With thanks to our Loblaw's supermarket for adding the new President's Choice Natural Apple Juice (the unfiltered variety which is really cider, and reminds me of my beloved Red Cheek brand, with none of those pesky spices, either, thank goodness; do I admit that I waver between joy that my kids enjoy the flavor and dismay that they are guzzling up the good stuff?), which is lovely heated up on the stovetop, I would like to rechannel my energies and contemplate nothing for just a bit this afternoon. Okay, not nothing. Garrison Keillor's Christmas Exiles, which makes me laugh out loud and forget my cares:
It has been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon. Christmas. The exiles were home. It was pretty quiet, though you could hear the gritting of teeth, and there was a moment of poisoned silence at the Clarence Bunsen home that rang like a fire bell. Before the blessing, as they sat around the table and admired the work in front of them, a still-life Christmas Dinner by Arlene, before they ate the art, their daughter, Donna, in town from San Diego, said, "What a wonderful Christmas!" and her husband, Rick, said, "Well, if Democrats had their way, it'd be the last one." Silence.
Arlene said that if Rick had his way, the turkeys would be having us. Clarence bowed his head. "Dear Lord, the giver of all good things, we thank Thee." He prayed a long prayer, as a cease-fire. Arlene smiled at Rick: "Have some mashed potatoes." "Thank you, Mom." She winced. He is her son-in-law and she doesn't know why. He is not raising her grandchildren right, he comes to Minnesota and talks too much about the advantages of southern California, he wears silly clothes, he makes fun of Norwegians, he makes fun of women including his own wife, and he says "agenda" in place of "plan" -- "Did you have a different agenda?" he says. "Let's get our agenda straight." "I sense a hidden agenda here."
He piled his plate with Christmas agenda and chomped a big bite of it. He said, "Mom, this is the best dinner I ever ate. I really mean that." She smiled her brightest smile, the smile she has used all her life on people she'd like to slap silly. She'd like to give him a piece of her mind, but she can't because he has hostages, her grandchildren. So she kills him with kindness. She stuffs him like a turkey. Fresh caramel rolls for breakfast, a pound of bacon and smoked sausage and scrambled eggs, and two hours later pot roast for lunch and big slabs of banana cream pie. He has gained four pounds since Tuesday. Her goal is twelve. All day he sits dazed by food. "Fudge bars, Rick? I made them just for you. Here, I'll put the plate right beside you, where you can reach them." "Oh Mom..." She's found the crack in his armor, and it's his mouth. His Achilles mouth. Her agenda is stuffing him so he becomes weak and pliable and goes into a calorie coma, and she takes the boy and the girl for walks and tells them about our great presidents, our great Democratic presidents. And did you know they were all Norwegian? Yes, they were, a little bit, on their mother's side, and that little bit was enough to make them great.