Egg Casserole for Christmas

Submitted into Contest #140 in response to: Write a story that involves a flashback.... view prompt

23 comments

Fiction Coming of Age American

“This was one of the best Christmases I’ve ever had,” Hope said, leaning down to give her mother, Alice, a kiss on her furrowed cheek. Clara smiled and held up her glass of fizzy citrus to cheers her sister.

“Merry Christmas,” Clara said as she swallowed a mouthful of her mimosa, spilling a dribble on her fleece, snowflake patterned pajamas. “This was second to the Christmas when we got that amazing Barbie dream house.”

“I want a Barbie dream house, Mommy,” Clara’s daughter, Meg, said as she took a bite of Alice’s famous breakfast casserole. Meg pulled a little piece of pepper out of her mouth and added it to the pile unwanted greens on her plate.

“Your Aunt Hope and I got one from Santa when we were a little older than you,” Clara told Meg, smoothing out her daughter’s hair.

“That was your favorite Christmas?” Alice asked incredulously, thinking back to that Christmas when her adult girls were just little girls. Back when they lived in the rowhouse on Ridge Lane. Back when she and Glen were still married; a year or two before the divorce.

“Yeah, that was the best,” Hope agreed, digging a fork into her gooey casserole, scooping the cheesy egg mixture into her mouth.

Alice closed her eyes and thought back to that Christmas. When was that? she thought to herself, it must have been 1992. Clara was seven and Hope was five. It felt like an eternity ago.

***

Alice woke up to the sound of four little feet scurrying towards her bedroom door. She looked at the clock: 7:00 am. She was tired. She. Was. Tired.

“Mommy! Santa came!” Clara shouted as she swung open the door and ran towards her parents’ bed. Alice’s head throbbed from the lack of sleep and three glasses of wine she drank last night while prepping the breakfast casserole. She had picked up the Christmas Eve dayshift at the restaurant and so hadn’t had time to do much around the house to prepare for Christmas day earlier. Glen and she had been up since three am setting up the girls’ Barbie dream house. Who knew those things had one hundred pieces?

The girls had been begging for a Barbie dreamhouse for the past two years, but Alice and Glen just couldn’t afford it. But this year, Alice had decided to splurge. She worked extra hours waitressing to save up enough for the: “Magical Mansion,” as Mattel deemed it. She hadn’t told Glen how much it cost her when she brought it in the house a few weeks ago; he would have had a conniption. Instead, she told him she got a great deal on it and ripped the price tag off the box before she got home.

“No, I need the left railing, not the right!” Glen had shouted at her the night before, throwing a little plastic piece towards Alice’s face before taking another swig of his beer. She had been hoping when she brought up the box after the girls went to bed, he would be in a lighter mood after having a few beers, but she was wrong. Christmas Eve, vacation, ten beers or no beers, it didn’t matter. Glen was always in a bad mood. So, while Glen grumpily put together the gift, Alice had prepped an egg casserole for the morning, making sure to avoid the family room with Glen in it at all costs.

“Mother F’ing dollhouse,” Alice overhead Glen muttering to himself as she cut up the peppers to put in the casserole. Alice had poured herself a heaping glass of wine and drank it quickly to drown out his grumbles. This recipe was her grandmothers. It was simple but delicious: white bread, sausage, onions, peppers, eggs, and cheddar cheese. After her mother died four years ago, Alice took over making it every year on Christmas and Easter, only special occasions. It was one of the few things that reminded her of holidays with her family.

Alice snuck upstairs to bed after prepping the casserole, too tired to clean up the rest of the house behind her. When did parenting get so hard? When did holidays become a hassle? she had wondered.

“Can we go downstairs now, Mommy?” Hope asked as she tugged on Alice’s comforter, exposing her bare leg to the wintery air in the house. Alice looked over at Glen, debating if she should wake him up or not. She could smell his stale, whiskey breathe oozing out of his pores, so she decided not to wake the bear.

“Shh, okay,” Alice whispered as she tiptoed out of bed and put on her pink robe and slippers. “Let’s be quiet so we don’t wake daddy.” She let each daughter grab her hands as they led her to the steps. As they walked down the stairs, she remembered she forgot to remind Glen to eat Santa’s cookies and drink the milk before he came up last night. She hoped he did it on his own. When the girls led Alice into the family room where the Christmas tree was, she saw the plate still filled with cookies and the glass still filled with milk. Alice hoped the girls were too excited about the presents to notice the mistake.

“Mommy, look! Santa came!” Clara cried as she ran towards the tree encircled by presents. Alice had wrapped up a few clothing items she bought from the thrift store, so the girls had some gifts other than the dreamhouse to open.

