On Christmas Day, Cranky went to a friend’s house for dinner. I have like no family and feel compelled to go somewhere so as not to fall into the inevitable Christmas depression. And, of course, the whole day made me cranky.
My friend called to invite me. I asked what I could bring and if she needed help cooking. “Nah, I’ll make a roast. That’s easy”, she said. She has a kid and an eleven-month old baby. She is married to an advertising colleague of my husband who has children close to her age. He agreed to have kids again as long as he didn’t have to do anything. His grandchildren are the same age as his kids. So they have an eleven month old and a five-year old uncle.
A new rule of thumb – do not –I repeat DO NOT go to dinner at anyone’s house who has a baby. If you must, bring your own food and beverages. Hide them in the trunk of the car if you have to and do a tailgate party while they are chasing child. They will not even know you are gone.
We take my husband’s mother with us. She is also subject to the Christmas funk and feels the need to go somewhere. She once called us on Christmas Day and said, “I don’t understand. It’s Christmas Day. I have three children. Why am I alone?” “BECAUSE YOU’RE JEWISH,” was my husband’s answer.
The day before we go, I go shopping and buy dessert things. I buy stuff to make a great salad.
Christmas morning I wrap gifts for them and make the salad dressing. I put on my new blouse. We drive in horrendous traffic and pick my mother-in-law up on the way.
We get to the house and park and go in. The house a mess. No really, a mess. Stuff strewn all over the floor. The kitchen a disaster area with dirty dishes and pots. And a sink full of dirty utensils and floating food.
I think part of being a performer spills over into entertaining. Everything has to be perfect. Also, my parents trained me to not to let anyone in the house unless it had been vacuumed within 15 minutes of a guest’s arrival. It’s a bit much, I know. On film sets, I find myself tidying up the craft services table. Once, one of my fellow actors was watching me clean up, and he said, (his accent being Southern American Gay) “Honey, before I went through therapy, I would be doing EXACTLY what you’re doing.” So I know part of the problem is me.
There are appetizers on the kitchen island. Also on the island are dusty light bulbs, tools, pieces of paper, empty boxes and assorted debris.
‘I figured we could concentrate on hors d’oeuvres,” the hostess says.
There is not a beverage in sight. My mother in-law says she wants some booze. I find a bottle of wine in a box by the front door. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. I ask if it’s OK if I open it. I go to the cabinet to get a wine glass. They are all dusty. How do dishes get dusty in a cabinet? But then I remember that they had some renovations done in their kitchen – BUT THAT WAS TWO YEARS AGO. I wash a glass and pour some wine. Then I have to find a soda for my husband. I call this the “hunting and gathering” method of entertaining. I find a bottle of soda. The bottle is suspect, as it is already open and there is no telling how long it has been there. The drill with the glasses again. Find and wash.
Everyone is standing around the kitchen island eating the hors d’oeuvres. There are not enough stools for everyone to sit. I make sure my mother-in-law gets a stool. It is obvious everyone is starving. I skipped lunch, figuring we were going to have a big dinner.
It’s getting later and later. Everyone continues eating dips, cheeses and pigs in a blanket and the specialite of the house: cold shrimp with no cocktail sauce. “I was sure I had cocktail sauce somewhere,” says the hostess.
At 5:30 the hostess says, “I dunno, should I even cook the chicken cutlets? Maybe we should just go directly to dessert.” What happened to the roast?
My husband takes matters into his own hands and says “Get Chinese food delivered.” He is Jewish after all and has probably been eating Chinese food on Christmas all his life. The daughter from the first marriage makes a run for the take out. When she comes back it is added to the kitchen island with the other debris.
I ask if maybe we should sit at the dining room table and eat. “Ah”, the hostess says, “I don’t know if we have enough chairs.” So no table. A few of us are on kitchen stools, the rest are standing shoveling Chinese take out into their mouths. If I didn’t have some Norman Rockwell picture in my head about Christmas, standing around a counter eating Chinese food on Christmas day probably wouldn’t be so depressing. The food has no taste, I scrape it into the garbage.
I think only the baby got a square meal. But I’ve been through this before. Friends going through raising a baby is hard to take.
When we are finished with the Chinese, I put the food away, clear a space on the counter and put out dessert. I make some coffee. The filters they have don’t’ fit the coffee maker, so the coffee is full of grounds and I have to pour it through a filter again to make it drinkable.
My mother-in-law asks if there is a bathroom somewhere else, as the one between the kitchen and the dining room doesn’t seem very private. The hostess assures her the bathroom here will be fine, the door locks, etc. Two minutes after my mother-in-law goes into the bathroom, the five-year old opens the door and looks at her.
When I get home, I am completely ill and am up ’till 4am with a stomach ache from grazing and not eating a regular meal.
So I tried my best, but willy-nilly I am left depressed by Christmas. Holidays are so depressing, I’d much rather be doing a show.