And then there was the stove: in itself a battle lost, the scent of burnt debris hung over everything.
It definitely wasn't dinner at the White House. Leslie and I had our parents over for Christmas dinner. The best I can say about it is that it is over with a minimum psychological scarring.
Let me explain how this happened. For the last few years Leslie has been suggesting a meeting of the families. We've been with each other for almost ten years and I've successfully derailed that train of thought all that time. This year I ran out of excuses, laid down on the tracks and waited for my legs to be severed.
The maneuvers were scheduled to begin at ten hundred hours. The Striped team, my mom and dad, arrived on time. The White team, Leslie's family, arrived within minutes. Positions were taken up in the living room, Stripes to the West and the larger White team on the East and flanking them on the South.
Leslie's mother began a reconnaissance mission into our territory to gather information. She started with a small but effective camera, taking "candid" shots of both sides. My father, sensing the imminent threat to his cheese and dip supply line, maneuvered Northeast. The two of them circled each other until my dad began to grumble about crazy shutterbugs.
That's when the big gun came out. Leslie's mom laid the smaller camera down, as a decoy, and picked up her automatic 35MM with a six inch barrel. The war was in full force.
"Time to open gifts!" Leslie's voice rose like the red and white flag of the Red Cross. I loved her more at that moment than I thought possible. A truce was called and for a time it held. It was a tense, overly civil peace involving topics such as the beautiful weather and my parents drive up from Long Beach.
I was in the kitchen, doing triage on the dinner. My mother, a force to be reckoned with, stepped over the border and asked if I needed help.
"No, thanks though." I said as I grabbed the wine for the fondue, bandaged my finger, wiped pumpkin puree off my glasses and cut the bread into lumpy pieces. She obeyed my warning shot and retreated. I was bruised but my pride was intact.
There were some tense moments that threatened the heavy tranquillity that lay over us like a flack jacket. The subject of Mormons came up (who knows how these things get started?). In itself, it was a meeting of the minds. Everyone agreed, their a bunch of loons. Then my mother, a stripe, mentioned that there was a statue of Moroni on top of every temple. Leslie's mom said she always thought it was Gabriel. Sides were quickly taken and a line was drawn. Even Leslie, when confronted with this kind of challenge, let her familial loyalties swing her. Would I ever be able to trust her again?
Luckily, Kristen (Leslie's younger sister) stepped in. She had been a Religion and Philosophy major and while virtually unemployable was considered a real sharp shooter. She turned traitor and agreed with my mother. Moroni had brought the message of Mormonism to Joseph Smith. Leslie's mom was humiliated by having a turncoat in her ranks and quickly regrouped for an ambitious raid on my parents.
She said something snide about the Pope. It was a fatal error in judgment, my parents are EX-Catholics. They agree that the Pope looks like an upside-down post hole digger. My mother volleyed back with a shot at Mother Theresa. "Why doesn't she stand up against the church and condone birth control?" A smoking gun, knowing Leslie's mom is a very Christian woman.
"Well, you can't expect her to go against her church. She's dying as it is." Unknowingly, Leslie's mom had fallen into a trap.
My mother had her surrounded and let fly, "That's right. She's about to die. What could they possibly do to her?"
Seeing the impending counter attack I take them both on with the atomic bomb of all jokes, "Yeah, she's dying, so who's 'sari' now?"
It stunned them all. Laughter rolled across the table like shock waves. With one swift calculated risk, I had stupefied them all. Mission accomplished.
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