Ugg Boots and Love
Eagerly, I opened the Reader, anxious to discover new treasures. At first, The Daily Prompt: Land of Confusion, scared me. I put it out of my mind, but the challenge kept popping up. Finally, I gave in, remembering an important time where I felt out-of-place.
NOTE: I changed names and details, to respect the privacy of those I love.
An entire film genre of can’t miss comedies packs people into theaters. Some happy young couple, perhaps married, perhaps not, goes to meet one side of the family. Why do people go see these movies to laugh? These films work because we empathize with fear and pain as the characters struggle through to happiness.
Eric came from Montana, a long summer day’s drive away, or an uncertain Arctic expedition in winter. We had yet to marry, still in that in-between stage, going together for over half a year. We visited my family Farm several times. My family easily accepted him. Grand Mother wanted me to spend time more time with Eric’s family, even though they lived far away. If he asked the question, I would become part of his family, too.
Finally, I suggested we spend Christmas in Montana. Eric hesitated before agreeing. He seldom spoke about them, and seldom called them. His mom called once. It was my bad luck to answer the phone at an awkward hour. She never called again, that I knew of.
In the turmoil of loading cars, locking houses, and getting on the road, it was easy to forget why we did this. Then, for hour after hour, crossing those endless, frigid, snow dusted plains, I pushed away why we drove on into the darkness of Christmas Eve. But, half way there, my tummy knotted up. I could not deny the reason anymore. I picked at him in the last half, drawing on that long list. Finally, for the last hour, he fought back. At the city limits, he threatened to turn around, and drive home. I hated him.
Ready to scream, I clutched at the door handle, considering springing out. Instead, we drove up an ordinary street, past all those bright lights spilling across every lawn, soaring over every house, each out doing the one before. I despised them. He opened my door. Grasping his hand with a death grip, we skated up the icy drive.
Standing by the nodding reindeer, I watched as the door opened. A broadly smiling couple stepped into the frigid air. More watched through a picture window. They hugged Eric, with one eye on me. I stood there, lost, dreading the moment they turned to me. Eric slid an arm around me, then made introductions. I hugged his mom, enduring that special scrutiny. His dad’s look was kinder, more appreciative. Men are easier to charm.
Shivering, we stepped inside. Eric’s older brother waited with his own family. I shucked my shell. Playing the role of good girl, I smiled, hugged, and shook hands with his brother, wife, teenage boy and younger girl. With just minutes before church, I escaped the full inquisition.
Still, on the drive up, Eric failed to mention church. Religion had little place in our relationship. He just watched football games when I went to occasional Sunday masses, or waited to go to the bars on Saturday evenings. With no time to put on my Christmas dinner dress, I changed sweaters. I hoped they were Catholic.
Thirty minutes later, I tumbled out of his brother’s van, still wearing the same jeans. Their church was Protestant, something exotic and foreign. I had never been in one before. As we skated up the steps, I felt looks from his family, and others.
Entering church was an icy plunge into chaos. People milled around, wishing Merry Christmas, and talked too loudly. I saw no holy water for blessing. No one crossed themselves. I felt empty. Inside, deafening conversation filled that huge, chilly room. The Pews were too close together. There were no kneeling benches.
Eric’s family filled up half of a row. He flanked his mom on one side, his dad on the other. I sat next to an older couple. The strangers wished me Merry Christmas. Afterwards, the talked with others. Everyone knew Eric. I drew curious looks, but little conversation. Mostly left alone, I wondered why I have come, and whether he was worth it..
Finally warmed up, I took off my coat. Everyone stared. I often wear white because people tell me it makes a wonderful contrast with my color. It certainly did that night. I was a beacon of black hair in a sea of yellows, browns, and reds. The older woman told me my hair was beautiful. What she meant was, it was different.
Through the service, I often felt lost. The Christmas story unfolded. They sang Christmas songs and played music. I knew some of them, but mostly just hummed along. Everyone sat. No one knelt. Nor was there any Communion. The preacher spoke about what it all meant. Oddly, he paid little attention to Mary. I so imagined her fear and pain. I wondered if Grand Mother was at Mass.
The worst part came when everyone greeted everyone else. At first, I was left alone. People shook hands with each other, talking and laughing. Then, in the blink of an eye, it seemed like everyone turned and mobbed me. Many knew Eric. I tried to dance around not actually being married. I felt ashamed and desperate. I wanted to run away, but it was too crowded. Besides, where would I have gone? I wanted to cry. So, I sat there, and made him put his arm around me, until the service ended.
Leaving church, I hid behind Eric. His family rallied around, shielding me. Still, they did not know what to say. I sat next to his mom in the van. As we drove back, she put her arm around me, and asked if I had called home yet, to let them know I was safe. She had taken the first step. The most important dance of my life had begun.