â€œWhat do Jews eat,â€ my mother asked me a couple of days ago.
I laughed. I knew this tone all too well.
The first time my friends from Georgia stayed at our house for Thanksgiving, it was all â€œwhat do people from the South eat?â€ And when I invited my best college friends overâ€¦â€what do Chinese people eat.â€
But I wasnâ€™t bringing anyone with me to Christmas dinner, so I was curious.
â€œCeliaâ€™s nephew is bringing his girlfriend and sheâ€™s Jewish! What do they eat?â€
â€œHamâ€¦lots and lots of ham.â€
â€œDonâ€™t be a smartass. You know a lot of Jewish people. Ask Karolâ€
â€œumâ€¦well, sheâ€™s very busy these days, plus she eats bacon, so I donâ€™t think she can help you anyâ€¦oh, but my friend Fisch eats Kraft cheese slices right out of the wrapper. Heâ€™s Jewish.â€
â€œFisch? What kind of name is that?â€
â€œUhâ€¦the one of his names that I can pronounce.â€
I hung up with her absolutely convinced that this was going to be the best Christmas dinner ever. Cause either one of two things were going to happen: my mom was either going to go overboard trying to prepare Jewish food or she was going to get stubborn and insist that her guests eat whatever she makes and like it.
And really, either would make for good blogging, let me tell ya.
I decided to take a day off my vow to be the peace I want to see in the world (it has been going swimmingly, by the way, even though the world has been trying incessantly to provoke me).
Indeed, the utmost reason I was going to my momâ€™s Christmas dinner was to take as many swipes at the meal as I could before she threw something hard and heavy at my head.
Petty? Perhaps, but I learned from the best. Namely, my mom.
When I arrived she was reboiling a roast because she didnâ€™t like the way the original sauce tasted.
â€œEw, that looks disgusting! Are you serving that toâ€¦people?â€ (Thatâ€™s one!)
I made guacamole and filled the cooler with ice, while my momâ€™s friend, also named Dawn, cleaned the kitchen and the living room.
â€œI smell something burning,â€ I said a few minutes later.
â€œOh, crap! The meatballs.â€
â€œTsk tskâ€¦burned meatballsâ€¦thatâ€™s not too appetizing for appetizersâ€¦â€ (HA! Thatâ€™s two!)
Number two earned me a glare. I looked away.
I set the table with the appetizers and my guacamole and put the yams and lasagna in the oven to warm.
I noticed a glazed ham sitting on the back burner and assumed she had gone for the culturally insensitive dinner.
Ahh, option two. This is going to be the Thanksgiving where my cousin brought his vegetarian wife dinner of 1991 all over again.
I started drinking.
My mother plugged in the wok and started to stir-fry some vegetables, the whole place filled with smoke.
â€œDid you burn the vegetables to go with the burned meatballs?â€
Oopsâ€¦too many, too fastâ€¦what was I thinking??? At least if I waited till guests arrived, Iâ€™d have some protection.
Stupid, stupid non-thinking things through completely Dawn.
Number three got me yelled at within an inch of my life, but no physical damage, so weâ€™ll call this a win and a valuable lesson learned.
We put on carols and aired the apartment out. My mom and other Dawn changed their clothes and I got online for a bit.
Before long, the guests had arrived.
My momâ€™s friend Celia is your typical Southern black woman. She grew up in Charlotte and had three boys. We used to go to her house every year for at least one holiday or other. She was always hugging you, pinching cheeks and calling the kids sweetheart and honey.
Yah, so pretty much little Dawnâ€™s nightmare.
â€œLook lady, nobody hugs anybody in my house or says they love you, unless someone has died or is getting on a plane. Has someone died? Then why are you touching me?â€ little Dawn would think as loudly as she could while standing stiffly with her arms at her side being tossed and pinched in suffocating embraces.
Celia had not changed.
I opened the door and was immediately locked in her armsâ€¦well, best as her 4â€™9, 116 pounds (soaking wet), seventy-year-old arms could lock me.
â€œoh my god! Dawn you are all grown up!â€
Let.Me.Go. Yeah, turns out she could still lock pretty good. I canâ€™t breathe.
Her husband also hugged and kissed me.
I went to shake her nephew’s hand, but no. Hug number three.
Well, for sure the Jewish lady — nooo, why with the kissing?
I offered everyone soda or beer, when the nephew, whose name is James asked for red wine, â€œif you have any.â€
Oh. We have any.
