December 2009 We are at Sly and Doris' house. It is not Christmas. It is the weekend before Christmas. I don't want to be there but it is easier for us to suck it up and go for a long weekend than for Primo to be subjected to endless rounds of telephone torture. Which he will get anyhow, but at least now he can throw down the card of, "Hey. I did visit you before Christmas so shut up already." Only of course he would never be that mean.
I would. But I don't talk to Sly and Doris. Not that they want to talk to me either, so we are even.
We have paid $500 for the tickets to fly to their place. Why we didn't use frequent flyer miles I don't know. Probably something about Primo needing to get to a certain status and the flight being cheap enough for me that it didn't make sense to use the FF miles.
We have a rental car. Because of course Sly can't come pick us up at the airport. No. That would be inconvenient. Fortunately, because Primo travels about 460% of the time for his job, he has some free Hertz days coming to him so we do not have to pay for the car.
In addition to paying to fly to visit Sly and Doris, we have bought them a Christmas present. As if spending $500, or half a mortgage payment, isn't enough. We are getting them some decent knives. When we visit, we take over the heavy lifting in the kitchen. Doris has arthritis and it is hard for her to cut and chop and peel. I actually don't mind doing the cooking because it gives me something to do. But I do not like working with bad equipment and not only are their knives bad, they are dull. I am not interested in hurting myself just for supper.*
And then Primo, whose vacation has been slashed, is taking precious vacation days for this trip. He will spend those days doing his parents' chores. Because there is nobody where they live, including their cleaning lady, Jack, or their 16-year-old grandchildren who are interested in earning some cash, who can 1. vacuum their closets, 2. dust their ceiling fans, 3. clean around the cat box, or 4. organize their garage.
Got the picture? Plane fare. Knives. Vacation days. Chores.
We sit down one evening to open presents. Doris tells us about mailing presents to Ted and Maura. "I hope the box of gourmet cheese got there in time," she frets. "They're having company."
"Gourmet cheese!" I say. "What a cool present! I would love to get gourmet cheese!"
And I would. I would like it better than hummingbird tables. Or a custom jigsaw puzzle of a map of our neighborhood.
Odd, though, because when I tell Stephanie about this later, she says, "Why would Doris send cheese to Ted? He's the one who got them started on this lactose intolerance crap. He claims that he's lactose intolerant."**
We have already given the knives to Doris, who seems pleased. She has used them. Sly, however, wants to use his old knives that they got as a wedding present. When Jack comes over for supper one night, Sly hands the wedding knife to him for carving. Jack, who is a chef, spies the new knife. As soon as Sly steps out of the room, Jack whispers to Primo, "Hand me the new one." Jack is no fool.
Back to the present opening. This is a good sign - that Doris has sent cheese to Ted. Or is it? Cheese is good, but is giving cheese to someone who is lactose intolerant a good sign?
She hands a box to Primo. He opens it.
It's a framed photo.
Of Sly and Doris.
"Here's another frame if you don't like that one," Doris says.
Primo takes the frame and holds it next to the photo. "Which one do you like, honey?" he asks me.
"Oh, you pick," I answer.
"No, you!" he says.
"Oh, I think you should decide," I say.
"But don't you have a preference?" he insists.
"Really. You pick," I smile.
"Which one?" he pushes.
"I. Don't. Care." I answer through gritted teeth because that photo is going to hang in his office where I will never see it so I really do not care.
And he knows this and wants to torture me so asks again. "Oh come on. Which frame looks better? The dark one or the light one?"
Just to get him to be quiet, I say, "Oh the dark one."
And I think, "That's it? That's our Christmas present? A photo of the two people who hate me and told their son not to marry me and who badmouth me to him? The people who give me a 12-day migraine?"
No! Of course that's not it!
Doris passes Primo another box.
He opens it.
It contains a cast-iron cat.
Our Christmas is complete.
* I can't hurt myself for lunch because remember, they do not eat lunch.
** Doris and Sly's fridge contains cheese, cream cheese, and yogurt. And Lactaid.