The Ugly Christmas Sweater

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My parents made a last-minute appearance at our place last weekend. And I didn’t hate it. Who have I become? Seriously, this shit is getting weird. It’s like after the 5 out of 6 weekends of seeing them this summer I developed some sort of weird soft spot for them I should probably go to therapy or something. Because this shit ain’t normal.

What’s worse, is that I called my mom today and asked what they were doing this weekend. Seriously Monk-Monk, get it together, it’s been 4 days since you’ve seen them. I might have had a mason jar full of wine, but had been musing about going to see them long before that. There’s something about Potamus asking for ‘buppa and gammy,’ that warms my heart. There’s also something about the comfortable freak flag ugly christmas sweater that is my own’ family’s dysfunction. It’s warm. It’s known. It’s shiny, with tinsel, and little yarn balls sewn on. And it’s not hidden.

For someone with an almost-arrogant ability to intuit things, I have a real blind spot in areas. There have been several instances over the years where I have felt cosmically duped by people. My ex-boyfriend, who I internally labelled as ‘liberal hippie,’ because he grew up in a geodesic dome and went to an earthy home church, turns out to be a gun-totin’ member of the NRA, who is so far Right he makes Georgie W look liberal. Seriously. Having grown up with a Republican Conservative Christian=business suit wearing dad, I sometimes get duped by people who outwardly appear one thing, but are really something underneath. Like wearing their damn ugly Christmas sweater under a button-up work shirt.

So somehow, after 8 years of being with Boof, I have made the transition to an appreciation of my own family, which wears its Ugly Christmas Sweater on the outside, in a very transparent way. It’s causing me to desire driving 2.5 hours to hickville and see my parents for 1-2 nights this weekend. I surprise myself. I hate the town I went to high school in, but for some reason I have this longing for Potamus to have good memories from there. My parents are neurotic, and I’m going to end up seeing them NEXT weekend again, which makes my whole plan even more borderline insane, but it feels so good I can’t help but pull on that wool sweater and head out of town, sans Boof, for a magical Eastern Washington excursion. Maybe we’ll even see a tractor. And I know my mom will talk in her loud voice, saying “Pawl, Pawl, we need ….” (because that’s how she pronounces my dad’s name. It’s fucking ridiculous. But comfy, like that worn in sweater…

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The House that Built Me: A Musical Review

I’ve taken the literal trip down memory lane before, always alone, usually in my car. But after having some lovely jamba juice with an out-of-town friend, up north, I decided to swing through my old neighborhood, break out the stroller and visit my childhood home.

I strolled. I mused. I reminisced. Potamus slept. He also rubbed his eyes and sweated a bit, since Seattle is still reveling in 70 degree days and the long-sleeve shirt I dressed him in was much too warm. I found the quietness of the neighborhood comforting. There was something familiar about the way the sunshine streamed through the tree-branched of the fir I used to climb as a child, though much else had changed. Neighbors we had have moved on, and I’ve kept in touch via Facebook. The swing-set in the backyard is replaced with a garden and fountains and old-lady type decorations. The color is all wrong, blue instead of beige, but the address, the first numbers I memorized are still the same.

The physical act of standing where I once stood as a child was powerful. My body remembered things my mind hadn’t: the lemonade stand on the corner, the bus-stop mornings with rain dripping off the tree branches, the greenbelt we used to sled on the 1 day we’d be off from school for snow, the way the blackberry bushes overgrew the trails with signs that said “private property, no trespassing.” As I strolled past a house I was suddenly struck with the memory of a woman who hosted Christmas caroling parties, who died of a brain aneurysm, and the tedious hours spent babysitting a Power Ranger fanatic 4 year old.

I snapped pictures and realized just how innocuous a mom-with-stroller was in such a suburban cul-de-sac. Nobody batted an eye or flinched when I peeked over the fence into my old backyard, or questioned me when I snapped a few photos of myself with my house in the background. I looked like I belonged.

And I did belong.

I drove Potamus up the road a little ways to “the train park” as we called it, and pushed him on the swings. He smiled and laughed and so did I.

And all the while I kept thinking of Miranda Lambert’s The House that Built Me

I know they say you can’t go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma’am, I know you don’t know me from Adam
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine
Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me