Next year I’m staying home for Christmas and ordering Chinese. I don’t want to be anywhere near trees, roasting pans, in-laws, pine-scented candles, geriatrics, newborns, ornaments, carols and their sappy singers, twinkling lights, napkin rings, wrapping paper, sweaters and all the other trappings associated with the day a rotund fellow in red squeezes his way down a chimney to leave capitalistic goodness for the good little boys and girls. To say I’m bitter toward Christmas is a bit of an understatement.
Why would I opt for moo shu pork instead of suckling pig with Tiny Tim and the gang? Because this year was the nightmare on Christmas. This wasn’t some aggrandized Griswold Christmas spun out of control. No, this was the feast of St. Nick off its axis and on its ass. Never have I witnessed such depravity and discord on what should have been a day of merriment and harmony. The Kinkeads made that impossible.
Alice isn’t like them, though. She’s normal, except for her obsession with all things Cyndi Lauper. We’re not together anymore, largely because there was no way I, a Carlyle, was going to marry into the Kinkeads. No way. I did love her, but I just couldn’t reconcile that family of hers. Let me show you what I mean.
Alice had flown into Boston on Christmas Eve a day ahead of me and picked me up at Logan when I landed. We drove for a few hours into New Hampshire, past quaint decorated hamlets bedecked in Christmas regalia, gently rolling hills dusted with snow, bare birch trees and ice-covered ponds. How adorably precious.
We pulled up to a house that looked like a barn, but a cute barn. It wasn’t dilapidated or shrouded in rural despondency. It was adorned in just the right amount of Christmas cheer, not gaudy and not pathetic. Martha Stewart (pre-house arrest, of course) would approve. The warm scene eased my anxiety about meeting my future in-laws.
But as we walked up the stone path to the bright red door, my muted anxiety was immediately replaced with abject horror. Before Alice’s hand reached the knob, a naked little boy opened the door and darted past. He ran into the yard, toddled through the snow, put one hand on his fleshy hip and the other on the tip of his penis, and let fly a golden stream of holiday joy.
“Aunt Alice, look, I’m writing your name,” he shouted back over his shoulder, careful not to let go and risk a spelling mistake. I looked at Alice, hoping to see her equally astonished, but she just shrugged, “Timmy has issues with clothes. It’s really cute.”
I didn’t share her appreciation of Timmy’s charming aversion to apparel. I also couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t being chased by a mother, father or anyone who may be upset at this ruffian parading around in his birthday suit inscribing his aunt’s name in urine on the front lawn. What would the neighbors think if they saw this? And don’t they care at all about making a good impression on me as I do them? But Timmy was young. It would be unfair to judge the entire family based on the impish antics of a fledgling exhibitionist.
Upon crossing the threshold, I realized it’d been quite a drive and I needed to use the bathroom. I wanted to meet her family but didn’t want to make my introduction with pee stains on my pants, and while it may have been Kinkead custom to write uric odes to loved ones in the yard, I went the traditional route and asked to use the bathroom.
Alice told me it was upstairs and to the left. I knocked, and, hearing no reply, opened the door. The room was redolent of Christmas potpourri and stale poo. Sitting on the toilet was a slumped-over elderly man. His corduroy pants sat around his ankles, his red and green argyle socks protruding slightly above them. Fearing he had suffered a heart attack, I checked to see if he was alive.
“Hey, buddy, you OK?” Nothing. This time I poked his side. “Hey man, you there?”
“What the f—? Get outta here you pervert! What the hell do you think you’re doing barging in on an old man taking a s—?”
“I, I, I’m sorry. I thought—”
“You were thinking you could come in here and steal my wallet! Not on my watch, buster! I’m a marine!”
Who? What? I …
I slinked downstairs and relayed the story to Alice. She told me Uncle Dennis is narcoleptic and fairly senile. I used the half-bath behind the kitchen. It was hostile octogenarian-free and smelled of pine detergent.
After relieving myself, I was ready to meet the family. They seemed pleasant enough, shook my hand, congratulated Alice and I on our engagement and asked about my work. I was particularly pleased at how relaxed and mellow her father was. I had feared the stereotypical father-in-law bullying and haggling, but he was kind and gracious. I was touched by how quick he was to embrace me, literally and figuratively.
When the introductions were finished and most of the names forgotten, Grandpa offered me his seat on the couch. I declined, but he insisted. He rose and went into the kitchen. As I took his seat, I realized it was warm and wet. Grandpa had pissed himself. I did my best to act casual. I tried to get Alice’s attention to tell her what happened, but she was too busy catching up. I was stuck, figuratively and literally (my dry pants were welding to the wet sofa).
When Grandpa came back from the kitchen with his scotch refilled, he sat on the couch across from me, winked, took a sip of his drink and placed it down on his coaster, which upon observation proved to be a copy of the AA manual. Where in the 12 Steps does it say, “Drink so much you piss yourself and blame it on a stranger?”
I wasn’t about to budge until it was safe. Thankfully, it was Kinkead tradition to open presents before dinner, so I could stay put for the time being. Everyone forced their way into the living room. The ghoulish spectacle that followed still haunts me. I know if I were watching it in a movie it would make me laugh, but having sat through it, participated in it, it only makes me cry.
