Say Goodbye To That Trashy Old Year! Happy 2015!
I realize today, in the middle of a simmering meltdown, that my very first blog post began where my final blog post of this year finds me. At the nail salon and contemplating mayhem. Let’s go back, Gentle Readers, to that very first entry…
Blog Entry January 4th, 2014
If I had a blowtorch…I would burn this nail salon down, I think.
“I heard that,” says Holly, the woman who runs the salon and also the woman who has overbooked appointments today. I am surprised I am speaking aloud but it doesn’t faze Holly. After all, this is Miami.
“I don’t understand. I called. I have an appointment!” I am indignant. I never make an appointment. Usually I just breeze in and wait. Today I do not want to wait. I return to work Monday and my nails look like claws. The rest of me looks like shit. Another customer is already in the chair.
“Sorry. You wait?” she asks.
“NO! I want my nails done!” We are both shocked at my tone. Holly shakes her head.
She sighs. “You have no blowtorch. You go home. You sad. I understand.”
I slam out of the shop and burst into tears.
My mom died Christmas Eve.
I go home.
December 31st, 2014 2:01 pm
“I don’t understand,” I feel my voice rising. “I made an appointment for two o’clock. It’s two o’clock!”
Holly shrugs. “Sorry, honey. Busy today. You come back at four.”
This past year I lived close to my favorite nail place and I could always find something to do in this situation. But I don’t live there anymore.
“I LIVE in Hollywood now. I told you that. It’s the reason I actually made an appointment. I can’t come back!”
“You have to.” Holly throws down the gauntlet.
I see I am making the customer already in Holly’s chair nervous. In recent times, I would avoid this at my own expense. Not this time. Simply put, I am sick and tired of sucking everything up, of swallowing my anger and of self-medicating by using my own grief as some sort of pill that keeps me calm so I don’t buy a blowtorch. I think about the 40 minutes it took me to get here and the time I’d waste making a round trip. I think about my mother.
I’m sick of being the victim that I’ve created. Seems like a small thing, the nail appointment, but today it was huge.
I think for a beat. “Nope. Not coming back.” I slam out of the salon. My nails don’t look that bad. I’ll find a new place to get them done closer to where I live. Waiting two hours is so 2014.
New Year’s Eve, 2014, 7pm
This year was crappy. Shitty. Creepy. Not fun. Now it’s almost done.
Well, we made it through Christmas. I wrote some of it in my last blog and I’ll probably repeat myself, so I hope you can bear with me. It was frantic, it was hectic. We stretched ten Maine lobsters and a salad into a full Christmas Eve dinner for sixteen people. I think you would have been proud.
“Proud because you people actually got dinner on the table without her? I’d say that’s a friggin’ Irish miracle,” Nana cackles from Above. “I’m still shocked anyone can do anything without ME!”
True that When Nana was alive, the night before Christmas was her tradition. She always did it up huge with appetizers, a giant glazed ham and homemade cakes, cookies and candy. She wore her best holiday dress and enough red, white and green jewelry to open her own Woolworth’s. Despite the fact that Nana’s dinners were epic, she wasn’t above using the occasion to start a little trouble.
“Remember the year I roasted a turkey? Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Was your muthah pissed off! She carried on like I had committed a Cardinal sin!” Nana hoots and claps her hands. “She was always such a pain in the ass about that night!”
As well Mom should have been. The Catholics refer to the Seven Deadly Sins as Cardinal Sins. There are actually eight. The first seven are Pride, Greed, Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Gluttony.
The Eighth Deadly Sin is Serving A Gigantic Roast Turkey With All The Trimmings For Christmas Eve Dinner Knowing Full Well That Your Daughter Always Serves A Gigantic Roast Turkey With All The Trimmings For Christmas Dinner.
Nana was nothing if not a fierce competitor in the Annual Holiday Games.
“Yes,” Mom sighs. “That was rather painful, but that’s the way she was and sometimes we have to accept people no matter what.”
“Well, la-dee-dah!” Nana chortles. “Like I sucked so bad? Not everyone could be as perfect as you, Mother Of Miss Fancy Pants Who Is So Rich That She Didn’t Even Steam Her Own Lobstahs! She took them to the fish mahket!”
There is a collective New England gasp in Heaven.
The Ninth Deadly Sin, part b. Part a. is Never Buy Your Own Lobsters. I escaped part a. as these were a gift to me. But part b. is Boil Your Own Lobstahs.
“The biggah Deadly Sin that has to do with lobstahs is to never pay for ‘em,” Poppy grunts through the smoke of the cigar he has somehow managed to smuggle into Heaven. “That’s like Six paht b. The passage that says some fishermen are greedy gluttons so lighten their sin by lightenin’ their load. Praise that Jesus!”
You know that story, Gentle Readers. Poppy was a lobster pot poacher from way back.
Yeah, OK, ya pack of dead townies. My sisters and I just didn’t have it in us to boil ten lobsters – two at a time in my parents’ kitchen over a period of hours with the kids insisting the crustaceans are suffering and Dad yelling from his chair any of the usual instructions.
“Don’t cook them too long!”
“Cook them longer!”
“Somebody open a window!”
So Sissy, Nicole and I lugged them to a more suitable execution venue. I can only hope that the fact I never made it into my Christmas outfit and spent the holidays in a New England Patriots t-shirt and jeans will serve as sufficient penance.
“Bless you my, child,” Poppy makes the sign of the cross.
“Ya gotta hole startin’ in the crotch of them dungarees!” Nana, always a tattletale.
Mom shakes her head. “At least you dyed your roots.”
QUIET EVERYONE! I’m trying to write this letter. Or blog. Or whatever it is!
