I don’t talk much about my childhood home because no one can relate to it. I can absolutely guarantee that no one was raised the way I was raised. No one.
Take my sense of humor times three and there’s my mother. She’d walk into a room full of people and have everyone laughing themselves silly by the time she left. I used to wish I could be as awesome as her.
Take a highly intelligent man who has kept the innocence and joie de vivre of a child and that’s my dad. Sometimes you get esoteric lectures on history or science and sometimes you get the kid in the candy store. Remember the story of how he ran through the bank and tried to vault over the velvet ropes? His foot caught and he ended up sliding across the floor, his face squeaking on the marble. He was 40 years old. Yup. That’s my dad.
One time, when my parents were newlyweds and not yet parents, they were looking over the toys in the toy department in a store. If a store has a toy department, they will be looking it over. As far as I know, they still do this.
There they were, looking at the bags of marbles in the toy department and one of them said to the other, “When I was a kid, I always wished I could buy all the marbles in the store.” They paused, staring at the marbles, then scooped all the bags into their cart and bought every single one of them. And it’s not like they did those sorts of things in their twenties and then grew up and stopped. They still do the same thing now. My mother is 62. A few months ago she bought a single rubber duckie to put on the back of the toilet. But it was lonely. So, she bought another rubber duckie. And another.
And now, the entire bathroom is covered in duckies.
Another example: they like cats. For the past 15 years they haven’t had less than twelve (indoor) pet cats. And really, twelve is the least amount. And yes, their entire lives revolve around tending to their “babies.”
Growing up with them, I was such a weird kid. I honestly couldn’t sort out what was “normal” and what was “weird.” There I was, living the way I’d been taught, puttering along saying and doing things as I saw fit, and people around me would point out, “You’re kinda…weird.”
I’d go home and lament to my mother, “I can’t even fake my way through! I just don’t know what ‘normal’ looks like! I honestly don’t know when I’m being weird!” And I honestly didn’t. It was always a shock to me when someone said, “You’re weird.” Yeah. School was a lot of fun for me. (Blech.)
And holidays. Oh, holidays! Green dinners for St. Patrick’s Day. Even if the food wasn’t supposed to be green, it was green—that’s what food coloring is for after all.
My parents still dye four dozen eggs every Easter. My mother calls me and says, “We’re so sick of egg salad sandwiches, but we can’t waste perfectly good eggs!” Then, she’ll laugh and laugh at her own absurdity.
I have a picture of my dad a few years ago dressed up for Halloween. I’m pretty sure there was no party to go to. He was just looking for a reason to wear his Superman costume.
And Christmas. Ah, Christmas! The pinnacle of the year! The mother of all holidays!
You would think that the year that they worked at Walmart and all the Christmas stuff came out in September would have killed their joy of Christmas, but it did the opposite. That year, my mother started decorating for Christmas in October.
My parents love to collect furniture, so every wall is completely lined with furniture, each piece so close to the next piece that they’re touching. And every surface is jammed with tchotchkes. Come Christmas time, all 20 cookies jars, the 15 music boxes, the hundred glass owls, the dozens of tea pots, the 40-odd tins, the uncountable number of novelty glasses from Roy Rogers and the innumerable random odds and ends are packed up to make way for Christmas Decorating. Oh, Christmas Decorating!
It’s not like some sort of beautiful display in a store window, either. It’s just a big, fat mix of all the stuff they like. My parents don’t care if it matches. They just care if they like it. And it fills the house. Every surface is covered with Christmas Tins, Christmas nativities, Christmas snowmen, Christmas Santa Clauses and don’t forget the Hallmark Star Trek Vessel ornaments. My dad has all however-many-there-are of them, The Enterprise, Romulan Warbirds, Voyager, etc, all flying across the ceiling.
Speaking of ceilings, 19 years into this, in walks Darling Husband.