“Clara, over here!” Hope shouted as she directed her sister to the side of the tree. Alice heard the girls scream as they discovered their dreamhouse. As Alice peeked around, she noticed a beer can sitting next to the dreamhouse and the box splayed out lazily across the floor. She closed her eyes and took a breath, trying not to show any frustration. Was it so hard to throw out the box and dispose of your beer before you went to bed? she wondered.

Alice walked over and grabbed the beer can, discarded box, and milk and cookies before the girls could notice their existence. She walked the items into the kitchen as the girls fawned over their new toy. She took the egg casserole out of the fridge, preheated the oven to 375, and pressed the coffee maker on. As she waited for Mr. Coffee to start doing his job, she looked around the kitchen: unwashed dishes in the sink, crumbs on the floor, an empty whiskey bottle on the counter. This wasn’t what her mother’s kitchen looked like when she was a child. She found a bottle of Tylenol, poured two orange pills into her palm, and swallowed them dry. Her head was pounding. She. Was. Tired.

“Mommy, can we open our other presents?” Clara shouted from the family room. Alice looked at the clock: 7:28 am.

“Can you wait until daddy wakes up?” she yelled, hoping that Glen would wake up soon. She didn’t want to upset him by letting the girls open gifts before he woke up. But it was Christmas morning. Should she wake up him? The oven beeped and Alice opened the door and placed the casserole inside, setting the timer for 30 minutes. She poured herself some coffee and walked in to meet the girls in the family room.

“Can we?” Clara asked looking over at Alice.

Alice hesitated, looking up the stairs towards her bedroom. “Let’s wait until eight,” she directed as she blew on her piping hot coffee.

As eight turned into nine, the girls became impatient. “Please mom?” Clara asked for the millionth time. The casserole had been out of the oven and was turning cold. Alice didn’t want to eat it until Glen woke up, but she had to let the girls do something for God’s sake, they’d been awake for two hours. She looked up towards the bedroom yet again and shrugged her shoulders.

“Okay, go ahead,” she said as the girls lunged towards the tree and began to rip open their presents.

“A sweater!” Clara exclaimed as she held up a pink and blue sweater to her chest.

“Jeans!” Hope bellowed, revealing to Clara her new denim pants with bedazzled jewels up the sides.            

Alice smiled, hoping the girls didn’t notice that the clothing lacked store tags and were obviously worn before. She peered up to the stairs, hearing Glen’s feet begin to stomp down towards them. She felt a nervous pit in her stomach, anticipating his mood.

“What’s this?” Glen demanded as he entered the family room, showing off the shadowy circles under his saggy eyes. “Not waiting for your father to open gifts?”

The girls giggled, supposing he was joking and continued to open gifts. He stomped into the kitchen and Alice immediately rose from her seat, following him.

“Sorry, they just couldn’t wait anymore,” Alice explained, grabbing a mug and pouring Glen a cup of lukewarm coffee. “I made a casserole,” she said pointing towards the oven. She watched as Glen took a fork, stabbed it directly into the casserole dish, and placed the breakfast into his mouth.

“It’s cold,” he complained, tossing the fork in the sink. He took the casserole in its entirety and dumped the whole thing in the trashcan before she could stop him. Alice opened her mouth, unable to speak, as she observed Glen grab the coffee from her and walk into the family room to join the girls. She ran over to the trashcan and looked down at her casserole, oozing out of the pan into the heap of garbage. She closed her eyes, feeling tears begin to burn their way out and wiped them away with a sigh. She opened the freezer and found an old box of Eggos. She took two slices out and placed them in the toaster.

“Thanks, dad!” she heard Hope yell from the family room.

“You’re the best!” Clara shrieked. Bewildered, Alice peeked into the room and saw the girls opening a present she hadn’t seen before.

“What are these?” she asked, walking into the room, looking down at two boxes, half ripped open. “Game Boys!” Clara exclaimed holding up the foreign device. Alice looked at Glen in uncertainty. Game Boy? She had explicitly told Glen and the girls that they weren’t allowed to have a Game Boy until they were in middle school. They were too young for them.

Glen smirked at her, showing off a devious grin. Why hadn’t he told her about the Game Boys last night? And where did he get the money? They were barely scraping by as it was.

“Did you get us anything, Mom?” Hope asked, her big brown eyes looking up at Alice.

“Me?” Alice asked looking around the room. Glen and she always told the girls their gifts were from Santa. So, she had labelled all their gifts from Santa, not from her.

“Yea,” Clara agreed. “Dad and Santa got us gifts. Did you get us anything?”

Alice closed her eyes, praying for serenity. “I guess…well I guess I didn’t,” Alice confessed, walking into the kitchen, feeling utterly defeated. She popped the Eggos out of the toaster and placed them onto two pink plates. She began to wash the dishes while she heard the girls laughing in the family room with their new toys. She wished she could be in there with them but the kitchen wasn’t going to clean itself. She wondered when Christmas stopped losing its magic. How did we get here? she thought as she retrieved the baking dish out of the trashcan and placed it in the sink to scrub clean.

