Christmas 2019 (part 1)

My first activity Christmas morning was calling home and opening the presents Dad, Mom and Meemaw sent me. It’s not the same as coming downstairs and seeing the presents under the tree, but doing it on the phone is as close as we could come this year. I gotta admit: I do miss home on holidays. Dad and Mom sent me a big box, and I couldn’t imagine what was in it. It got here last week, and I was so dang tempted to peek inside, but we Blocks are pretty strict when it comes to not opening presents until Christmas. When I finally got to open it, I found this amazing blue 3 piece suit. The fabric was soft as butter, and, well, my parents know me well enough to know what shade of blue goes best with my eyes. There was even a $25 Visa gift card included to cover alterations.

The package from Meemaw included a shirt (blue stripe), a cool skinny tie (the kind of thing I didn’t think Meemaw knew about), a belt, a handkerchief for the pocket, 2 pairs of dark blue socks and another gift card, this time for shoes, since Meemaw reckoned that it would be a big production returning them if she sent me shoes in the mail and they didn’t fit.

Although me and Melanie Kate don’t usually exchange gifts (we both would rather save our gift money for her two boys), there was a small box from her as well. I opened it up and found a pair of cufflinks shaped like green boxing gloves. They weren’t gold or anything, but they were definitely cool…and just the right thing to keep the suit from looking too conservative or old.

I couldn’t wait to try it on, so I got into the jacket on while we were still on the phone. It almost fit straight out of the box. There was just the problem of my shoulders. The jacket fit perfectly there, but, as always happens with me, that meant that it was too big around my middle. Mom said she’d discussed that with the tailor in the store when they bought it, and he assured her that a tailor out here could “taper” the coat and we’d get a great athletic fit jacket as a result.

Ok, I’m not stupid. I got the point of why they got me the suit – so I could wear it to interviews and get a more serious job – but they didn’t need to get me such a nice one or try to get me one that would look extra good on me. A lot of thought went into the suit…and it’s thought that makes presents special.

I’m not sure my presents were as thoughtful as Mom, Dad and Meemaw’s, but I tried real hard trying to get them just the right thing. Mom’s gotten into Swarovski lately, so I sent her a ring that I thought would look real nice on her and that she could wear everyday, which isn’t true of most of the stuff in the Swarovski store across from where Keaton used to live on South Lake.

Dad is always hard to shop for, and he sometimes says I don’t need to get him anything…but he’s the best Dad in the world and I want him to know that. So that’s exactly what I did: I went to a place they have here where you can decorate your own plates and stuff and got him two mugs (one for coffee and one for pencils on his desk at work) and I painted “Best Dad in the World” on them as part of the decoration. (I brought Joyce along and I’ll admit she helped me with some of the painting.) Dad didn’t let on entirely how much he liked them when we opened our presents on the phone, but that’s Dad: I could tell he was real pleased.

As for Meemaw, there’s this store across from where I work that sells lotions and soaps and skincare (and the best shaving cream in the world; Joyce introduced me to it), and I put together a gift basket. I chose each item separately, and was in there a long time, but the dude taking care of me was real patient and kept blowing off other customers so he could give me advice about their products. Yeah, I could tell he had one of those gayass instant crushes on me, but, hey, those come in handy sometimes lol. (In case y’all think I’m exaggerating about the dude’s instant gayass crush, he came into the Gap the next day and blew off both Svetlana and Sasha until he found me so I could wait on him lol. Before y’all think I’m an asshole, I absolutely didn’t blow him off when he came in; I gave him as much time as I could until my manager came and sent me off to do something else. And I did it without having a gayass instant crush on him lol.)

So I was in a real good mood when I dressed for church. Y’all know that Pasadena Methodists aren’t exactly the same as Tennessee Methodists, but I’m used to the difference by now. The services are less exciting, but the music at the church here is awesome, and the new music director is starting to work in a little gospel. I’m not the only southerner in the congregation, and it’s nice to have music that makes us feel at home. The sermon was pretty incredible. It was about how Mary and Joseph were basically homeless when they got to the inn, so, when he was born, Jesus was homeless too. Reverend Grant (she’s our pastor) said that that goes to show you just how holy the homeless can be…and that we need to respect them and the huge struggles they face. She told us we shouldn’t be scared of them when they come up to us on the street, and that, even if it isn’t easy, we have to make an effort to look them in the eye say hello to them and how’s it going. She said we have to do more than that: when someone asks us for money, we shouldn’t just give them a dollar and think we’ve done our good deed for the day. We should ask them how much they need so they can get a decent meal and give them that. The woman next to me was crying by the end of the sermon, and I was a little teary too. Reverend Grant was right about the money thing: giving someone 5 or 6 bucks so they can have dinner isn’t as easy as handing off a dollar, and I don’t make so much money that 5 bucks doesn’t mean anything to me…but the sermon made me realize that those 5 or 6 bucks for a good sandwich at Subway or something mean a lot more to a homeless person who might not have enough to eat than they do to me. And then, to show she meant what she said, Rev. Grant told us that half the collection was going to go to a homeless agency here in Pasadena called Union Station. I can’t think of too many churches that would give up half of the biggest collection of the year like that. So, even if it’s not the kind of Methodist church I grew up with, it’s a pretty special place.

