I had many friends in Atlanta but my favorite was a fellow from Detroit named Parker. Parker and I met in college and formed an instant bond as result of our shared affection for whiskey, marijuana and women without morals. Later, I found that Parker was a great conversationalist and long after college and the debauchery were gone, the conversations remained. I enjoy nothing more than conversing with Parker. With Parker I can talk about everything from the meaning of the New Testament to the effects of stripping on prostitution and no matter what the subject matter, the conversation is always a peaceful exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Some human beings are emotionally connected to their thoughts and ideas and contradictions and opposition are received as personal attacks. But not with Parker. With Parker I was always safe to say whatever, whenever and know that nothing I said would affect the friendship.
I knew that Parker usually went home for the holidays so I was unsure as to whether or not I’d be able to stay with him. However, with fingers crossed, Parker was the first person I called when I arrived in Atlanta.
I was in luck. Parker was home and was going to be home for the holiday. Furthermore, his live-in girlfriend had gone home to California so I was more than welcome to stay at his house. This was going to be a good holiday after all.
Three days after my arrival, while drinking Crown Royal and reliving some random event from college, Parker asked, “Why didn’t you go home?”
“I don’t have a home,” I replied.
“I meant Cleveland.”
“That’s not my home.”
“Well, then your mother’s house,” said Parker. “Why didn’t you go to your mother’s house?”
“For Christmas? Never.”
I took a sip of whiskey. “Parker,” I said, “do you remember me telling you that my mother was like several different mothers?”
“I do,” said Parker. “There is the Buddhist Mother; the Comedian Mother; the mother that said ‘Fuck You’ a lot.”
“That’s the Bronx Mother,” I said.
“Yes,” said Parker. “The Bronx Mother. So?”
“So, there is also a Christmas Mother.”
“Really? And how is she?” asked Parker.
“I hate her fucking guts!”
Parker laughed. Then he refilled our mugs with whiskey, sat back and said, “Tell me all about your Christmas Mother.”
“Well,” I began, “for as long as I can remember we didn’t celebrate christmas. Mother believed that Christmas was actually about the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and since he was nobody of any concern to us there was no reason to celebrate his birthday. ‘Besides’ she’d always say, ‘your birthday is two days later. And your birth is so much more important to me than Jesus’’”
“Well at least you got to do it big for your birthday,” Parker said.
“No. I did not,” I replied. “And I fucking hate Birthday Mother too. But that’s a different story.”
“At around age seven, I started spending Christmas with my grandmother in Connecticut. It was awesome. There was snow. Grandma and I decorated her house and her yard. And of course, there was a tree and it was always beautiful. Grandma always made a big deal out of me putting the star on top. And I woke up every Christmas morning, I awoke to holiday jingles, and gifts and grandma’s cooking. Those were like the best three years in my life.
“Were? What happened?”
“When I was ten, Mother decided not to let me go back to Connecticut. She said for the past three years she had been ‘all alone’ and that she wanted us to be together for the holiday.”
“Did you celebrate christmas?” asked Parker.
“No. We did not. I woke up that Christmas morning to nothing. No snow. No tree. No gifts. No cooking. No-thing. Just the sound of Mother chanting.”
“Did you at least you get gifts from your grandmother?” Parker asked.
“You would think. But get this. While my mother was chanting, my grandmother called and asked me what I got for Christmas. I was so confused. I said something like, ‘what did I get?’ and my grandmother said ‘yes, what did your mother buy you for me?’ I didn’t know what to say. I must have said something like, ‘huh?’ cause then my grandmother said, “yes, sweetie. I sent your mother a check and told her to buy you something nice as a gift from me. She did buy you something didn’t she?’
“Did you lie to your grandmother?” said Parker.
“Of course I lied to my grandmother.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe because I didn’t want grandma to know how fucked up my mother really was.”
“So, what did you tell her?” Parker asked.
