It's lovely, the tongues of light on the windowsill from our tree--the electric candles flickering away, and on the table a forgotten glass of white wine, from which, yesterday, someone sipped. I take a nap, and when I wake up, two of my son's friends, ages eleven and thirteen, have shown up hungry. They're on a court-mandated weekend visit with their dad, who lives up the hill and who forgot to buy food or didn't bother, and is on his second or third volubly cantankerous relationship with a mail-order bride from a desperately poor country somewhere in Asia. His first wife, the boys' mother, is in another city with her very wealthy new spouse ("my husband is well-situated," she said timidly, translating from German into English. In German, that sounds normal but in translation it sounds like a line from a mid-Victorian penny dreadful). I wonder often how she ever ended up with the boys' father, that ex-football professional whose charming smile is a dead giveaway. But maybe it wasn't so obvious to a naïve and very Catholic sixteen-year-old who got knocked up. This is how I imagine things. But I can't ask and she'd never tell.
We gave the boys pumpkin soup, Bratwurst, and rice and they seemed very cheerful and stuck around to play computer games. Their new stepfather, whom they hate, provides a lavishly luxurious separate apartment for them and their mother, and spirits her away to romantic getaways while the boys are visiting their father. When I asked my husband whether we should tell the mother that the dad hadn't been feeding them he thought no. She may know, but she'd resent it if we did, and the boys don't look underfed. Back when the mother and the estranged dad were still living in the same building, the dad used to drop them off here and forget to pick them up Then I wouldn't be able to reach either parent.
We've got it good. Our Christmas proved remarkably peaceful. Long ago in a galaxy far away I belonged to an internet forum that provided humor to anyone who knew they had to invite a certain relative for Christmas or pay big. You'd pay big anyway, but you'd pay bigger or sooner
if you didn't invite her. I've been over the river and through many dark woods
seeking a substitute forum, but nothing else is quite to my taste.
Hallowe'en card in which said party joked about haunting us put me on edge:
she's in her nineties (but will probably outlive me, especially if I spend too much time with her) and I'd like for
the kids to inherit something. So we invited her. Never mind that
during the last visit she started squeezing my then five-year-old
daughter's thigh in some trancelike return to her own abuse as a child.
Never mind that my eldest, in a rare moment away from her during that exhausting visit said, "Mom,
you grew up with that? You know, I kind of admire you." Never
mind that the minute I invited her I came down with bronchitis. I've
been planning dinner parties for when she's here--her visits are always easier when I pad the room with plenty of other people.
there's been a stay of execution: she can't come, because of an
ailment I decline to disclose. Isn't that awful? Isn't it the worst
thing in the world? Where's the champagne?
P.S. Happy New Year, Danu Morrigan