Christmas was so nice this year. It’s usually nice, but I loved this year even more for a few reasons. One: it was the first one in my house. Two: It was the first Christmas for my sister and BIL as a married couple, which I just love. Three: Simon was very good. Four: Everything went very well and we even did a couple of new things, so the routine was broken.
On Christmas Eve, I was a little late in getting everything finished. I only wrapped my presents that day! I had weeks to do it, and never did. I’m just lazy. I ran out of boxes halfway through and had to run out to get some more. The stores were awful, of course. Luckily since I was only buying one package of white boxes in TJ Max, a couple of people actually let me go ahead of them. That was so nice, and got me in and out of there in under ten minutes. On my way out of the parking lot, I saw two cars that had smashed together– it looked like the one car just backed out of a spot without looking. The drivers seemed unhurt, but the one guy who was hit was red in the face and I think he was screaming. Merry Christmas, right? Ugh. People are just insane in those parking lots!
I never did get around to making the chocolate chip cookies. I’d wanted to make them for days and days and, once more… I never got around to it. LAZY. It didn’t make much of a difference. My sister had made a ton of cookies, so that helped fill the sweets-void for all of us. Anyway, on Christmas Eve my Mom came over in the afternoon and a little while later, sis and BIL arrived and we all went to dinner at ClaimJumper.
Dinner had me just a little stressed out. It was because I was in charge of making the reservations, and did I do it? Think for a minute about the wrapping of gifts and cookies, and you’ll be able to guess the pattern. Our first choice restaurant didn’t take reservations, and the second choice was booked up when I called (gulp) the night before. I made calls on Christmas Eve to at least 6 different restaurants (multiple locations of Logan’s Roadhouse, Cheesecake Factory, and The Keg) only to hear that all of them weren’t accepting reservations on Christmas Eve. That seems so weird to me! But whatever… I suddenly got a decent idea that I hadn’t thought of before: Claim Jumper. I’d only been to that place once, and it was in California with X and his family. I remembered I’d liked it a lot. But my sister and Mom had never been to that place, and so I had anxiety. I’ll call it the Quilted Bear Anxiety.
Once upon a time, about 6 or 7 years ago, I was in charge of Christmas Eve dinner reservations. We wanted to try someplace new, and so I booked us at this place in Scottsdale called the Quilted Bear. Online, it had gotten some decent reviews and the menu sounded good. People at my job at the time had raved about it, so I was thinking it would be a great choice for us. So the four of us (me, Mom, sister and BIL) went there, and…
…first, we had to wait a long time for our table, even though we had reservations. We noticed that 95% of the clientele was elderly. Many wheelchairs and walkers were scattered throughout the dining rooms. We were finally seated, and it took sooooo long for them to even come over and take our drink orders. We placed our full orders at that time, and we didn’t see our waiter for something like an HOUR. No kidding. We went to the salad bar, which boasted “over 80 items” online, but I think that was TOTAL… the number of tomato slices, leaves of iceberg, etc. Crappy selection. And then BIL fished a metal filing out of his salad. No idea how metal pieces get into a salad, but it definitely wasn’t appetizing. We spent some time waiting and deliberating about walking out when the food finally arrived.
It was lukewarm. And I had gotten a turkey dinner, and I swear it was just a Banquet frozen dinner, dumped out on a plate. Really horrible stuff. All of us looked at our food with disgust–and tasted it, only to find it just as unappetizing as it looked– and that was when we gave up. We ended up leaving without eating. Of course, we were starving, but no place was really open at that point. So what did we do? We went to a Walgreens and got some candy. Our dinner that Christmas Eve was little chocolate Santas, and we ate them as we drove around looking at Christmas lights.
So, ever since then, I am afraid of picking another dud. The Quilted Bear thing has become a family joke, and I know chances are, nothing that crappy would happen again, but… there’s always the fear that it just MIGHT.
Fortunately, Claim Jumper was GREAT. We all really enjoyed the food and service, and had no issues at all with anything. In fact, my Mom said that she thought this could be “our new favorite place.” Score!! I didn’t screw up this year… it could have gone bad, what with not being able to find a place only hours before dinner, but it worked out. Yay!
After dinner, we drove around looking at lights, including the cul-de-sac in my neighborhood with the incredible displays. All the houses get together and go all out. There’s a huge lighted snowman that it easily three stories high. And the majority of the stuff was all homemade, including that snowman. Some very talented, spirited people live on that street! The place was packed. We walked through, and saw the one resident who was dressed as Santa, sitting out by the curb talking to kids about what they wanted for Christmas. It was so cool! Parents were taking pictures, kids were all excited… it definitely felt like Christmas.
After that, we went to church. BIL left to go to a Catholic mass with his Dad, but the three of us went to a small Presbyterian church near my house. Last year we went to a big church, and it was nice, but this year we decided to go for something more intimate. This place sure was… it was TINY.