***

“Earth to mom!” Clara snapped her fingers in front of Alice’s face. “Are you listening to us? You look like you were day dreaming.”

Alice shifted her eyes and gazed over to Clara who was bouncing Meg on her lap.

“I was just telling Meg how special that Christmas was. You and dad had gotten us that Barbie dream house and Game Boys. We spent the morning together as a family. I miss those days when we were all together.”

Alice blinked and looked at her, wondering how outrageous it was that two people could have two entirely different memories of the exact same day.

“Yes, it was a very special Christmas, wasn’t it?” Alice falsely agreed, forcing a smile out to appease her daughters and granddaughter. Sometimes you have to let people have their happy memories and keep yours to yourself, she thought. She took a bite of her casserole, deciding that this was her best one yet, the casserole and the Christmas. The eggs were nice and hot the way she liked them, and she didn’t have to wait for anyone to wake up in time to eat breakfast or open presents. Alice smiled, keeping that thought to herself too. 

April 07, 2022 17:37

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23 comments

Michał Przywara
21:11 Apr 08, 2022

Fantastic story! I had a whole big comment in my mind about perspectives and how people can interpret the same event completely differently, but then I hit the line: "wondering how outrageous it was that two people could have two entirely different memories of the exact same day" Which of course summarizes that succinctly. Anyway, great characterization of the parents. All the little petty cruelties, what first appeared as mere thoughtlessness becoming malice -- skin crawling. Thanks for sharing!

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Kathleen Fine
17:18 Apr 14, 2022

Thanks Michal!

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Niveditha S
06:19 Apr 28, 2022

I felt really sad for Alice when the girls assumed she hadn't gotten them anything. It was good they grew up and realised she was the one who gave that beautiful present!! The story was heart warming...

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Kathleen Fine
22:56 May 22, 2022

Thanks Niveditha!

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Laura Eliz
14:05 Apr 27, 2022

This story brought a tear to my eye, it was so moving. I love how the egg casserole is more than just a breakfast food in this story.

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Kathleen Fine
22:57 May 22, 2022

Thanks Laura!

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Ana Bright
09:39 Apr 15, 2022

Great story, Kathleen! I love the different perspectives as others have stated but it really rugged in my heart when Clare said "you and dad got us the [presents]." Truth always wins out in the end, doesn't it? Thank you for sharing this story.

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Kathleen Fine
22:57 May 22, 2022

Thanks Ana!

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Chris Williams
04:33 Apr 13, 2022

Ouch! This story will touch a lot of sensitive nerves with a lot of people who harbor sad memories. Well done.

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Kathleen Fine
17:18 Apr 14, 2022

Thank you Chris!

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Zelda C. Thorne
16:15 Apr 12, 2022

Great story. I hate Glen. Loved the way you framed it, having two different memories of the same Christmas. So sad... But I'm mostly angry at Glen. Urgh!

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Kathleen Fine
22:57 May 22, 2022

Thanks Rachel!

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Jay Mc Kenzie
00:32 Apr 12, 2022

This is a great story, and such an interesting take on Christmas. You've got the magic and the tragic all in one scene, viewed from different angles. Oh, and I'd love to throw the stale beer in Glen's face! A perfect Christmas villain.

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Kathleen Fine
17:18 Apr 14, 2022

Thanks for the feedback, Jay!

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Lauren Bolos
23:39 Apr 11, 2022

Great story! The character of Glen made me angry, so you did a great job with that!! Looking forward to reading more of your stories.

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Kathleen Fine
22:57 May 22, 2022

Thanks Lauren!

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15:35 Apr 11, 2022

This story brought back memories of buying the Barbie Dream house for my daughter in the 90s :) Well done!

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Kathleen Fine
17:18 Apr 14, 2022

Thanks Jeannette! I always wanted one growing up!

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00:50 Apr 09, 2022

i'm sorry but i couldnt help but notice that your pic is the same pfp as my FLVS teacher

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Kathleen Fine
10:42 Apr 09, 2022

Oh what is flvs teacher?

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01:59 Apr 18, 2022

online school (Florida virtual School)

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Lavonne H.
01:45 Apr 08, 2022

Oh, Kathleen, you had me at Christmas! You have written about Christmases I knew only too well as a child and youth. I admire your character, Alice. She is a strong, practical woman. I am glad she (or he) left the marriage (of if he died, that too). Having a headache with all the emotional abuse going on deserves recognition! You have a real sense of the father's manipulation (giving Game Boys when the tradition had been for Santa gifts only) and dysfunction (throwing the breakfast into the garbage.) One of my favourite lines was Alice's "S...

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Kathleen Fine
17:19 Apr 14, 2022

Thanks so much Lavonne! You always have such kind things to say and give thorough feedback! I really appreciate it!

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