Doug, Alice’s father, handed me a card, another touching gesture I wasn’t expecting. Unfortunately, as I was opening it, I got a nasty paper cut. It sliced so hard and deep I cried out in pain. Everyone turned to face me. The music screeched to a halt. I had committed some sin by acknowledging I was in pain. My reaction was apparently so offensive to Granny she barked at me, “Oh, suck it the f— up, princess.” I was bleeding down my finger, burning to the bone, and this withered old woman basically called me a p—. Everyone seemed to be in agreement, my p—hood unanimous. Alice offered me no solace or defense. I desperately wanted to hide in a corner, but then I’d be uncovered as a couch-wetter, so all I could do was slink lower into my seat, deeper into the puddle of Grandpa’s filtered scotch.
It was from this lowly perch I watched in disbelief as the Kinkead circus rolled into town. Peggy, Alice’s mother, gave Doug a present of soap, deodorant and cologne, clearly trying to convince her husband of his repulsive aroma. Doug, quick to go on the defensive, said if she hadn’t been so busy yawning during their vows, maybe she’d have noticed his musk. Peggy responded in a “Stepford Wives” tone, “Honey, why don’t you go outside and play Hide-and-Go-F—Yourself?” Doug retorted, “I’d love to get lost. Then you wouldn’t be around!” They’ll be celebrating their 40th anniversary in June. Such a happy couple.
Uncle Dennis gave Aunt Rose a card with a heartwarming message inside: “Dear Rose, You’re famous! Go to youtube.com/oldladyofthenight to claim your fame!” He had been secretly videotaping her for the last six months as she slept-walked, naked, around their house and posted the videos on YouTube under the aforementioned title. He had narrated through these unconscious, in-the-buff constitutionals to the kitchen, the garage, even the bathroom in the same voice professional golf announcers on television use. Apparently she had more than a million loyal followers eager to view her next midnight stroll. Rose was nonplussed to learn her nocturnal strolls in her birthday suit had gone viral.
Timmy, still naked, was being overly rambunctious, enjoying the revelry a bit too much, and his mother scolded him, saying, “Timmy, calm down and play with your balls!”
Santa had brought him some squeaking mini soccer balls for Christmas, a must-have this holiday season for every child and terrier.
Now, because I was so nervous about meeting Alice’s family and then so overwhelmed by her family’s deplorable behavior, I had been steadily helping myself to bourbon-spiked eggnog from the punch bowl on the coffee table in front of me. I hadn’t eaten anything since the nuts on the plane, and drinking on an empty stomach, a red-eye flight with little to no sleep and a house full of bumpkins does not a sober Chaz Carlyle make. But, the booze was helping me appreciate the humor. Despite grandma’s severe attack on my manhood and between Alice’s parents’ smelly marital woes, Uncle Dennis filming Aunt Rose and Timmy and his balls, I was in stitches. I was having a grand time for myself, and I realized I was coming close to following Grandpa’s lead.
Timmy squealed one octave too high, eliciting a series of “shushes,” and I took my opportunity to slither from the couch undetected. Heading past the kitchen to the bathroom, I bumped into Alice. She did not looked pleased, clearly upset I had degenerated into a drunken stupor. I told her I was fine and that I thought things were going well, that I thought I was making a good impression (piss pants and paper cut not included). Before she could respond, I planted a big wet one on her, smack on the lips, to ease her tension.
When I pulled back, confident I had allayed my fiancée’s fears, frightening sobriety and Peggy were looking back at me. I had just drunkenly made out with my future mother-in-law. Not good.
Outraged, embarrassed and disgusted, she shoved me so hard I fell to the floor. I’m just glad she didn’t follow up with a WWF-style DDT, because, let’s just say, Peggy has a lot of meat on the hoof. I sat on the floor, my pants stained with Grandpa’s wee, blood trickling down my right index finger, drunk. Where were my hot toddies and spiced nuts and gilded China and tabernacle choirs and superfluous dress socks and — and — and — normal people! OK, maybe kissing my future mother-in-law was my fault, but still — these people! This wasn’t Christmas! This was what the holiday special of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” except nobody threw a water fountain through a window to liberate me. Instead, I got Mittens.
As I sat despondently on the kitchen floor, Mittens, the Kinkead family Mastiff, came near to hump my leg – vigorously. Not particularly in the mood for leg humping, I pushed him off. Apparently, Mittens didn’t like to have his dry runs interrupted, because as I was trying to remove his gyrating genitals from my thigh, he bit my arm with flesh-piercing precision.
At the hospital getting stitches was not how I saw my Christmas with the Kinkeads going. I never made it to dinner. Just as well. Who knows what dark corner of hell I would have uncovered.
It wasn’t long after Alice and I returned to Los Angeles that we split. Her family was just too much, and I think she was still angry about my inadvertent kiss. It’s better this way. No Kinkeads for me. How those wanton philistines are allowed to walk among us, I don’t know. I thought people like this had been wiped out in Sodom and Gomorrah. But no, they roam freely throughout the Northeast, besetting whole villages with their incestuous moral corruption. I saw their perversions play out to horrifying detail and one helping was more than enough. No, next year there will be no show. I will be home, alone, eating from a cardboard carton with a pagoda on it.
-Matt Doran is a creative writing graduate student. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your holiday misadventures.