Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas?

It was not a good day. In fact, it qualified for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. At least, by First World standards. It began with a too-early morning rushed exit from San Francisco to drive the 9 hours to Palm Springs. Zadie, Karen and I in one car, Talia, Kerala and Malik in the other. 


It started off promising. No traffic to get over the bridge and after the first 45 minutes or so, 11-year old Zadie wanting to listen to some of her music. This felt like a good opportunity to find out what she’s listening to, so we struck a deal that she could play two of her songs and I could play two of my mine and we would alternate. The only ground rule was that the lyrics needed to be appropriate. Off we went, me gritting my teeth through Eminem’s assault on my musical senses, with a couple of F bombs I let slide. Then Rihanna starting with something that actually approached a melody well sung before de-generating into some male rapper yelling at her. I offered the Scott Joplin piece I was teaching Zadie on the piano, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Collins singing “In My Life” and Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Teach Your Children Well.” Back to Eminem and when he let loose with a series of F explosions, I had had it. As the T-shirt shows, my patience was on empty. I shut it off and my adolescent granddaughter started yelling at me and though I actually don’t take medications, this exceeded my limits. We called the other car and demanded an exchange of children.


In came sweet 7-year-old Malik and listening together to an Audible version of “The Rats of NIMH,” I began to calm down. (Though feeling somewhat guilty and hypocritical about celebrating these rats and mice when we left poison in our house for the one little mouse that recently dared to invade our kitchen). When we met the other car for lunch, both Zadie and I had restored our good relationship and had a conciliatory hug, with a promise to discuss later what happened in the hot tub. 


But then on the next leg of the journey, Kerala called to let us know that her husband Ronnie, who had to work all week in Portland and planned to fly down this day, had gone to the airport only to find out his flight was cancelled and the nearest available one was on the 28th, two days before our Palm Springs time was over. Devastating! The kids looking at Christmas without their Dad and Ronnie looking at spending it alone and missing his much-needed break from work. (As of this writing, still trying to figure this out with the airlines.)


Finally arrived at the rented house, our 4th in four years and what looks to be the least attractive, in need of some sage and Feng-shui. Yes, there’s the requisite pool and hot tub, but the kitchen ill-equipped, the d├ęcor unattractive and as I entered (the first car had already arrived), there was Zadie playing Mortal Kombat on a big video game machine. On the night celebrating the magic and mystery of the Prince of Peace’s birth, it was not to be a “silent night” as the sound of kicking, punching, karate chopping echoed through the house. And when I stepped outside to consider a peaceful soak in the hot tub, a neighbor had some throbbing disco playing. I really need to buy that red T-shirt!


And back to “the art of lying.” Ronnie had Santa’s presents up in Portland that he was going to bring down, so for the moment, we’re pretending that Christmas is actually on Tuesday. A dubious strategy, but the best we could come up with at the moment. 


So there you have it. All First World problems, but still some sadness made yet sadder by the pressure of making yesterday and today (when I write this) match the expectation of memorable excitement, magic and love. We’ll get by fine and tell stories about it later, but it still is not what we hoped for. And naturally, I will write more about what we put before children (Eminem, Mortal Kombat) that feeds their worst selves and is good for exactly no one. 


But meanwhile, Merry  Christmas?


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