For Christmas I wanted to stay in my pajamas until 12:00 PM. I wanted to eat food I cooked and go see the new Will Smith movie, Concussion. But, I am no longer an I. I am now a we. I have married into a huge, close and loving family. We had one floor of our house filled with gifts for my husband’s family. There are a lot of them.
Christmas eve I asked my mother to make escovitch fish. I cooked macaroni & cheese, Jamaican beans & rice, and squash sweet potato soufflé. After I cook more food this night than I have probably cooked all month; I trap myself in my office to wrap gifts. My fine motor skills start to give me trouble. It is probably because of the two glasses of special eggnog my husband has made. I am having difficulty with the wrapping paper. Everything ends up in gift bags. Just say no.
When I emerge from my private space and join my husband on the couch, the air is thick.
“What’s up your ass?”, I ask.
I’m a great conversation starter.
“Nothing.”, says Papa Bear.
I stare at him without blinking boring a hole into his third eye. He asks why I’m looking at him and I say nothing. Finally, he spills the beans.
“I thought escovitch fish was cooked in the oven? The whole damn house smells like fish!”
“No, it’s fried. That’s the authentic way.”, I say.
Immediately, I feel the heat rise in my spine. Then I take a long full lung breath. I’m growing ya’ll.
I tell my husband that I asked my mother to make the dish, which he already knows since we talked about what we wanted to eat for the holidays. Then he ask if I can remember him every frying in the house. I cannot recall a time. He has even taken the deep fryer outside in the winter to cook when I desired fried fish. I sigh and go upstairs to start burning incense throughout the house. As I’m doing this my mother is asking me a million questions and following me around as I try to filter my responses based on her sensitivity level. I start to feel hot again. My chest is starting to tighten. I’m still not clear why Papa Bear is mad although I’m clear now frying in the house is a bad idea. I’m also irritated because now my mother is defensive and the food is going to end up tasting like regret.
I decide to apologize first. It’s Christmas eve damn it! We are going to be happy in this house! I go back down to the basement.
“Babe, I apologize if you feel disrespected in our home. I didn’t know there was an official no fry rule in the house. ”
I’m trying my best and even in sincerity, I can seem sarcastic. Thank God he knows me.
“It’s not you it’s me.”, he responds.
” I apologize. My frustration comes from childhood. My bedroom was in the basement growing up. My mother would fry shit almost every day and that stuff got into my clothes. I had to go to school or practice always smelling like something fried. It’s not you babe, it’s not your mother. It’s totally me. My clothes always stunk and kids made fun of me.”
While he tells the story I relived his angst and tried to empathize. Poor pooh I thought. Then I burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles. Doubled over holding my stomach in a fit of giggles. Tears start to fall from my eyes. There is a part of me that hopes I haven’t made things worse but I can’t stop laughing.
Midway through I realize he is laughing too.