On the fourth day of Christmas, lunch took seven hours.
The plan was really kind of ridiculous from the start: Mom would drive down to Aunt Beth’s house to pick her up, then drive over to NJ so she could sign some retirement paperwork at her investment guy’s office, not far from Sister 2’s house. Then they’d pick up Sister 2 and Youngest Neph and go to lunch. I went along because I was visiting to spend quality holiday time with family.
As you may remember from the Third Day of Christmas, my mother has become a terrible driver. It should take about 30 minutes to get to Aunt Beth’s house from my parents’. But there was a road closure and my mother’s head exploded all over the inside of her CR-V, which took a while to clean up, and so the 30-minute ride turned into 75 minutes and, unbelievably, a dose of Dramamine. (I can drive forever and not get sick, but if someone else is driving, I’m on the clock for 90 minutes. Half that if there’s a lot of stop-and-go. And with my mother lately, there is a lot of braking.)
“Why don’t we go back to Route 1 and take it down to Rhawn?” I suggested lightly. I knew my mother would know where she was going from there.
“Because it’s too far out of the way,” she responded as though being out of the way was the worst thing ever.
Let’s review. We were driving down to my aunt’s house, 30 minutes from my parents’ house, “on the way” to go to lunch with my sister in New Jersey, in order to avoid taking two cars across the bridge. Because that would be silly. Going straight to my sister’s house from my parents’ house takes 45 minutes. Getting there from my aunt’s house takes 45 minutes. So we’re already going 30 minutes out of our way and using probably $3.50 in gas one way for the sake of saving $3 in bridge tolls and maybe $1.50 in gas round-trip.
Secondly, how are you “out of the way” if you are, in fact, getting exactly where you’re trying to go in a manner with which you are quite familiar, as opposed to wandering anxiously around roads you don’t know, occasionally in the wrong direction? But avoiding going “out of the way” was a recurring excuse for bad driving in the last 24 hours. I held my tongue.
About 60 minutes into our 75 minute tension-filledbut for the love of God, not out of our way jaunt to Aunt Beth’s, my sister called. “What is going on? Why aren’t you guys there yet?”
“How did you know we’re not there?” I asked as my mother made a terrible and sudden left onto a side street. “Philmont Avenue was closed. We had to recalculate. I’ve been trying to call her to tell her.”
“Aunt Beth called the house,” my sister replied.
It was official: logic had been collectively abandoned. “Why the hell did she call the house and not Mom’s cell phone? And why isn’t she answering her phone?”
“She’s been outside cleaning out her car.” Such efficiency. Cleaning out your car to make that time spent worrying that your sister-in-law is dead on the side of the road a little more productive. And also make it impossible for your sister-in-law to call you and tell you not to worry that she’s dead on the side of the road. If my head didn’t wind up going through the windshield at some point on this drive, I might start banging it on the dashboard.
Opportunity knocked. My mother suddenly decided to turn left into a parking lot, prompting the long bleat of a horn as another car came up and rocketed past her on that side.
“Okay, I gotta go, Mom’s going to kill us,” I told my sister brightly. “Talk to you later.”
Finally we arrived at Aunt Beth’s, who began insisting that we blow off the paperwork she needed to sign since we had been so late, and instead just go get my sister for lunch. The whole point of my mother and aunt going to New Jersey was to get that paperwork taken care of; lunch with my sister was the bonus. Now we weren’t going to accomplish the paperwork, which meant my aunt would have to drive over another time, very possibly with my mother, and God only knew who would be collected in the carnage along the way.
I tried to tell them that my sister wouldn’t be ready for us to arrive yet, but they didn’t want to listen until I texted her and she told me she was naked and about to get into the shower. That convinced them to go accomplish the whole point of the trip first. Phew.
The paperwork thing took like seven minutes. I got out of the car to stretch, still nursing my back and very aware that I’d been sitting in a car for an hour and 45 minutes now.
Finally: lunch. Afterward, back at Sister 2’s house, Mom requested a duet with my sister on piano and me on vocals: “Memory” from Cats and “O Holy Night.” Don’t ask me why “Memory” has become a Christmas tradition in my family. It’s to do with my father wanting it sung at his funeral, and Christmastime being a traditional time for music-making. We can’t do the song at Dad’s funeral because we’re Catholic and it’s not a sacred piece, and also because it’s our dad and he would be dead and we probably wouldn’t be in the mood to sing and play. But in fairness, the song is from Cats, and that show itself is fairly deadly. And now every time I hear it, I think of my father’s eventual demise. Super-inspiring. Very Holiday.
Finally, we got back to Mom and Dad’s house. We had left for paperwork and lunch at 9:30am. We got back to the house at 4:30pm.
And then I had a martini and wondered how many lives I’d used up on that trip.