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Not Quite Right

April 5, 2009

My family doesn’t quite get religious holidays, but we do tackle them with fervour. We drink ourselves silly on December 24th, gorge on chocolate rabbits each April, and douse our plates in syrup on “Pancake Tuesday”. We don’t intend to be irreverent, it just happens that way. One minute we’re toasting the season with polite flutes of champagne, the next we’re wrestling over jellybeans or whipping our dresses over our heads. Ok, that was just me, and I was two, but I think it was a harbinger of doomed occasions to come.

The other day, my sister telephoned with a dilemma–she had purchased a new mattress from IKEA, and after lugging it across the lot, strapping it to the roof of her compact car, zipping it home along the highway then mashing it up a narrow staircase to the third floor, discovered it smelled. Smelled? Yes, smelled. Like what, I asked, because when it comes to smells, the remedy is always determined by the nature of the stink.

“Like a barn,” she shouted. “It smells like a barn. Like, I feel like I’m going to roll over and discover I’m sleeping next to the baby Jesus!” Apparently, she’d already spritzed the problem with a litre of Febreeze, to no avail. “Now, I own a soggy mattress that smells like some Mexican sweat shop baby Jesus barn in a dry cleaning factory!” I commended her on her mixing of metaphors.

The most staggering part of our conversation wasn’t the sacrilegious tone or the flippant reference to global labour abuses, rather that I knew exactly what she was trying to explain. Mattress, stinky, barn, baby Jesus, manger, bad straw, old-fashioned mattress filling, contemporary chemical treatments, odour-eating sprays, dry cleaning chemicals that reek up your nice wool suit. I get it, totally.

We’re an off-colour bunch, but it’s not always our fault! Sometimes, the screwed-up Christian comedy routine gets dumped at our doorstep like a baby (Jesus) in a basket. For instance, my brother manages a commercial bakery, and one December, his Sikh colleague came to him for advice. The man had decided to try out Christmas, check out the hype, see what all the Catholics and Protestants were going on about.

“So, uhhh,” the man began, rather inauspiciously.

“Yes?” my brother probed.

“Turkey. It cooks for how long?”

“That depends.”

“Depends? It depends on what?”

“Well, the size, oven temperature, a lot of things. When will you be cooking it,” my brother probed.

“Since a little while.”

At which point, my brother sniffed. Sniffed some more. Detected the aroma of poultry mingling with warm bread and yeasty dough. The man had popped a massive Butterball into one of the bread ovens, set it to a balmy 300 degrees, and figured since the bird had been in for an hour or so, it was probably good to go. My brother shuddered as he peered through the glass and the turkey, still a cool, creamy white, slowly rotated, the oven gears squealing from the weight.

“Buddy, I think you’re going to have to drive this home and finish it off in your kitchen,” he cautioned, pretending not to hear the man’s skeptical “well, if you really think it needs longer.”

As Easter approaches, my family prepares to dine on chocolate, roast meats, and fill our mouths with liquor and foul language–all things we ought to have given up when Lent began. Instead, I was dismayed that I forgot about Pancake Tuesday and missed a perfectly good opportunity to eat breakfast for supper, and figured since I was having a tough winter, I was in no shape to start giving up this or that.

A few years ago, I made what I thought was a rather clever joke about the resurrection, the punchline having something to do with Jesus rolling a rock from the cave door. “Cave door? Rock? What are you talking about,” my mother demanded. I elaborated in that way that kills a good line dead. Still, she wasn’t getting it.

“How did he get in the cave? Why would he go there? Who let him out? If he was dead, how was he strong enough to move a stone? That’s just ridiculous,” my mom countered. I had to agree, she had a point.

I wish I could claim we’d made an informed decision to step away from Christ, that we’d compiled an intellectual argument against maintaining the faith our family followed for hundreds of years before we came along. Instead, I must confess it all stems from a dislike of the churchy folks in our home town. Not to mention how much fun we have, gathered together at my parents’ home, tanked on wine, smeared in chocolate, and wrestling to settle disputes over whether Jesus rolled the rock away himself or if the Easter Bunny helped.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carrie permalink
    April 6, 2009 11:44 am

    We’ve mostly given up on holidays at my parents’ house–understandably, I guess–but at my house, made-up holidays are all the rage! My fave may be Fauxgiving, a Thanksgiving dinner that is near that fateful Thursday, but without all the travel hassle. Also, Fgiving contains feats of dexterity and illusion, as I somehow pull a turkey and a ton o sides out of my 27 inch oven. Also, also, my parents are there!

    You should come sometime.

    My moderation word?

    St. HIck’s day anyone? Moonshine for all!

  2. Amanda permalink
    April 6, 2009 12:02 pm

    I like the made-up dates! My brother and I already torment our parents with imaginary games we pretend we’re going to play when we visit–there’s an older post about this somewhere on here. Things like getting trashed on the front lawn in undershirts and cut-off shorts…we could incorporate a holiday in there and make it an annual affair!

  3. aaaaaaron permalink
    April 6, 2009 4:01 pm

    The easter bunny is indeed the most likely helper, what with the experience rolling round-ular stuff and all. But if someone were going to put something UNDER the rock, I’d bet on the tooth fairy.

  4. Amanda permalink
    April 6, 2009 5:36 pm

    Ohhh Aaron, for a split second there, I thought “Darn it to heck, my cousin found this post. Now I’m in trouble!” (he belonging to the church-going part of the family, heh.

    Turns out you share the same name but rather different opinions regarding how Jesus staged his escape.


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