Anyway, Mum, your pal Lori worked really hard to make the house look welcoming for Christmas. She put up the tree for Dad and covered the dining room table with your red linen cloth and the white lace topper. We invited her to have lobster with us as her little boy was with his father. She’s a kind and wonderful friend to us and to you, even though you are gone.
The whole family was there. People arrived from Los Angeles, Colorado, Boston, Virginia, Atlanta and Miami.
Our expectations were high for this holiday. After all, we whipped through it last year without you.
You died last Christmas Eve. As you are aware.
“Oh geez, whatta news flash! Walter Cronkite reported that last year! I’m not gonna be able to take much more! What time does Dick Clark staht?” Nana is impatient.
I hear the reedy voice of my Irish great-grandmother, Yaya Molly.
“Alice, it’s not always all about you. Why don’t you zip it? And by the way, Dick Clark is right behind you.”
Mum, my point is that I realize we made it through last year because of you. We were in such complete shock at your unexpected departure that the Polar Express left the station without you. Although we do have pictures, none of us remember anything about that two day block of time. I have to keep asking Rosie and Chick Bernhard what we actually served.
This year we felt the raw aching wound of not having you to yell at everyone to get out of your kitchen, turn down the TV before the neighbors call the police, yanking down skirts that you felt were riding to high and pulling up the pants you deemed too low.
We suffered the absence of the special touches you worked so hard to create every year. You may think we never noticed, but we did. So you are still with us.
It wasn’t just the holidays. Your death seemed to trigger an avalanche – at least in my life. There has been little work, I had to move, the paint is coming off my car. Mum, this year really sucked, as Nana says. I felt like every day was a battle to get through it. I remained as calm and accommodating as I could. I did what we the Irish. Act casual, say nothing and pretend it isn’t happening.
I saw a major shift in my personality – that thing that you reveled in and reviled all at the same time. I shut up. Except to apologize to anyone and everyone about all things random.
“Did you steal that plane? That one from Madagascar?” Nana interrupts. “Two reasons I’m askin’. One, I haven’t seen any of them people around…”
Malaysia. And no, I did not steal that plane.
Nana nods. “Then why ya keep apologizing for it?”
Good point. It seems like I have been apologizing for everything. I didn’t plan to make myself into a martyr, but it appears I have.
“Ya gonna set yaself on fire like that Joan of Ahhc? ‘Cos ya know ya grandfathah likes a good bonfiah!”
Yes, only in my family would a grandmother encourage her granddaughter to set herself ablaze for the entertainment of others.
Mum, I thought I was behaving as you would have wanted me to – but today I know I was wrong. I’ve been flatlining. I’ve been so calm that a friend asked me if I had begun taking a medication I could suggest.
The prescription is called Grief. I don’t recommend it.
The girl you raised – for better or worse – was an opinionated loudmouth, but also – I hope – fun-loving, generous, partially happy and mostly decent. Someone who loves to debate politics, insist that Heaven is real and use the word “fuck” in the same sentence, not agree to disagree, over-spend, over-plan and over-talk.
Although using the word “girl” here may be a stretch – I want to be that girl again. And as much as we argued about so many things, I believe you want me to return to being her as well in 2015.
Mom stays silent here. This means she does in fact agree, but doesn’t want to add her caveats in a public blog. Caveats such as“Don’t have any more out-of-wedlock children, lay off the tattoos, date better men, if the next President is a Republican remember to still respect the Office, don’t accept poor service, never allow someone to be hurt if you can stop it, protest against anything you do not believe in but never block access to the public library, always wear close-toed shoes at work, never shut up, never give in, pray even when you don’t feel like it and if you insist on saying the F word – make it count. And don’t forget me.”
Rules to live by. I will never forget you.
“Also, try to make a run for that White House fence. I’d have done it myself to have seen Jack Kennedy if I knew it was a thing,” Nana adds.
“No, don’t do that! Don’t listen to your grandmother! She’s a loony!”
Not to worry. I may have been an unwitting lobstah poachah, but I’ve never been a fence jumpah.
“And keep watching them Three Stooges, too!” Poppy won’t be left out. “Lemme tell ya, kid. They’re the best trio of friends a guy could ever hope for! Your muthah finally likes ‘em!”
Somehow I knew that. Poppy, please tell Curly I still love him like he was my first boyfriend.
So let’s end 2014. It’s high time. To not begin anew would be the Tenth Deadly Sin.
“Remember,” says my mother, “what Baby Sam said on New Year’s Eve a few years ago?”
Yes, I do. I also remember what happened last New Year’s Eve. From the background of Times Square, up and over the happy crowds cheering and the fireworks and the bands, came the faint strains of the voice of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing his rendition of “
“Baby Sam, please. Remember?”
Yes I do. The ball rose for the last time on Dick Clark’s watch and we gathered around the Indiana TV set in anticipation. At straight up midnight, Baby Sam grabbed his noisemakers, spun around toward my camera and joyously hollered – with the astuteness that sometimes only erupts from the very young, “HAPPY NEW YEAR! THAT TRASHY OLD YEAR IS FINALLY OVER!”
Poppy smiles. “Geez, he’s a kid after my own heart! Don’t ya agree, Shemp?”
“Curly, come sit by me!” Yaya insists.
Mom sighs. “Moe, step over here, I think I can fix your hair.”
Nana shakes her head. “Talk about hair! Larry, where’d ya go after you combed yours? That head looks like a rat’s nest!”
Happy New Year, Gentle Readers. And I do mean – the “forget your troubles, c’mon, get happy” kind of new year!
This trashy old year is finally over.
Love ya, Mum.
Author’s Note: Poppy, this one’s for us!