Flammable Parents and Other Christmas Hazards
|December 23, 2011||Filled under Miscellaneous Prose|
There are some truths that are indisputable even when you wish they were. In this case, the apple not falling far from the tree is one of those laws of the universe dictated by quantum physics or something as basic as Newton’s Law of Gravity. This is a hypothesis about the strength of genetic traits, including the Embarrassing Fiasco gene which apparently is dominant and is passed down through the female line.
I took my mom to a spa retreat for a few days. It was a Christmas present from The Man and I (he’s going for that special Best Ever Son In Law award). I wanted it to be one of those swanky places where you go with your good luggage and shined shoes and pretend that this is your real life.
We had been picked up by a driver at the train station. They hold these little signs with your name on it. I always try to get them to write something like “Duchess Ammi” or “Your Holiness” because names are not very unique and I don’t want them accidentally driving off with the wrong lady. There could be any number of Ammis in a small German village loitering at the train station. It was snowing and beautiful and we were dressed in black because I think rich people always wear black. It makes their gold stand out more. But I didn’t have any gold, so I went with black and decided I’d refer to myself as “humble but wealthy” for the day.
We waltzed into the establishment with our make-up and our excessive perfume with the poise and elegance of ladies that probably have their own private masseuses but temporarily employ others just to keep things exciting. Obviously we were important (or the only guests) because when we strut up to the reception they knew who we were and were obviously preparing things for us. I had visions of people in housekeeping outfits running around in a mad rush to make sure everything was right for our arrival.
Standing there at the reception and making small talk with the receptionist, my mother decided to have a glance around at the fine lobby and the other guests. She leaned easily upon the counter and looked around. I filled out some paperwork and asked important-sounding questions about the spa because, as everyone knows, you’re only important if you can ask important-sounding question.
Then, from the corner of my eye I saw something out of place. It was one of those moments in which all things happen so fast that they suddenly seem rather slow motion. But the only thing really happening in slow motion was the concern of my mother, who had a rather odd expression on her face as she observed the guests of the lobby and wondered why they, me, and most of the hotel staff was gasping in horror and charging her at full tilt.
My dear mother, bless her soul, was virtually unaware of the foot-high flames shooting up the back of her head and lighting her up like she was the very Angel of Christmas herself, halo and all. But one can be blissfully oblivious to being on fire for only a short period and I am not sure which thing inspired her to take on the much more appropriate look of panic first: The crackling of her hair and the realization that her affection for hairspray was a clear disadvantage at this point, or the wretched stench of hair fusing to the polyester of her scarf. In either case, the calm customer expression was gone and several people were about ready to attack her with their jackets.
Which they/we did while the receptionists looked on in horror and the brush fire was extinguished. This was done with the efficiency of women so hysterical they were willing to risk wardrobe damage to save my mother’s life. Or her hair. Unfortunately, the latter did not fair so well. Neither did the Advent Wreath candles.
What was left of my mother’s long, blonde locks was a sort of mixture of less long, blonde locks and matted, chemically volatile dread locks. And a smoky cloud wafting through the hotel for the next two hours. Which we spent in the bar drinking free champagne. This may have been a bad idea.
Because not but a few minutes after we traumatized most of the hotel staff, we headed from bar to restaurant to get a bite to eat. Unfortunately for my mother, Christmas decorations are rather prominent during the holiday season, and in some bizarre concentration of the visible genetic characteristics of the Embarrassing Fiasco Condition, her humility would be further tested.
The crash heard echoing through the lobby was so loud and explosive that every head turned except my mother’s. Because she had, in an exhibit of secret mother super skills, disappeared behind the door and pressed herself against a wall a la James Bond, well out of the sight of everyone. Which left me standing near the eight billion shards of glass that had once been what appears to be the World’s Biggest Christmas Ball Ever.
Over the teetering of the receptionists I heard my mom say “I am never. going. out. there. again.”
Which probably would have been a good idea because the next day she poured all the coffee into the milk pitcher and then tried to drink it all down before anyone noticed. We decided mishaps happen in three and with that she could finally relax and enjoy our retreat.
Except she was junked up on like a gallon of coffee.