With questionable talent. Look, I don’t mean to be an asshole, but when people can’t sing and they insist on singing, I really cannot turn off my snarkiness. I try SO HARD, though! But unfortunately, I became a complete and total asshole on the second solo this one woman was singing:
I burst out laughing. In the church, yeah. While she was singing.
What happened was, she was singing that stupid hymn “Mary Did You Know” which, incidentally, is one of my least favorites. It’s just weird. Mary didn’t know shit, apparently. That her baby boy would grow up to be Jesus, yadda yadda… the whole song is just asking Mary if she knew that this, that and the other thing would happen to her kid. Leave Mary alone, will ya? Bad enough that she was a virgin, forced to give birth in a stable. You start questioning her about her son’s future, and it becomes kind of too much, you know? Let the tired, sore, 13 year old virgin rest. Don’t ruin it for her by telling her “hey, your kid is gonna be crucified one day” and all of that!
Soooo… yeah. Lady at church is singing this. In a big, operatic voice. But it was a little shaky. You can tell the talent pool in this church is really small, by virtue of the size of the tiny congregation. So I think this woman was the best they had. Anyway, she’s up there singing away this stupid song, and all of the sudden this kid, maybe about 9 years old, goes up the aisle to leave and go to the bathroom. He had a mohawk, and his face was just hilarious. He looked so uninterested in being there, so full of bored resignation, and combined with the music, something just snapped. I cracked up.
I was quiet at first, but my shoulders were definitely shaking with the effort to stay quiet. My sister was laughing too, by then. She saw the same thing I did, and we both were laughing at exactly the same thing. It’s AWFUL sitting next to your sister in church when you both have the same sense of humor. The shaking laughter went on as the lady was still singing, and I fought so hard to calm down. Tears were coming down my face by that point, and I was trying to play it off like I was so moved by the song that I was sobbing.
The church was so small that I KNOW the lady who was singing saw me. She was looking right at me whenever I looked over there. Which made it so much worse. Finally, after a few moments, I thought I had control of myself. Plus, the song seemed to be winding down. Whew.
But then she burst out into a new verse.
And I went “PPPPFFFFTTT!” as a new round of laughter coursed through me.
People turned around to look at me. OH MY GOD. I was mortified! I prayed that maybe it had sounded like a sneeze or something, but I doubt people would turn around in the pews for a sneeze.
What an asshole I am, right?
I was right back to being in church as a kid, sitting next to my friend Tracy and laughing that same, quiet, shaking laugh during the services. Why are things suddenly so much funnier when they occur in a place where you are supposed to be quiet and solemn? Or in places like a company meeting, or a funeral? Sheesh. It’s awful!
I spent the rest of the service feeling humiliated, and kind of faking that my stomach was growling. We wrote some notes back and forth and my sister and I both did an “act” that the sound of my stomach growling had made us laugh. I felt like the people behind me were horrified at my immaturity. I never did turn around, not even a little. Just sat there, staring straight ahead, trying to think serious thoughts the rest of the service. The layreaders were these two teenage girls who could NOT read. It was awkward. Then, the two of them sang a song together and they sucked at that, too. I didn’t even glance at my sister for fear of losing it all over again. ALSO, a guy who appeared to be retarded was sitting in the pew next to our Mom, and at one point my sister nudged my knee so I’d look over: he was sleeping, leaning against a woman I think was his mother, his mouth open and legs spread. QUICK! LOOK AWAY AGAIN! Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, just sing the carols, la la la…!
So church, for me, was a failure. Lesson learned: no more small churches! I need a church where I can disappear into the congregation, sit in the back… that kind of thing. Clearly, I am still 12 years old, mentally, and can’t handle church like an adult.
How come I never became the adult I expected to become? I thought that when I was in my 30s, I would have it all figured out. I’d be sophisticated, with an intelligent husband and a couple of great kids. I’d have a very good job, with lots of responsibilities. I might even wear heels and cocktail dresses from time to time! I’d go on vacations to places like Jamaica and the Mediterranean.
The reality? NOT SO MUCH.
I’m 34. Not 30, or even 32. Thirty-fuckin-FOUR. Almost in my MID THIRTIES. Unmarried, not a parent, a job in a cubicle with no real responsibilities, spending my free time watching weird shows like Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and binging on Nerds candy. I still have the incredibly base sense of humor. Nothing is off limits. You can’t gross me out, you can’t offend me. The more vile, immature and stupid the humor, guaranteed the more I will like it. I still wear boots everyday in the winter, and live in jeans and black T-shirts. I don’t even try to look nice. I just kind of exist, a silly writer with a muffin top over my jeans and a new double chin, watching funny animal videos on YouTube and making up songs to sing to my pets. CLASSY.
Here’s an example of some of the fine entertainment I find so damn fantastic these days:
That kangaroo….KICKED… that kid! Right into the lake!! WOOOOOoooo boy, that’s good stuff!
So, I guess overall, I guess you could say that I am lucky enough to still experience Christmas just like a child might. Through the eyes of a child, everything is a freakin’ joke, apparently! Merry Christmas!