The question was to hit the interstate and run flat out for the better part of sixty miles or just stick to the back roads. Oddly, the fact that I drive slower than anyone else alive made me chose the interstate. On the backroads I like to cruise at fifty-five and invariably some moron will get a foot behind my truck and damn near kill us both before he realizes we’re going to go through a dozen tiny towns, each replete with one horse, one cop, and one light. But out on the interstate I hammer down, and eighty miles an hour for that sixty miles means I’ll get there quicker unless there’s a wreck and then I will be totally screwed.
That happened a couple of years ago, Christmas at mom’s house means I have to drive two hours to get there, which isn’t too bad, but next week we’ll have Christmas at my father’s house, which is two hours away, and just a couple of weeks ago it was Thanksgiving and that was at my older sister’s house which is about an hour and a half away. I leave early because I’m weird that way and by the time the sun is supposed to be up I am already ten miles away.
All of this wandering from house to house is the result of a divorce that happened in 1972. I’m tempted one day to look up how many divorces there were in our little town in that year and I would bet you good money we were the only ones throwing that kind of party that year. I wonder if the lawyers are still alive, and I wonder how well they’re living off the divorce business. I wonder if that part of my life made a car payment, or a piece of a house payment, or if they just stuck it in the bank, so over the years they could enjoy the interest off of it as much as I have enjoyed the fallout. We’ve done this split Christmas thing in some shape fashion form or another for nearly four decades. We will do it until we pay someone else to say stupid things about a dead body and then, in an odd twist of fate, we’ll miss it.
Last night I drank far too much than was good for me, and I knew I would regret it, but someone dropped by with some beer and a six pack later I shooed an old friend away and lay me down to toss and turn. I drifted in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams, and in and out of sane. There was someone wearing some odd looking knotted tie and it glowed, and for some reason that tie on that person meant something really bad and it kept occurring to me that something really bad had happened, even though I woke up and realized it was a dream at least twice. Then I dreamed I was in a pond trying to get back out of the water, and the edge was just a foot or so away, and the water was only two feet deep, but I started being pulled back into the pond, under the water, by what felt like gravity, that same simple pull that makes you sit down too hard sometimes. I woke for good about four, and started getting ready to go.
I wanted to get there early, and talk to mom simply because I haven’t in a while. She’s nearly retired but not quite, and my step father is getting Bert-like in his immobility and his inability to hear. My younger sister drifted in next, and finally my older sister with her husband and the Mercer Niece, and the nephew who we aren’t quite certain about yet. But oddly, we started having a good time. There was something about the day, the jokes, the good food, or maybe we were just tried if it not being fun, who knows? Okay, now this doesn’t sound hysterically funny but my brother in law found a coin while digging a fence post hole and thought it might be worth something. My sister cleaned it up and it turned out to be a quarter from the year 2000. She kidded him about thinking it was pirate gold and we had a good laugh at that. He and I went to the store later and I suggested he take the quarter and get a jewelry store to turn it into a necklace and give it to my sister Christmas morning but we’re going to get one of those gift boxes from a fancy store first.
Okay, maybe the Pirate Gold Quarter isn’t something that will cause most people to literally hurt themselves laughing over, but that was what we had. And finally, something was enough for everyone there just to lose it laughing about nothing for a while. Oh, that and my nephew came out of the kitchen too fast and let fly a piece of mom’s homemade and most excellent lasagna. It made a horrific zombie movie splatter, but that too was funny. It was even more funny when my nearly deaf father in law quoted something my younger sister had said earlier, which she hadn’t meant for him to hear, and she called him out for pretending to be deaf, and that was hysterical.
No, really, I’m serious, it was funny as hell.
So on my way back home I stop to get some gas and the woman at the counter is chatting on an phone with her kid and she tells the kid that Santa just walked in and because it’s one of those face to face chats she turns the camera on me and I can see the kid grinning back out of the phone like she just captured a photo of the last unicorn. I’m practicing being a nicer person and one of the things I do is compliment the help in stores and at restaurants on their accessories and she tells me the earrings were a gift from her son who is still howling with glee on the phone.
The split Christmas was defeated by the Santa Hat and the Pirate Gold Quarter from the year 2000