Tuesday, December 28, 2010
The Obligatory Christmas Episode
5:45 AM. Christmas morning.
My six-year-old son Jalen -- moving with all the grace of an inebriated rhinoceros -- stumbled downstairs, audibly gasped in the direction of the presents under the tree and applied a simple tactile test to each of the individual stockings before providing shrill, surround-sound confirmation that filled every room of Stately Bootleg Manor: "Santa came!"
I was awakened as soon as Jalen's feet hit the floor, but since I stayed under the sheets, my son felt obligated to act as our holiday alarm clock. And, even though Jalen's "wake-up-dad" tactic has been the same for as long as I can remember, it never fails to surprise and terrify me.
Jalen uses textbook two-handed CPR chest compressions to the side of my head when he's deemed I've had enough sleep. The first few times, in the panic of a darkened room, I assumed it was Mrs. Bootleg attempting to choke me out with her silk scarf -- the innocuous, yet omnipresent nocturnal hair-care accessory of the African-American woman.* This time, I violently lurched forward the moment my son laid hands to my head.
* -- Mrs. Bootleg is SERIOUS about her silk scarves. Once or twice a year, she'll have half a glass of wine and pass out on the downstairs couch. I've then heard her in our master bathroom, half-asleep, wrapping her hair as late as 3:45 AM; even though she gets up for work less than two hours later. Is there a white woman equivalent to this? There can't be.
Downstairs with Jalen, I groggily suggested he wait until his mother woke up before we started opening presents. The resultant look of exasperation on his face could've stood on its own, but then Jalen began pacing back and forth through our living room like an expectant father -- or those lions at the zoo that spend every waking hour plotting to devour their captors.
Fortunately, Mrs. Bootleg wasn't far behind and Christmas could officially begin for Jalen.
Christmas Cards of Awesome -- Those of you who read my Twitter feed already know that there was a two-way tie for the most incredible AND inappropriate Christmas cards we received this year. The former vice-president of my department might have the greatest family portrait ever captured on film. Meanwhile, the staff at physical therapy posed for their card...while in the middle of a group spa treatment.
Alcohol! Detection! -- Not since Christmas 1982, when my brother and I found an Atari 2600 under the tree, have I wanted to try out a gift more than the Digital Alcohol Detector that Mrs. Bootleg bought for me. According to the ad copy, all I have to do is exhale and it "screens for the presence of alcohol and estimates blood alcohol content in seconds". Two more points: (1) The unofficial record for fine print is shattered with all the "this is NOT a police issued/administered breathalyzer" liability-eliminating language. (2) The device can't even replicate the simple technology of my son's digital thermometer which maintains a record of the highest temperature registered in its memory. Pretty sure that feature alone would inadvertently make this device the single greatest drinking game of all time.
A Mother's Gift -- It was bad enough that Mrs. Bootleg put a raincoat for Jalen in a gift box and then gift wrapped it before presenting it to our son as a Christmas gift. But, she went the extra mile by reacting as if Jalen just opened a briefcase filled with hundred dollar bills: "Wow! It's a raincoat! Now, you can stay dry in the rain!!!" (For the record, I abhor when writers use more than one exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Here, though, it fits the enthusiasm exhibited.) Jalen's impeccably dry response ("Really, mom?") made my morning.
Quick Quiz -- What are the two junk foods you'd least expect to find in a Christmas stocking? Go ahead and blurt 'em out...the first two that come to mind. Now, would Raisinets and beef jerky be more or less expected than the two you chose? Why, yes, that IS what I filled Mrs. Bootleg's stocking with.
Like Father... -- I only asked for one gift this Christmas. One gift that I absolutely, positively HAD to have. And, of course, Mrs. Bootleg came through. She bought one for Jalen, too. Did my son and I wear our matching Perry the Platypus "face" t-shirts up to Ontario for Christmas dinner at my mom's house? Bet your ass, we did.
"...But, Tonight, I'm Cleaning Out My Closet." -- When I moved to San Diego in 1995, I left a lot of my life in one of the spare bedrooms at my mom's house. For the first time in years, I sifted through some of my mid-90s memories and found a not-so-surprising amount of purple. I was really hoping to find either my $79 double-breasted purple suit (here's a reasonable facsimile sported by Heavy D.) or my bright purple jean shorts. Instead, all I could dig up were my old pair of Colorado Rockies-esque Nikes and these horrible purple and earth tone "all-terrain" shoes.
Like Grandfather... -- I had a melancholy conversation with my grandfather just before dinner. He came from a time when men-folk didn't go on and on about their medical issues and for as long as I can remember, all of my inquiries about his health were met with a cheerful, if occasionally insincere, "fine!". On Christmas, the two of us talked just out of earshot of the dining room revelry. Long story short, he needs a cane and he's finally decided to surrender a little bit of his legs to Father Time. My grandfather looked me right in the eye and said, "Y'know, I've never felt old before. I am old, but I never felt old. Now, I feel old." He'll be 85-years-old next month. That makes me sad.
Dinner -- Jalen had never had prime rib before and his default response to an unfamiliar meat is to ask what animal it comes from. Honestly, prime rib and horseradish are like peanut butter and jelly for adults. After annihilating a beautiful, bloody cut, along with an assortment of sides and my mom's homemade bread, it was almost time to leave. I volunteered to take my grandfather back to Long Beach -- turning my 90 minute drive into a three-hour road trip back to San Diego. Whatever. But, we couldn't leave yet. Jalen just asked, "Can I have some more cow?"
That made me happy.