Show me your family photo album and I'll show you a picture of my father 10 beers deep into arguing how Die Hard is the best Christmas movie of all time. There he is pictured next to my Uncle, who dressed up as a tall elf. A Santa suit on a fat man, with a white beard, is just a suit. That's exactly what my father was, a Santa without a suit.
So after my 7th birthday, my mother got him an actual Santa suit. She will forever regret that decision.
After finally having his suit to complete the look, my father gave the gift of dad jokes to children who don't understand the innuendos behind them.
"Hoe, hoe, hoe," he would say to his wife, Tamera. The kids still laughed at his silly faces and voices regardless of not knowing how to spell ho.
How are they supposed to know my mom used to catch dollar bills with her teeth?
My mother once had enough of his shenanigans and whispered under her breath, "Bone, bone, bone."
She was calling my dad a dog bone. A little bitch.
That's what my parents taught me. Marriage is just being someone else's little bitch.
A nice one-sided compromise.
Everything was an overcompensation. Every emotion was out of desperation. They loved each other with their inner child who never learned to love themselves. My parents came from a generation that never went to war and were born too early for social media to take over their lives. They were the middle generation, forgotten in between the boomers and the millennials.
My tall uncle Jeff is pictured next to my dad in the elf costume. He has 4 kids with names all ending with ey.
The one with curly blonde hair-ey.
And the one who always screams, the baby-ey.
I also lose track of names faster than police departments lose rape kits.
Jamey, Stanley, and the other ey's are cute, but solid birth control for a college student reading about the effects of single mothers making up the majority of families under the poverty line. Everyone is a statistic now.
A homeless man with a sign on the street is a war veteran displaced from a lack of healthcare benefits and adequate compensation for their service.
A black man driving his car cautiously behind a police officer, sweaty hands sliding off the wheel. The voice of his mother, screaming in his head to remain calm. A mother who made him swear he would keep his hands above his head when pulled over and his eyes in between the lines of the road.
These are the sad things I think about when I don’t want to think about myself. Best dive into an irrational pool of other people’s disappear, before drowning my own.
"The food is getting cold," said my mother, peeking her head into my childhood bedroom door.
“Privacy,” I tell her, instinctually, realizing I’m not a masturbating teenager anymore. I’m an adult. I masturbate with the door open, at my own apartment. Like a man. A single man, obviously.
“You alright dear,” asked Mom.
I can see her foot tapping under the cracked door.
“I’m Fine, be right out,” I say.
“Please hurry, time is money, dear,” my Mom says.
I put the photo album back in the dresser drawer. I’m looking at myself through the desk mirror. All I see is my mullet that I wish could time travel me into the generation that I belong to. I was born far too late. I’m expired goods. Retro is cool when you’re rich, but when you’re poor it just means you collect weird things.
I should have been a hippie, but instead I just buy edgy stickers for my hydro flask.
I put on my black denim jeans to match my black denim jacket, over a black t-shirt with a ghoul on it. Punk is not always all black, but it usually is and has to have some black, at least. Today I’m cheery for Christmas. So cheery in fact that I had one whole weed brownie just about 35 minutes ago. T minus, anytime I will be cloudy.
When I asked my cousin how much weed he put in it he said, “Enough to make a horse horny.”
I won’t be buying weed from him ever again.
My uncle Jeff and his husband, Leonard, and the ey kids couldn’t make it this year due to a snowstorm. Another Christmas miracle.
I walk into the kitchen. I feel a hand on my shoulder. It was my mom.
“Does your hair really take that long,” she asks?
“I was thinking,” I say, brushing hair out of my face.
“Well stop thinking and start eating,” My mom patted me on the back and led me to the kitchen, where the only food I could eat was mashed potatoes, but damn good ones at that.
It was the only thing at the table that was vegan. I’m vegan so that I can tell myself I eat healthy when all I really eat is potatoes and meatless chicken nuggets.
I told mom thank you. We were finally all at the table now, sitting across from each other. Mom talks about her work as a real teacher now and how it's different than just wearing the costume as a stripper. She explained that in both professions she found herself reassuring most of the time, rather than dancing or teaching.
She has a thong framed in her room, signed by Tupac.
It's chill and disgusting all at once.
All we see when we look at each other are:
and failed expectations.
But family is family so we eat together. This is what families do.
I love her more than anyone in this world, which sadly feels like such a complicated thing to say. I just miss my mom for who she was. Who she is running from.
“You’re only eating potatoes,” she asks.
“Yes, I'm a vegan now mom,” I tell her.
“Well I’m a-” she signed quotation marks with her hands, because she thinks it's a thing. “... pauled. I made all this food for you. Where is it going to go?”
“Give it to charity.”
“We are charity dear, we’re poor.”
``You're just going to let me throw away that beautiful honey-baked ham. I can’t believe you.”
“Mom, we’ve talked about thi…”
“I just can’t believe you would do this. The ham! Won’t you miss the ham! It's Christmas Dammit!”
“This isn’t about the ham is it ma?”
“You will eat this god damn ham,” she said.
“Okay, I’m leaving,” I said, walking back to my room.
My mother grabbed my shoulder. She fell to the floor, weeping.
There are very few coincidences in life.
My father dying, wearing his infamous Santa suit last Christmas was one of them.
Coincidences are unfair. They pass judgment where it is not needed. They kill a man while he is singing jolly tunes, pulling a Christmas tree in the back of a station wagon.
Police officers told my mother his car toppled over the side of a bridge into a lake. There was evidence of a struggle. His seatbelt unfastened, clothes torn, scars on his forearms and hands.
Last Christmas when I was too high on oxy to come.
Last Christmas where I missed my last chance to see my father in that Santa suit.
A piece of my mother died with my father. She aims to find that lost piece in me.
I’m the only one that knows she won’t.
She told me about what dad was wearing before he died. She repeats the same things over and over again so often it worries me. Of course yes I know my father died in his…
“Santa suit oh how he loved that suit,” she said, dabbing a tear away with a napkin.
My father survived the fall into the lake, but the Christmas tree only made the car sink faster and his Santa suit got caught in the driver’s side door. He drowned, unable to tear the suit off in time.
If coincidence had a name, I’d say its name would be Christmas. Santa was just the messenger.
This is a Christmas Story that I’m writing before Thanksgiving, because… well… sometimes the holidays are hard for some people. That's okay. I’m with you. It's hard. That's all we can really say sometimes isn’t it?
Celebrate or mourn whatever holiday you need it to be.