Years ago, my mom insisted that she wanted a case of wine and a wine rack for her house.
The conversation went something like this:
â€œI want a case of wine and a wine rack.â€
â€œBut, mother, you do not drink wine.â€
â€œOk, I will see what I can do.â€
Karol introduced me to her wine guy and I spent a couple of hundred dollars on this wine cellar.
My mother never opened a single bottle.
So I pulled out a bottle of red and this fancy schmancy bottle opener my mom had bought.
I fiddled with the thing for a good ten minutes before throwing in the towel.
â€œUh, James, hereâ€™s the bottle and the bottle openerâ€¦ make it work.â€
He gave me one of those â€œno problem little ladyâ€ smiles and set about getting himself a glass of wine.
His girlfriend, whose name was either Jane or looked like a Jane and thus, whom we will call Jane, actually didnâ€™t seem to have any dietary restrictions at all. She ate the soup, which quite obviously had pork in it and ate many of the appetizers without question. And then she said:
â€œIâ€™d like to have a glass of the wine I brought.â€
Of course, no one quite heard the second part, so I said â€œoh, James just opened the red.â€
â€œNo, itâ€™s a white wine. I put it on the table.â€
â€œOh, ok,â€ I said.
I was just about to ask James to open the white â€“ with his bottle opener using expertise â€“ when Jane makes her first mistake of the night.
â€œOh, Iâ€™m sorry, did you want to keep the white for yourselves?â€
That everyone hears quite clearly.
Now, hereâ€™s the thing about my mom. She crazy. Especially, when it comes to making sure everyone knows that she doesnâ€™t need anything from anyone ever. Cause sheâ€™s not poor. So fuck you very much.
â€œNo, we have lots of white wine. Dawn go get more bottles of white wine to show her.â€
â€œNo, mom. Donâ€™t think thatâ€™s necessary.â€
â€Dawn get them!â€
I bring three bottles to offer Jane.
â€œNo, noâ€¦Iâ€¦â€ her face is flush, â€œanything is fine.â€
I put the three back and get the bottle that she brought. James opens it and the unpleasantness of the parade of white wines seems quickly forgotten.
Then Jane says this: â€œOh, Celia said Dawn works for a law firm too, is she a paralegal or a secretary?â€
This begets the parade of Dawnâ€™s Ivy League diplomas.
I hang my head.
Jane and James then get into it when she insists that he get off his cell phone, which has been stapled to his ear for the better part of an hour.
In the meantime, Jane is chatting me up with questions like â€œwas law school in New York hard?â€ (she had apparently gone to law school in California for a semester, but dropped out.) â€œdid I still live with my mom?â€ â€œwhat was I doing with my vacation?â€ When I told her I was going to AC, she said I must talk to James about it, cause he goes all the time.
Before I could interject that I too have been there once or twice, she tapped him on the shoulder and said â€œhoney, Dawn is going to AC.â€
He hung up his call and started to tell me that he knows women like the slots, but that he usually goes to play poker.
I was intrigued.
â€œReally? What kind of poker?â€
â€œTexas Hold â€˜em,â€ he says â€œI play at the 2/4 tables at Harrahâ€™s, but I wouldn’t recommend you start out playing poker down there,â€ he then offered to teach me.
â€œNo thanks. I donâ€™t think my mother would like me playing poker,â€ I respond.
Of course, later that night, after I polished off a couple of bottles of the best of 1999, I told him I was playing in the Showboat tournament on Thursday.
He then whispered to me, in a most inappropriately suggestive tone, that we could get together â€œto practiceâ€ before then.
â€œuhhâ€¦thanks. Iâ€™m good 2-4 boy.â€
Dinner was pretty good and I think Jane warmed her way into my momâ€™s good graces with the effusive praise of dinner.
By dessert, no one could move anymore. We sat around listening to carols and wondering why we thought one more spoon of stuffing was a good idea.
Ok, that was me.
When Celia and her family left, I did triple duty to avoid the James full on disgusting kiss on the mouth. I will be washing my nose with antibacterial soap for days! Days!
Dude, I know female poker players are hot- but come on, your girl is right there.
When the guests were gone, my mom and I called the fam in Panama and watched the video of my cousinâ€™s quincenera (a party Latin families throw for their girls when they turn fifteen. I had mine two years ago. Go figure.)
I am currently lying in the sofa that has replaced my bed and fighting the effects of a crapload of alcohol.
See: Meaning, True of
â€œWhat do Jews eat,â€ my mother asked me a couple of days ago.