-year-old I’m about to revert her back to for the next six days.”
Mavis picked me up from the airport as expected. I made the sign of the cross as I always do (“Honey, it’s so good to see you praying. Are you saying grace before drinking that latte?”). I have not been the passenger in her car since November 2010, and her driving skills have gone steadily down a steep and treacherous hill since then. She can’t stay in the lanes, she can’t merge, she drives 45 mph in the fast lane with her blinker on, and when she does change lanes, she slams on the brakes and then switches lanes. One of these days, the keys will have to be taken away. I fear that day. She’s a tough broad, and my father (or whomever) may need to pry said keys from her cold lifeless hands.
On the way home, we talked a little bit about this, that and nothing, avoiding anything meaningful that would spark a disagreement or argument. And then….true to form, she mentioned that diabetes runs in the family and overweight people are more prone to developing it. (Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.) And that she and Dick (my father) are in excellent health; they don’t drink any alcohol and they exercise a lot. I guess excellent health doesn’t make one a good driver. Just saying.
Let’s pause here for a second. I don’t want to sound like an ingrate about my family. (There are so many people without family, and particularly at this time of year, it must be difficult.) I do love them despite their flaws, and I know I’m always welcome here. But sometimes, I just don’t like them. They drive me crazy, both literally and figuratively. I don’t blame them for my depression. I blame no one. But they certainly can exacerbate my illness. In fact, some of my family members could teach a class called “Depression Exacerbation 101,” followed by “Advanced Passive-Agression 402” and “Applying Guilt Effectively 404” (both graduation requirements).
So Mavis and I get home (miraculously) in one piece. If you envision “home in Florida” as white sand beaches, crab shacks and gorgeous sunsets, that’s great. But that’s not where I am. If you were to throw a dart directly at the middle of Florida, you’d find me. I am in the centralist of central Florida: Polk county, the acronym for People Of Lesser Knowledge*** and the methamphetamine manufacturing capital of the United States (although we might have been surpassed by Iowa in the latest census). I’m 90 minutes from any sort of sand or water, in Lakeland, FL. It’s known for its lakes (duh), swans and an antique district. I also found this other interesting factoid about my hometown, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Lakeland made national headlines on September 28, 2006 when Polk County Sheriff’s deputy Vernon “Matt” Williams and his K-9 partner, Diogi, were shot and killed after a routine traffic stop in the Wabash area of the town. The incident sparked outrage among the central Florida law enforcement community. More than 500 law officials came together in search of Angilo Freeland, the suspect wanted in connection with the murder. The next morning Freeland was found hiding under a fallen tree. Nine SWAT members fired 110 shots at Freeland, hitting him 68 times and killing him on the spot. “God will be his judge and jury now” said Sheriff Grady Judd, adding “we ran out of bullets” on Oct 1, 2006 to the Orlando Sentinel when asked why the police had shot Freeland 68 times.
***NOTE FROM AUTHOR: My beloved friends and family in Lakeland, you are not meth heads and you are people of MUCH knowledge. Sometimes I’m jealous that you are here and living a happy life. I just didn’t have it in me to stay. You have to admit, though, that central Florida is a quirky, interesting place. 🙂
So here I sit, in the heartland of vigilante justice and antiques, pondering the “discussion” I just had with Mavis and Dick (her wing-man) after they ambushed Elise and me at the dinner table:
Dick: I think we need to talk about what’s going to happen on Christmas Eve. You’re going to Allan and Kristine’s, right?
Anna: Well, as I said to mom last week, I think I’m going to sit this one out. I’m still recovering from the past couple of hard months, and I’m not sure that’s the environment I want to be in. I’m sort of vulnerable right now.
NOTE FROM AUTHOR: We typically drive an hour one way to spend Christmas Eve at my brother and SIL’s house, where they celebrate a traditional Eastern European Christmas. (Basically we watch the kids rip through more toys that can be played with in a year’s time.) I dread this every year, and for valid reasons: My SIL can be insulting, mean and self-centered one minute and (scarily) laughing and smiling the next. My brother — who only talks to me once a year — can be an ass sometimes. The only thing he every really asks me about is “When the hell are you finally going to get married?” with a big old slap on the back. I just don’t like being around them; they make me anxious, twitchy and horribly uncomfortable. (To put it bluntly, I would never choose my SIL as a friend, should she not be “related” to me.) In addition, a traumatic incident — I will give no details other than to say it was shocking — occurred this past February, and my bro and SIL were on the verge of what could’ve been an extremely acrimonious divorce. My entire family was adversely affected by the enormity of the situation. Now back to our story…
Elise: I agree. A lot has happened this year, mom, and I’m just not there yet.
Mavis: I know a lot has happened between them this year, but they’re doing much bet…
Elise: (interrupting) But me, personally, I haven’t been able to see that yet. You may be able to, but I can’t. At least not now.
Anna: Neither can I and…
Mavis: (interrupting angrily) Oh, you two — let ME talk. You need to open your heart and be forgiving and just get over it. Get over it!!! (NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Mavis’ eyebrows look sort of like this when she gets angry, and it scares the crap out of me:)
Dick: If you don’t go, Kristine will be very hurt and Allan will be offended, and Christmas at our house the next day might be, um, full of tension.
Elise: So we’re supposed to go just to avoid hurting their feelings? And what about our feelings? What if we’re hurt and offended, does that count? Allan never calls, Kristine has never been nice to us…Yes, I have issues with them that are completely justified.
Mavis: We need to heal. And you need to understand that. Besides, they are a happy family right now; they’ve changed a lot since the incident back in February. It’s like they’re a brand-new happy little family! They eat dinner together every night now, which is such a great sign. Just please forgive them. That’s what Jesus would do.
Anna: (secretly berating herself for accidentally leaving her guilt-proof vest in Providence) Mom, that’s great and all. I mean, it’s great YOU can see the change. But I was away when things happened earlier this year, and they would repeatedly call me and try to get me to choose sides and tell horrific lies about each other. I mean, Kristine said things about Allan that literally made me sick to my stomach. It was all so awful and manipulative and, quite honestly, bizarre seeing as I’m not close to either of them. I think I need to see all this change with my own eyes, when I’m ready. And it may not necessarily be on Christmas Eve.
Mavis: You just need to trust me. Let go, forgive and listen to what I say, because it is the truth. I know these things better than you do.
Anna: It’s like you’ve invited me to a movie and I can only watch the last 5 minutes of it. I’ve been gone. I haven’t seen the transformation. The last time I saw them together here at the house, they locked themselves in the spare bedroom, started screaming at each other, and Allan climbed out the window to get away from her.
Mavis: Oh dear. I remember that, and it was very frustrating because I had just had new screens installed!
Dick: Well, I think you need to do it out of the kindness of your heart. It will be a nice Christmas gift for them, something that will be far better enjoyed than a material gift. (NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Yeah, right, does this man know who he’s talking about? My bro and SIL would trade me in for a large flat-screen in about 2.5 seconds.)
Mavis: Now let’s eat dessert! Anna, I got a cake for you, let me cut you a slice. (NOTE FROM AUTHOR: Really, mom, is cake good for aspiring fat-ass diabetics?)
So that’s that. Yeah, I’m a stubborn Grinch, but this doormat is transforming into someone who sticks up for her own well-being. Who knows if I will create a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE by attending the I’d-rather-stick-rusty-tacks-in-my-eyeballs Christmas Eve. Seems like it’s a pretty easy miracle, but trust me, it’s not. Stay tuned to see what I decide. Either way, though, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t.
Yaaawwwn. Time for bed and dreams of sugarplums dancing in my serotonin-challenged head.