Joyce was making dinner at 5 this year, so there was plenty of time to go home after church and fix breakfast. (I really found myself missing the chocolate gravy Mom makes on Christmas morning as a special treat.) There were no sports to watch on TV except lameass basketball, so I went back to bed after I’d eaten. I was still tired from Christmas Eve, so I didn’t mind getting a little more sleep.

I got a little more sleep than I planned. What woke me up was Keaton banging on the door.

“The fuck, man? We’re gonna be late,” was what he said in place of Merry Christmas. It got me to look at the clock in the kitchen. It was 3:30. I didn’t set an alarm when I went back to bed, but I reckoned I’d be up in plenty of time. I was wrong lol.

I know Keaton was trying to be all badass with me, but he was having trouble doing it because he was wearing a totally uglyass sweater. Joyce said that she wanted us to come in Christmas sweaters this year, and me and Keaton decided we’d buy the other’s sweater, to make sure they’d look totally gayass. If Keaton bought his own ugly sweater it wouldn’t be nearly ugly enough to be funny. I took care of that: his sweater was green with this bigass smiling reindeer on the front, the nose and antlers appliqueed in fur so that they stuck out some from the surface of the sweater and you could pet them…although Keaton would probably break the arm of anyone who tried lol.

“I’m going back to get my presents. You’d better have your pretty boy ass dressed and ready to go by the time I get back, bubba.”

Since I knew what I was wearing it didn’t take me too long to get ready, especially as my hair was behaving. It doesn’t always when I first wake up. Besides the sweater, all I needed was a nice pair of jeans and cowboy boots. They’re what Keaton had on (duh), and they’re a lot nicer than sneakers.

(For the record, I have two pair of cowboy boots, one pretty beaten up and one I keep for nice occasions. I wouldn’t wear them to church, but, otherwise, if you want to look nice, you can get away with shiny cowboy boots if you’re from anywhere in the South…and not just Nashville.)

Not that anyone was gonna notice what I had on besides my sweater. Keaton fixed me real good with that. He got me a super bright red sweater with a huge Santa (flocked beard and all) on the front and back (so I had Santa’s butt on my back) and a big red nose that actually lit up if you pushed it. There was also plenty of holly leaves and sparkly red berries. The thing was ugly even by ugly sweater standards.

On the other hand, I made an interesting discovery: bright red goes dang good with my eyes. First thing I’m doing with my discount after Christmas is getting a tshirt in that color.

We weren’t too late picking up Mrs. LaSalle from her condo across from where Keaton used to live (Keaton: “fuck I’m glad I’m outta that shithole,”), and we got to Joyce’s before 4:15. She was ok with it…but Jim started the day off wrong by saying something about how it must take longer for pretty boys to dress.

You know that look Clint Eastwood has – the one that you think can kill someone without him needing to take out his gun? The one Keaton does so well? I tried it on Jim. It didn’t work.

We put all our presents under the tree, and Joyce invited us into the living room and brought out a punch bowl of egg nog she’d made. We decided to make it non-alcoholic, since Joyce doesn’t drink, I shouldn’t drink hard liquor, Keaton thinks egg nog is gayass, and, Joyce clearly didn’t give a shit what Jim thought, even before he arrived and started acting like a fucktard. Only Mrs. LaSalle might of missed the booze…and she’d probably rather of had a ‘highball’ anyway lol.

Of course Jim made a comment about the egg nog and pretty much accused Joyce of being cheap by not having bought brandy or rum or whatever it is you’re supposed to put in it. I didn’t say anything…but I seriously don’t like it when someone puts down someone I care about.

There was mistletoe too, and me and Joyce made sure she got her money’s worth. Mrs. LaSalle made sure to get caught under it with me too lol. And with Keaton, which was even funnier.

“I don’t usually get to be someplace with two men this handsome,” she said. “I’m not going to waste the opportunity.” I’m not sure whether she’d already started disliking Jim, but she didn’t make any effort to get him under the mistletoe lol.

Jim did get caught under it once, though. With Keaton. I came this close to snorting egg nog out my nose when that happened. I wish I could describe the look on Keaton’s face for y’all. You’ll just have to try imagining it lol.

Joyce was a little nervous about dinner, so we ate first and opened our presents before we had our pie and coffee. She did a great job: the turkey was juicy, and last year got me used to Yankee trimmings and no snap bean casserole or hoppin’ john. (The one thing she did do for the two southerners at table was make biscuits.) It was all great, and I think everyone ate more than they should have. And you should have seen Mrs. LaSalle pack it in lol. Afterwards we wondered if she got enough to eat living alone; it made me remember that I promised to introduce her to Wingstop this summer, when me and Keaton and her were at a ballgame together. (That was a great night. I should have written about it, but I had a lot going on this summer. And I reckon me and Keaton still owe her dinner at Wingstop.)

Then we got to the presents.

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