Ghost of Christmas Present

After a weeklong visit from their little house on the prairie to the wet ’n’ wild West Coast, my parental units have left. And, as usual, our parting was a mix of sadness, relief, and counting the silverware.

Of course, this being the Conners, their trip was not without incident. For instance, the question “Where’s the First Aid kit?” is not what you want to hear at a Christmas Day dinner visit. But ten minutes into our arrival at my friend Kim’s, my parents’ friend Nancy had slipped on the carpeted stairs going down to the basement on a tour of the house. When I went down-stairs I found the blonde, bouffant-do’d septuagenarian surrounded by my folks and Rollie, Kim’s husband, and the one who had called for the kit. Nancy had lifted her pant leg to reveal a bloody gash in her calf.


Happily, most of the rest of Christmas dinner went much better. Kim, a friend of mine for long enough to have met my parents several times and nevertheless extended the kind offer to host this clown party, had prepared a feast fit for a king, and too good for the Conners. I’d helped by peeling the yams, but Kim had done all the rest—prepared turkey, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, even a home-made pumpkin pie. Dinner was delicious, although I think Rollie made more of an impression. As Kim’s fond of saying, “Everyone loves Rollie,” and it’s true—neither my parents nor Nancy could stop going on about “what a nice guy” he is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. He is a bona fide mensch, and I (seriously) couldn’t be happier for Kim—she’s got the house she always wanted, and the husband. However, and I’m sure other singles out there can relate, there’s something about exposing one’s parents to a friend’s domestic bliss that always brings up the question, spoken or unspoken, “Why aren’t you settled down with a nice partner?”

It was never directly said, but it was in the air—at Kim’s and a couple of days later, when my friend Mark (a.k.a. my former wingman) brought his live-in girlfriend out for dim sum with my parents and myself. (Again, I’ve known Mark long enough for him to have met my parents many times.) As a result of this lunch, “Why can’t you be more like Mark?” was the great unspoken question hanging in the air for the rest of the day, although my mom showed admirable restraint in not actually saying it.

In the end, though, I scored huge Mom-points by hanging out with my 11-year-old nephew Dylan* a bunch of times. Thanks to Wingy, who rents out band practice space as a sideline, we were able to go in and jam a few times —myself on guitar and Dylan on drums. The kid’s a pretty excellent rhythm ace and, with Wingy on bass and guitar, we actually pulled off a pretty good approximation of a real rock band (“the Weakest Links,” as I christened us). On our last night in the space, to please Dylan, a Nirvana/ Dave Grohl fan, we did “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. I’m no vocalist and was just sort of mumbling the words when I felt the spirit of grunge (or maybe Christmas Present) enter me and, suddenly, I began screaming the chorus (“Here we are now/Entertain us”) for all I was worth. The spit was flying and my face turned red, but it was worth the effort to hear Dylan refer to me afterwards as his “crazy uncle Shawn.” That, and what happened later that night, pretty much made my Christmas.

But that’s a story for another time.

 *My parents adopted the tike, and are raising him to like hockey and McDonald’s.

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December 2007
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