"The tree looks beautiful as usual, honey," Mom says with a smile as she begins her annual ornament placement assessment, preferring to stand so she can stretch her legs after an 11-hour drive, a celebratory glass of champagne in her hand. I become aware of my heartbeat as I watch her patrol the perimeter of the tree, scanning every branch with mystical speed. We both know what she's looking for and after several years of acting out the same scene, we're overdue for a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Next week there will be a repeat performance.
My parents travel to our home every Christmas. The same conversations and events take place within the first two hours of their arrival.
We talk about what time they left in the morning—alarm went off, bags loaded, and wheels up by . . . early. How Dad almost had to change his route at the last minute due to weather. We discuss the condition of the roads, the traffic, and the price of gas. Where they stopped to eat and how long each meal took. "Your father's finally agreed there's no need to rush and inhale food. He doesn't push me anymore. It's actually a pleasant drive, now."
Dad and Chris carry in laundry baskets full of wrapped gifts. Mom rearranges the gifts already under the tree so she can display the packages she carefully transported and that, don't forget, arrived without a tear in the paper or a misplaced bow. Not to mention, the contraband. "Your mother threw her little jacket and sweatshirt over the beer you kids wanted. If we get pulled over . . ."
Mom purchases special ornaments for the boys every year. A common tradition in many families. Annual gifts of Christmas pajamas or ornaments seem to be the American way. She surveys the tree, locates the superheroes, the teddy bears, the Wizard of Oz heads, and she pauses . . . "Chrisy. Where are those BEAUTIFUL monkeys?"
"They're somewhere. I don't know. Keep looking." I try to look busy brushing pretend dust off of couch cushions.
She finally finds them, hidden like a bird's nest, high and near the trunk of the tree. We both drop the facade. "Why do you do this? Put those monkeys where we can see them," she requests using her Cut-The-BS tone.
"Mother. They're disturbing. They scare the kids."
She reminds me how much the monkeys cost, and that she purchased them from that fabulous boutique in Scottsdale, you know, the one you like . . . they're works of art. The boys, she says, originally enjoyed the monkeys but my attitude has influenced them. Then she redistributes ornaments so she can place the monkeys—the heavy, creepy monkeys—in a prominent place.
You tell me. BEAUTIFUL or creepy? My mom doesn't read the blog, so you can be honest.
I invite you all to this year's performance next Thursday evening at approximately 5:30 PM Mountain Standard Time.