“I told her that I got like a bunch of G.I. Joe action figures and a jeep for them to ride in. She was happy. When we got off the phone, I went into my mother’s ‘Buddhist area’ and asked her why she didn’t buy something nice like grandma told her to. She ignored me and kept chanting. So I asked again. And again she ignored me. So, I just kept asking and after like the twelfth time, she stop chanting and yelled, ‘I paid the fucking electric bill! I think lights are nice, don’t you?’ Then she resumed chanting.
“What did you do,” asked Parker.
“I started crying, ran in my room and played with the light switch for about a hour.”
Parker and I started laughing. You know that kind of laugh when something is funny but it’s not really funny but it’s funny.
“I’m sorry,” said Parker.
“It’s okay. I’m grown up now and clearly I’m over it.”
“So, did it ever get better?” Parker asked.
“No. Ever year after that, I stayed home and every Christmas, I awoke to nothing except the sound of mother chanting. I left home like six years later and after that I began spending Christmas with my Uncle in Orange County. Oddly, enough, Mother started celebrating Christmas like five years ago.”
“Really? Have you been to one of her celebrations,” asked Parker.
“No. I’ve been invited but I pass every year.”
“Do you call?”
“You should at least call,” said Parker.
“No!” I said. “I don’t want anything to do with her. She is the worst christmas mother ever.”
Parker and I finished our drinks in that awkward silence that always follows these types of exchange. I felt bad that I had snapped at Parker but I knew he understood. We have ventured into dangerous waters many times and we always came out as friends.
I was awoken violently by Parker some nine hours later.
“Seth!” Parker was screaming. “Wake up, Seth! Seth!”
“Dude, you won’t believe what just happened,” said Parker.
“Parker,” I said, “I’m sleepy. And I think I’m still drunk.”
“She just left here,” said Parker.
“From last night?”
“This morning,” said Parker, “I got a call from her saying she had some trees and that she wanted to come over and smoke with me.”
“So, she comes over and I roll a blunt and while we smoking I said something like, ‘you was talking all sexy in the club last night so what’s up?’ and she was like, ‘aw baby. I would do something but I been out all night and I haven’t showered yet, if you know what I mean.’”
“What!” I said. “So, she was out all night screwing and then came over here?”
“Apparently,” said Parker.
“Well, what the hell did she come over here for?” I asked.
“That’s what I said,” said Parker. “And she said ‘because I like you baby.”
“But get this,” Parker continued, “after she said that, I clasped my hand on my head and laid back like what the fuck, right and she says, ‘aw baby. I’m sorry. I’ll still take care of you.”
“And did she take care of you?” I asked.
“Yes, she did.”
“But here’s the kicker.”
“There’s more?” I asked.
“While she was ‘taking care of me’ her phone kept ringing. She ignored it but whoever it was kept calling back. Finally, she stopped, said ‘excuse me baby’ and answered the phone.”
“Yeah. She picked up the phone and yelled, ‘What!’ She listened for a second then said, ‘I’ll be there when I get there,’ then hung up the phone. Then she turned to me, Seth, and said, ‘I’m sorry baby. Motherfuckers keep calling me. Asking me where I’m at like it’s they motherfucking business. Damn kids.”
I gasped and clasped my hands over my mouth.
“It was her kids calling,” I asked after I could breathe again.
“Seth, it was her kids.”
“Did she jump up and leave,” I asked.
“No,” said Parker. “She finished; smoked another blunt; then left
“Oh my God, Parker.”
Parker got up and started to go upstairs. Then turning to me he said, “Seth, call your mother. She is NOT the worst christmas mother ever”
Parker was right. I may have woken up many a Christmas morning to no tree and no gifts and nothing but the sound of mother chanting but I have never woken up on Christmas morning to no mother. And though my mother wasn’t home celebrating Christmas at least she was at home.
That morning, I forgave my Christmas Mother.
And for the first time since I left home, I called my mother on Christmas.