“It would be a quicker process if you cut the cheese horizontally, not vertically”, I mumbled under my breath while picking up a glass of water and resting it on a coaster out of some pavlovian-fear induced reaction from my mother.
“Well, if you want to make dinner yourself, you’re more than welcome,” my mother quipped. Her hearing refined like an owl, as well as her drinking habit, too; a vicious predator at night.
It was only four months since my father died, but every anniversary that seemed significant, every event where I wish he was there had passed in those four months. Birthdays, graduating from high school and now it was Christmas, just me and my mother. Without that buffer at the dinner table to stop our glaring looks evolving into arguments, it was going to be an emotional day.
On this day of Christmas my true love gave to me, twenty-four hours of tear fueled shouting.
“I don’t want to help,” I whispered, looking everywhere around my mother, like she would turn me into stone if my eyes ever landed on her body.
“It’s okay,” she smiled, “I never expected you to lift a finger around the house anyway,” she calmly expressed, nonchalantly while cutting into the cheese and my pride.
A year ago, the last Christmas before my father had died, was one of the best days that we spent together. He stopped me and my mother from arguing and I was back home from college. We unwrapped presents and put all of the wrapping paper inside a bag as the temperature of the house cooled down so much that we could see our own breath. Mother stayed upstairs and left the dishes in the sink to soak before me and dad would do the washing up. He would wash, I would dry and put away.
He asked me to give him a hand and we cleared the trash out of the living room and the Christmas music wasn’t annoying, because it was the one time of the year it was okay for it to be played. One out of three hundred and sixty five, I liked that. He made me carry the wrapping paper into the basement and he stopped in front of the furnace, picking up a stick and poking the sleeping embers.
“Hand me the wrapping paper,” He whispered, to me and the furnace. I gave him all the wrapping paper I had and he calmly put it in front of the furnace, as if he was laying gold in front of the new born king.
Dad scrunched the paper up into balls and started throwing them onto the fire, getting more enthusiastic with each throw into the furnace, like he was a child trying to win tickets for a teddy bear to give to a girl at ski ball.
“Dad, shouldn’t we be recycling this?” I asked, my throat distorting the pitch due to the awe of seeing my dad so happy.
He turned back and looked at me, put his hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eyes. A phoenix igniting the fire behind him. And he gave me the best phrase I had to remember him by on Christmas before he kissed me and went to bed.
“Son, this fire will keep our family warm and happy through the night, thanks to the burning of that wrapping paper, and if that ain’t recycling I don’t know what is”.