Dear Friends and Family: you should know, Santa Claus is not who you think he is.
As you know by now, every year we send out our annual holiday letter, spelling out all the things that have gone wrong so that you – our dear readers – might find just a wee bit more sunshine in your own lives. For nearly a decade, we’ve dished the dirt, but nothing could have prepared even us for our own BAD SANTA story.
As many of you may know, I am the editor of a community magazine, and for an article, I interviewed a guy who plays Santa. He’s super into it and wanted only to be photographed as ‘ol St. Nick. But when the format changed, and he was asked to pose for a picture as his normal self, Santa flipped out. He ranted and raved, threatened a lawsuit, rambled incoherently, and hung up on me (twice)! Later, Santa sent me a viral worm in the way of an e-greeting card. So clever is this diabolical Santa that he has a ‘Naughty and Nice’ book where parents provide personal information about their child, such as names of pets, teachers, and what sports they play. To a child, these are bits of information that only Santa could know, right? Ah, but to my new friends at the Sex Crime Unit and local FBI office, these are also things that identify a bad man who is overly interested in little kids.
The other kicker to this story is I had to convince a very nice retired couple to let me come into their home and decorate it in the beginning of November (within 48 hours) as a replacement feature for my December issue!
But the fat man of the North Pole can’t rattle the Allreds easily. We laugh at disaster; we chortle at chaos and scoff at surprises. We’ve had pulled hamstrings, broken toes, poison ivy, and dead animal bodies presented to us. Tommy got eight staples in his head then demanded to be called Ironhead Allred. He also recently asked for a flamethrower (Ummm, no). Robb recently got a root canal. Anyone recall the last time he was at the dentist and was certain they were going to steal his wallet? Katie has a serious hair straightening addiction. The rest of us are exposed to the lovely aroma of fried hair as it wafts down the hallway each morning.
Kerri is now driving (we’re working on her learner’s permit), and Katie is already practicing how to look cool in the front seat next to her drivin’ big sis. What they do not know is Robb is already looking on eBay for a camera to be installed in the car, and I’m working on my large “Hello! I’m a new driver. Please do not look at me, get too close to me, or honk at me. I am a giant insurance liability” sign to be affixed to the back window.
Our septic tank had to be replaced, but it was during the rainy season, so we had to wait to “dry out” before it could be replaced, which meant that I had to go to the Laundromat to take care of personal matters. For two months! It got to the point where I would arrive at the Laundromat, and my good friends would say, “Hola, Alex. Cómo estás hoy?” To which I would respond, “Estoy bien. Hey, gracias por preguntar. ¿Y tú?” Fun though this was, I eventually began to wonder, what is wrong with that septic tank guy? Why can’t he just come here and fix my septic tank? So I asked him. He told me that Robb had expressed enough concern that our lawn and trees not be damaged by the line installation that the guy said, “I ain’t going there until the ground is completely dry.” Hijo de una perra!
The irony here is that while I was busily learning Spanish at the Laundromat so that our precious trees wouldn’t be disturbed by the septic tank guys, we had what can only be described as a mini-tornado touch down, and it destroyed many of the aforementioned trees.
As spring arrived, Calvin and Little Dude (cats) continued their slaughter of all living creatures outside. All mutilated creatures are then displayed proudly next to my car. The girls and I work hard to rescue what creatures we can, but there are too many creatures, too little time. One particular day while running errands (including a little visit to the Laundromat), I saw something poking out of my tire. A lizard! On further inspection, I could see a trickle of blood coming from its mouth. Words cannot describe how disgusting it looked with its little stiff arms and head poking out of the wheel well of my front tire.
You know those ridiculous stories you hear on the news when some idiot is pulled over and the police officer asks, “Is there a reason you were driving so fast?” and the person says, “Yes, officer. I was trying to make the dead lizard shoot out from my wheel.” Really, when you think about it, it’s not so ridiculous, and after some very hard, very fast driving, I saw that I made it stick out another couple of inches. Finally, I got a nice man to take out the lizard, and he said, “This lizard is alive!” I felt horrible for days. That poor, poor, brain-damaged lizard! Stupid cats.
Robb signed the feller (Tommy) up for wrestling and Cub Scouts and proceeded never to be home because of work. He became an assistant cub master – a role that a now very uncertain Aunt Mimi (Michelle) has picked up. Boy, you haven’t seen funny until you see Michelle in her scout master’s outfit!
When gas prices were soaring, we bought a little white Corolla to jet around in. The cats like to vomit on it. But not before Katie popped the hood, in search of the latch to open up the trunk. Let me repeat that statement to you: Katie released the latch that holds down the hood … While cruising down the road at a nifty 50 MPH, there was a loud “WHAP!” noise and sudden, blinding whiteness. The hood flung backward, cracking the windshield and rendering us blind. After making it safely to the side of the road, I berated Kerri for popping the hood when I heard Katie’s small voice. “Soooo, what exactly happens when you pull that one lever?” Sometimes I still beat Katie just for the heck of it.