Darling Husband came from a very, very normal family. Don’t get me wrong, his Dad has a great sense of humor, and so does Darling Husband. You guys read my blog and think I’m the one with the sense of humor, but you’ve got it all wrong. Darling Husband can walk into any situation and make people laugh. And not polite laughter either. Darling Husband is a master of the unexpected comment. He makes comments that are so funny and so unexpected, that you can’t help but let out a burst of laughter.
He even had people laughing at a funeral once. Well, he’s done that more than once. But this time, they were all mid-sob and bawling, when he said something so hilarious and so perfectly timed that they all burst into laughter. And then they thanked him! “It felt so good to finally stop crying for a moment. Thank you.”
In my more morbid moments I think to myself, “Yes, but who will make me laugh at Darling Husband’s funeral?” And then I have a good self-pitying cry, because there won’t be anyone to make me laugh at his funeral.
So, he’s no lightweight when it comes to humor, but there’s a marked difference between “humor” and “weird.”
When Darling Husband entered the scene, we’d been dating for only three months when Christmas rolled around. Since my parents can’t have a Christmas tree (see twelve cats, above), he got the idea that it would be funny to buy garland, cut it into two foot strips, tape each strip to the ceiling and hang an ornament at the end of each strip.
So, while my parents were out, that’s what we did. Darling Husband still talks with great glee about the time we covered their ceiling with the garland. The thing he doesn’t know (and don’t tell him) is that he’s the only one who thinks that was weird. When you already have 500 coffee mugs hanging on your dining room wall, as my parents did(yes, literally 500–my mother counted them), the garland from the ceiling isn’t that big of a deal. Don’t get me wrong, my parents loved it. But Darling Husband was the only one who recognized the “weird” factor in it. To us Bensons, it was just another Good Christmas Idea to be filed away and used again in future years.
And here’s the bad thing. Darling Husband has never been particularly fond of Christmas. It’s just not a big deal to him and he detests the pressure of buying Christmas presents. Detests it! The pressure of coming up with gift ideas puts him off of Christmas.
You can imagine the difficulties in the first few years we were married, come Christmas time.
I thought that everyone handled Christmas the same way my family did, complete with the roast beast. Yes, beast. Not a typo. Just like in The Grinch, my parents would make a roast beast. It was a piece of roast beef, with olives for eyes and a piece of licorice for a mouth: roast beast. My dad would make an elaborate show of chopping off the roast beast’s head and snicker. My dad likes to snicker.
Throughout my adulthood, I’ve been shocked to learn that some people barely celebrate Christmas at all. A modest tree. A wreath on the door. Maybe a few snowmen on the mantle or bookcase. Three or four nice gifts. Done.
You can understand the tension at Christmas those first few years. Oh, the tears I shed over having married a Grinch. Oh, the confusion for my poor Darling Husband who had no clue how to make me happy. How could he possibly know? He would have needed 19 years drenched in Benson Christmases to have any inkling in how to meet to my impossible expectations.
I spent 19 Christmases with my parents. This year marks the 20th Christmas with Darling Husband.
And now that the balance is finally tipping to more Christmases with Darling Husband than with my parents, I think that finally (finally) we have come to an understanding. I’m nowhere near as crazy as my parents with their October decorating and roast beast and general giddiness. I’ve learned to tone it down.
And Darling Husband has learned to indulge me in my random Christmas whims. Singing Christmas Carols for hours in the car? Ok. Making 6 dozen cutout Christmas cookies in a single evening? Fine. Tearing the house apart to decorate? No problem. He greets all these things with a pleasant smile on his face (which wasn’t always the case.)
Part of what’s smoothed things out for us are our children. They’ve taken some of the pressure off of Darling Husband. I have two children in the house who are more than willing to be whipped into a Christmas Frenzy. I’ll take them by the hands and dance about the living room with them chanting, “Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Candy, candy, candy! Presents, presents, presents!” until we’re all so excited we Just Can’t Wait!
And….ack! This is not what I was going to write about tonight…and this is entirely too long. I’m stopping right here.
Picture of the Day
Cici’s Pizza. I was going to write about shopping for Christmas presents and eating at Cici’s, but as you can see, things took another turn. Maybe tomorrow…