I can’t help but watch in horror as everybody begins to arrive, knowing for a fact that my mother is still standing in the kitchen, trying to find out how the damn stove works, and even though I know how I just don’t feel like easing the weight off her shoulders.
The first to arrive; My Nanny, also know as Maxine Cubbage. She pushes the door slowly, her head craning around the edge before anything else. "Hello, hello!" She calls in softly, her eyes twinkling with the holiday spirit every grandmother seems to have. "Hey Nonnie." I say, looking up only for a moment from my laptop, fingers flying over the keys with a pestered expression dominating all other possible reactions my face could have had to her arrival."Hey Sweety–" She coos, her voice hoarse and strained as she moves across the floor, around the couch and towards me, before leaning over to give me a kiss. I make a minimum effort, but enough to be considered humane.
"Hey Nonnie!" I hear my mother’s voice from the kitchen, which means she’s finally decided to realize that her own mother has arrived, almost an hour early just as usual. Instantly my mother scoops up her purse and tries to take my grandmother’s old jacket, but she refuses and says it’s cold even though our house is probably one of the warmest on the seacoast, aside from her own.
I close my laptop reluctantly due to a frigid glance I catch from my mother as she walks back towards the kitchen, to set Nonnie’s bag on the kitchen table for now. It clicks shut, almost causing me to flinch; my laptop is the closest thing I think I’ll ever have to a child, I care for it as I would my own, and when it has a virus I wish I could give it cold medicine and make it all go away.
I can’t help but chuckle as I watch my mother and her mother, and how tenderly they speak to each other, how careful they are when saying what they feel they should say to each other during the holidays.
"How are you?" My grandmother asks simply, her lips turned up at the edges; her attempt at a smile.
"We’re good, we’re good."
"That’s good.. Do you need any money? – I know children–"
"No, we’re fine for now.." My mother replies a little too quickly, and it strikes a thought, we all know she’s broke, and the money is made by the day, not by the week or by the month like it used to be.
"You know, Christmas is coming up Pam, she needs–"
"Mother, she doesn’t know what to ask for, give her some money and a book for gods sake, she doesn’t need a whole bunch of shit to fill up her room!" I wince horribly, knowing my mother meant every word she just said.
"How about clothes, does she need any clothes? I want to get her something Pamela."
"She has enough of everything, I don’t need any money.. Do you want a glass of water? Soda?" This is my mother’s best idea of a diversion, asking if my grandma wants a drink.
"Well Pam, we all know you don’t have any soda, so I’ll have a glass of water."
As if on cue, I immediately stand up, my hands in my pockets and my posture as straight as I can manage to get it.
"A small glass, okay?"
The way she says it, it sounds more like a demand than a question, but I nod anyway, and shuffle off towards the kitchen, hiding a glower of misplaced anger as I step down from our huge ‘great room’ into our tiny kitchen. I see the bottle of vanilla extract on the counter, and as tempting as it is to gulp the container down to send this Thanksgiving up in an inferno, I push the thought away, and pour my Nonnie a glass of water from our filtering container, and return to my perch on the couch. This is all a little amusing, seeing as we do have soda, a whole case of Coca Cola, but Nonnie doesn’t like Coke, she likes Pepsi.
"Is there anything on the television?" I look to my mother, who’s currently staring off into space, as if that will make the dinner to come just go away. Quietly I pick up the remote, and turn on our large television, it comes to life with a mechanical click, and my mother’s attention is suddenly directed at me. "We don’t need the television on.. There’s nothing on." I cross my eyes slightly and ignore her, which results in her getting up in a huff and running off to the kitchen to busy herself with something. The T.V comes on loud, so I turn it down some and flip through the channels, stopping at the football, just as my cousin Bobby walks in the door.
"Hello, hello!" He calls out, a goofy grin plastered on his face, his slightly graying hair and his huge bald spot horribly obvious. Despite this, I immediately stand up, grinning. "Hey Bobby, moms in the kitchen.. What channel is the football game on?" I begin to badger him, and he frowns slightly, before looking at the television. "This ‘un is fine, I don’t know your channels up ‘ere." He tells me, before he makes his way into the kitchen, where my mother could be heard saying things such as hello, I can’t see without my glasses and a couple of other things.
"Aww, SHIT!" The vulgar word is yelled from the kitchen as soon as Bobby exits, and he winces horribly, before I run in, pushing past him as if I’d move the world to see what was wrong. "Mo-". I stop mid sentence, utter disbelief taking over. Stuffing, she dropped the stuffing. The bag is ripped open, and the ugly yellow colored bread and seasonings are spilled all over the floor, and immediately my grandmother is all over it. "Oh Sharon, look at this mess." We all look at her, utterly surprised. "Mother! I am Pam, not Sharon!" She splutters, pain obviously distorting her voice. However, my grandmother doesn’t apologize for mixing up her living daughter with the dead, she just gives a click of annoyance at my mother’s mess and disappears back into the living room.
I can’t help it: I feel bad, really, really bad. Even though I do, all I find myself doing is walking away. I walk into the living room again, leaving my mother to clean up the mess just like the selfish child I am, taking everything for granted. "Nonnie, do you want anything else to drink?" I ask her, as if nothing has happened. It’s a sort of skill you learn to pick up in our family. You either drown in all of our messed up behaviors, or you thrive in them by pretending they don’t exist, such as the fact that my grandmother obviously favored one daughter to another, and still gets them mixed up almost a year after her eldest daughters death. As horrible as it is to watch, I never seem to be able to find the right things to say to mother, I either screw it up, or move on too fast.
Just as things seemed to be settling down again, her voice piped out. The voice that made us all look up. We really weren’t expecting her.. Not really. One of the two, yes.. Both of them, here, together.. No. The moment our front door swung open and the woman practically threw two cases of Pepsi into my arms, and greeted me as though she’d known me for years (she had, they just didn’t count much seeing as I met her when I was six), and grinned from ear to ear. "I’m home!" She called out, her long black hair pulled back tight, her wiry curls tamed with a mass amount of gel, but none the less the moment she walks in we’re all dumfounded, despite how pretty she really is; Naturally dark skin, Extremely curly, black hair, a strong but feminine jaw line, small waist.. And her voice, still holds a Brazilian accent, the one we’d all come to love, until their falling out.
The falling out of the ages, two of the most in love people I’ve ever seen, going through difficult times, finally get so stressed that one moves all the way to another state, just so that they don’t snipe at each other. One cousin, my biological cousin, Debra, horribly in love with Ana, until it got to the point that I think they were too in love. Despite their love issues, it would appear that deportation couldn’t get in the way of anything. Finally, she couldn’t hold back, and stuck her left hand out for all of us to see; a big fat diamond on her ring finger.
At this very moment, she made a complete fool of everybody in the building, my mother included. "Y-you got.. Married? But you’re.." Immediately Ana was all high and mighty, striking everybody’s comments down. "– Lesbians?" The single word seemed to evaporate all other questions we might have had, so I made my way to the kitchen, where I threw the sodas into the refrigerator where they could chill.
Just as I did that, my mother turned around, triumphant.
"Turkey’s ready everyone.. Aw, hell."
We all began to laugh, and my mother laughed with us.
© Copyright 2016 Riley. All rights reserved.
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