Did you know that if you and, oh, say, your sister get locked inside a stadium (to run bleachers) and the police are called that you could actually be handcuffed because “trespassers will be prosecuted”?
We took two family trips: one to Jamestown with my parents to revisit this great nation’s beginnings. It was fitting then that we had no electronics for the 22-hour drive – no movies, no DVDs, no Gameboys. But we did have plenty of bologna sandwiches. Papa (aka Marc Powe) self-appointed himself keeper of Tommy. I’m not sure why. (During one visit to an art gallery after Tommy was explicitly directed not to touch anything, he hand-carried a $575 painting for me to see. Akkk!) Robb and I have worked hard to keep electronics to a minimum in our house -- no t.v. or computers in bedrooms, little exposure to video games … Then, Robb went out and bought Rock Band. Tommy can hardly focus on anything except playing drums and belting out “Black Hole Sun” while Katie sings “Are You Gonna Be My Girl!” at the top of her lungs. But when Robb was exposed to the song “The Bird is the Word,” a 1960’s beach song, his tourettes kicked in, and there has been NO PEACE in the house. Hey, kids! Have you heard? No, what? Have you heard the word? What word? That the Bird is the word!!
We took another trip to Colorado and stayed in a cabin at an elevation of 29,000 feet. Okay, maybe it was actually only about 12,000 feet, but it felt like 29,000! The mountain was called Mt. Terrible, an old miner’s claim, after almost 30 people died at the turn of the 19th Century. It was all fun and games until both Katie and Tommy got “terrible” and very scary altitude sickness. With no phone, no mode of transportation, and a hailstorm, it made for a rough night. That and we were not allowed the amenities that one becomes so comfortable with … So when you hear the old question, does a bear poop in the woods? know this: yes, and he’s not alone. We went on to have a blast, four-wheeling all over the terrifying but sensational Alpine Pass.
On our way to said Mt. Terrible, we were delayed in leaving home, but Robb refused to stop in any hotel in the state of Texas, saying we had to make it out of the state before stopping or we would be “defeated.” Defeated? By whom? Still, ever determined to save money, Robb found us this hole-in-the-wall motel in Clayton, New Mexico. We were suspect. What can you expect for a two-queen-bed suite for $49.95? Surprisingly, it was pretty neat until morning. Around daybreak, we suddenly understood why it was so cheap. We covered our mouths, gagging and packing things as quickly as possible to get away. Only Robb Allred could lead his family to a motel directly across the street from a stockyard/slaughterhouse.
For Halloween, I made Katie and her friend Katie Bates (who always comes over and breaks things) giant Starbucks cups and friend Macy Dunegan a large Starbucks pumpkin loaf. And what, you ask, is so scary about a Starbuck coffee on Halloween? Answer: What’s scarier than a $4 cup of coffee? But even more frightening than inflated prices is the not-so-subtle whines of young teenagers. I can’t walk. I’m losing circulation in my arms. The giant straw is poking into my thigh. Birds are swooping down and pecking at the real bread crumbs you used to authenticate my pumpkin loafness. Babies!
When Tommy went to the emergency room to get staples in his head, Robb and Michelle (Aunt Mimi) had to take him because I had pneumonia. This was an internal struggle for Robb because 1) the Broncos were currently playing a game and 2) Robb does not like going to medical professionals because one might be inclined to touch him. Robb is searching for a good doctor who can treat him without actually ever touching his person.
My pneumonia lasted so long I was on a constant cycle of oral steroids, steroid injections, super strong antibiotics, and breathing treatments. I had many steroids surging through my body – made worse because I was not allowed to exercise for an entire month! – I’ve never been so jumpy in my life. Also, the word hemorrhoid is funny only when you never have to write it down as “reason for your visit today.” During the time I was sick, my children attempted to “help” me by washing my cell phone, breaking the garbage disposal, and allowing a full container of Hershey syrup to open/ooze down the back of the fridge … all in two days. And my doc said, “Get some rest. Let your family help you out.” Right. That kind of help, I don’t need.
We had a baby rattler (snake) in our garage that I had to bash with the shovel, and Katie’s re-enactment of Paul Revere’s ride for a social studies assignment was an embarrassing display of dispassion by Snow, the horse. (Let us all be thankful that it was not Snow who was asked to charge through the early hours of April 18/April 19, 1775, or we’d be a British Colony right now.) Nala, our 12-year-old Shep/Boxer mix, has begun to lose control of her facilities, and, amazingly, where she decides to walk and poop is always exactly where Robb decides to walk in the dark. It’s really quite remarkable – though Robb does not find this connection nearly as interesting as I do.
Indeed, there are many things to be grateful for. But finding a Santa on every corner is not one of them. The girls and Tommy have become a little concerned, if not embarrassed, by my new hostility toward the bell ringing, velvet covered, bearded men in red who all say things like, “Ho, ho, ho! Happy Holidays.” I’m quick to turn. “You talkin’ to me, Fat Man?” You have to watch that guy.
So let me give you a little piece of advice this holiday season. Love one another, be safe, be the best person you can be, and watch your back. Santa Claus is coming to town!