Wednesday, December 29, 2010

276. Flashback

So here is my favorite Christmas story. My younger sister Oakley is three, so I must be eight. We are visiting my grandmother in California, and various Distant Relatives have assembled for the occasion.

My mom’s step-brother’s second wife Madge hands my mom a beautifully wrapped present. Let me state for the record: I had never met Madge before that specific Christmas and now in thirty odd years, I have not seen her since.

My mom fusses with the satin ribbon, all the while cooing, oh-Madge-you-shouldn’t-have. A brand new fancy appliance appears on the scene. Mom hugs Madge and sincerely tells her it's what she’s always wanted and thanks her profusely for her generosity and kindness.

Oakley, normally sharp as a tack but still unable to read (she was only three, cut her some slack), is curious and wants very badly to Be Involved. She cranes her neck to see the box more clearly and says sweetly, “What is it, Mommy?”

My mother hesitates for a split-second, perhaps temporarily listening to her clairvoyant powers. Then she gives in and tells Oakley, “It’s a popcorn popper.”

You know what comes next. The part about the adorable pre-schooler who manages to say something equal parts embarrassing and cute and honest and deplorable. She twirls around and enthusiastically chirps,

“Now we have two!”

The room goes silent; everyone holds their breath. My mom, bless her heart, launches into how useful it is to have two popcorn poppers when you have a lot of people over or a big movie party (?) and need extra popcorn. Then she abruptly changes her story and says that her current (cheap? unworthy? terrible mistake?) popcorn popper has died and it’s high time for a replacement (this is untrue: I was with her when she bought it mere months ago).

I am mortified. Mortified that my sister has just humiliated us in front of the Important Distant Relatives, mortified that she does not have the good sense to just lie and act like we don’t already have one.

My mom’s step-brother starts to snicker. Then so does my normally reserved grandfather. My mom suppresses a giggle (really—how can she not?) and even poor Madge thinks it’s funny too. I succumb and laugh as well.

Oakley is laughing too.

(She doesn’t know why.)


P.S. As you can imagine, this jubilant “now-we-have-two!” has become part of the family vernacular or short-hand. We love to pull out and dust off the phrase in any circumstance (found your car keys after you just got out the Emergency Back-Up Set? Now we have two! Order a pizza and they accidentally bring you two of the same kind? Now we have two!)

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