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There's No Place Like Home...

2002-12-03 - 11:16 a.m.

A few things you might like to know about my Thanksgiving vacation:

1. On the night before Thanksgiving, my family and I sat around the living room looking up "shit" and "fart" in the dictionary.

2. On Thanksgiving morning, Older Sister walked into the bathroom and greeted me with these words: "Nice shirt."

3. Grandma, who has never carried a purse in her life, brought one to Thanksgiving dinner. During the meal, she hung it on the back of her chair, and then asked me six times where it was.

4. Grandpa talked about driving to California with five friends--all in the same Chevy--when he was a young man. It cost them $35 apiece for the three-week trip. "This was before any of us was married," he said. For the only time that day, Grandma had a moment of lucidity. "Was this before me?" she asked. "Yep, it was," Grandpa said.

At night, he and his friends camped instead of staying in hotels. One morning they woke up with sprinklers going off all around them. Another time, in the Garden of the Gods, they tried to sleep in an abandoned house, but soon realized they were being accompanied by skunks. When he said these things, I left the table and ran upstairs to write them in my diary, because they're a few of the only things I'll ever know.

5. Dad showed me a short play he wrote. It's about strangling a telemarketer.

6. On the day after Thanksgiving, at a Farm King-like store, my sister and I waited outside in the car while my mother ran inside to find a Carhartt shirt on sale for Dad. In the car next to us--which was a big, shiny Cadillac parked in a sea of dusty trucks and SUV's--we watched a man un-sheath a pair of tweezers and, squinting into his rearview mirror, very intensely pluck his eyebrows.

7. While at the mall, I ran into a former high school classmate who is now very married and very pregnant. She asked me if I'd be attending the baby shower of another high school class mate on the following morning.

"Um, no," I said. "I wasn't really invited."

First of all, let it stand for the record that the said shower-having former classmate and I have never really been friends, so it's not strange in any way that she did not invite me. In fact, I would have thought it strange if she had invited me, and would've assumed she was just trying to get an extra gift.

Second, let it stand for the record that I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick than attend a baby shower for anyone, let alone for a former prom queen with whom I never exactly bonded.

But when I said I wasn't invited, this is what the former classmate in the mall said: "Well, that is just downright awful."

The former classmate's eyes were huge. I think I saw a spark in there.

"Oh, no, no," I said, feeling like I was over-protesting, which seemed to only stoke the spark in her eyes. "That's fine. That's absolutely fine that I wasn't invited."

"No really, that seriously is just crappy," the former classmate said. "I think I just might have to say something about that to her."

I grabbed the former classmate's coat.

"Oh no, really, you shouldn't," I said. "Really, please don't. It's fine."

8. I broke my toe while helping my mother clear dishes from the table. Again--not playing basketball or cross country skiing--but helping clear dishes from the table. I was voted something at my high school prom. I'll give you three choices, and you try to pick which one: Class Cutie, Class Clown, or Class Klutz.

9. I ran into my former English teacher. Finally, someone who knows me, I thought, knows that I care about more than baby showers, who will talk about more than the success of this year's girls' basketball team.

She said to Older Sister, "You know, you really belong in school."

Older Sister said, "Actually, I already have my master's degree."

The teacher said, "Then get your Ph.D. You belong in school."

I let out a nervous laugh. "Say that to me," I said. I was embarrassed that such a child-like thing slipped out of my mouth, but I meant it. I wanted my former English teacher to tell me I belong in school. This would be my life-changing moment, the thing that shaped me up and turned me around and made all my decisions for me. After all, I'm the one who wants to go back to school, not Older Sister.

The former teacher told me she heard I got a new job, which is nice. Then she said, "I saw your friend at Dairy Queen. I can't believe she's engaged to be married. That's kind of scary, isn't it?"

10. I gave in to Older Sister and Mom's pleas and attended something even worse than a baby shower: a craft fair.

When we walked in, as I limped with my sore toe, I walked straight into another former classmate: the one who'd had the baby shower.

She looked guilty, but for some reason I felt even guiltier.

"Wow," I said. "You're really pregnant."

"Mmm-hmm," she said with a giggle.

"So, do you know the gender yet?" I asked, even though I already knew, because the other classmate had told me in the mall. I always do things like that, asking when I already know.

"Yeah," she said. "It's a boy. We're naming him Dale, after Dale Earnhart, Junior."

that was then - this is now

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