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Monday, December 25, 2006

A Christmas Memory

posted by on December 25 at 14:52 PM

It’s Christmas Eve. It’s 1985 or 1986. I am 5 or 6. It’s late, and Dad isn’t home from work yet. The Christmas tree gets trimmed on Christmas Eve in the Frizzelle household. (Mom has a daycare in the house, and a big heavy tree with a bunch of dangling stuff on it would be hazardarous, so it has to be put off until the final hours.) Well, Mom gets sick of waiting for Dad and decides we’re gonna trim the tree without him. It’s all well and good until we try to place the bent star at the top. If Dad were home this would be a lot easier, since he’s 6’5”. But he’s working. So we’re strugging with the thing—Lift me up!Lean this way…Just another…Almost got it!OH SHIT!

Tree comes crashing down on my little brother. Squashes him. He’s bleeding. Mom’s shrieking. Dad walks in.

A big old Christmas Eve fight. Mom: If you had been here this wouldn’t have happened… Where WERE you?…, etc. Dad: The only reason we live in this house and get to have Christmas at all is because I WORK SO HARD and you spend all my money on CRAP for the kids…, etc. Typical stuff. But they usually don’t fight in front of us. They’re so fucking mad at each other that they don’t care this time.

Dad is standing at the sink, rinsing something, and Mom decides he isn’t listening to her. Now, she is normally the gentlest of creatures—a stray-dog saver, a zoo volunteer, a diaper-changer for a living—but there’s something in her eye, something unusual and crazy. Dad says something sarcastic and Mom reaches toward the knife block. She takes out a knife. It glints in the light. She puts the tip of it against Dad’s neck. We start screaming. Dad says to us, “She’s not going to do it.” Mom says, “I’m going to do it.” Now we’re REALLY screaming. Dad says, “No you’re not.” Then Dad turns and shoves her across the room. She falls onto a red wagon. It’s just sitting there in the middle of the kitchen. Mom crashes into the wagon and both of them crash into the kitchen table. Metal wagon, squealing wheels, wooden chairs flying everywhere, Mom screaming, Dad screaming, us screaming. No memory of what happened after that.

A year later they have another child, my youngest brother, which keeps them together another five years, and then they call it quits. Dad remarries and moves away. Mom never remarries, becomes a born-again Christian, develops a strained relationship with her gay son (me), continues to raise other people’s babies, and remains lonely to this day.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

RSS icon Comments


that's almost as good as that scene in Gremlins where Phoebe Cates' character talks about her dad dying after getting trapped in the chimmney trying to be Santa Clause.

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Posted by dsk | December 25, 2006 3:44 PM

"Gay Son (Me)" is my unauthorized biography of Christopher Frizzelle. Due in bookstores any minute.

Posted by SEAN NELSON, EMERITUS | December 25, 2006 4:10 PM

Shit, Chris. You can come out for Chinese food next Christmas...

Posted by jonathan | December 25, 2006 5:50 PM

Interesting story. I can't wait for Sean Nelson's biography.

Where did you grow up?

Posted by Sean | December 25, 2006 7:43 PM

Gee, and I thought my getting disowned by my parents for being gay at Christmas time was bad. But then Mom was not welding a knife around.

Posted by Andrew | December 25, 2006 8:06 PM

Wonderful story. It might make me feel better if I wasn't so depressed by my own family already.
Hey, when will we, at last, create a movement to declare christmas nonexistant? when? Every year it gets worse and I don't know anyone who doesn't fight with their family these days. Show me anyone older than 12 that's happy on Christmas and I might just believe in it again...

Posted by tinydoc | December 25, 2006 8:36 PM

that is a heartbreaking story. i'm so sorry.

Posted by gforce | December 25, 2006 9:01 PM

Therapy. The perfect Christmas gift. Get some.

Posted by Boomer | December 25, 2006 10:40 PM

Wow - that was great. But the funny thing is that after my Christmas (and childhood of Christmases) I am sort of jealous of you. My family is so passive aggressive that a knife fight would have been a positive step towards expressing our feelings.

Posted by Jude Fawley | December 26, 2006 12:52 AM

God damn, Elliott Smith -- save that crap for your therapist.

Posted by horati0sanzserif | December 27, 2006 9:44 AM

Great story, Chris. Let me tell you about Thanksgiving 1984 sometime.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | December 27, 2006 3:05 PM

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