What do you get when you mix New Year’s Day, an eleven-year-old boy who happens to be the pickiest eater on the planet, a peanut butter sandwich, and a Grandmother who insists on being called “BB” because she thinks “Grandma” makes her sound old? Answer: a waking nightmare.
My mom, a.k.a. BB, is never happy. Seriously, even when she is getting exactly what she has asked for, she will find something to be unhappy about. Why? I have no idea. Actually, I have a lot of ideas, but as with most families, it’s complicated. Complications aside, I’ve come to understand over my almost forty-two years of life that happiness is a choice. Some days it is easier to choose than others, but indeed and in the long run, it is a choice. So, conversely, unhappiness is also a choice and one that BB makes regularly.
The annual cadence of my relationship with BB is always the same. Our year begins in May, right before school is dismissed for the summer. BB has a fantasy that my children will want to spend a week or two with her on the 10 acres where she lives, in the middle of nowhere, in a house that can only be described as a museum of knickknacks. Said knickknacks are not be touched, examined too closely, or passed by at a rate of speed faster than a turtle’s crawl. The television, which is never, ever turned off is allowed to be switched from The Weather Channel and Fox News only for tiny periods of time. Food is not to be dropped, spilled, or smudged and the same to goes for pee and bathwater. Beds are made for sleeping and must be properly made and never sat upon during daylight hours. Couches and chairs are for sitting and under no circumstance is any part of your body below your knee to touch anything that is upholstered. Wallowing on anything is strictly forbidden, as are naps, burps, farts, and any joke that may be perceived to be at BB’s expense. All in all, a wonderland for children. I can’t imagine why my two never want to go.
After it is established that my children will not be attending Camp BB, we move on to July and August. These are the months where BB and I discuss, ad naseum, what my children will want for Christmas. Never mind I have no idea what toys they might obtain in the five months between July and December or what size clothing they might possibly wear by then. We must shop early so that BB can remind me during September, October, and November what she has so generously purchased and so that I can reassure her that these items are exactly what the children are hoping to receive.
Beginning in September and for most of October, BB and I dance a carefully choreographed little number called Christmas Chicken. In this dance, I try to stay in one place while saying that she is welcome to my home during the holidays while she comes at me from different angles trying to convince me I really want to spend Christmas trapped in the knickknack museum. There is never a resolution to Christmas Chicken and that is apparently the point of the whole exercise.
In November, while it is finally beginning to cool down in Texas, things really begin to heat up on the BB front. She pulls out the big gun: guilt. By Thanksgiving, she has accepted that my family will not be waking up on Christmas morning in the knickknack museum. So begins her campaign for us to visit the busiest weekend of my whole year—yes, the weekend that directly precedes Christmas. Never mind that I have never agreed to travel the weekend before Christmas; we still must go through the exercise of BB reminding me that I never make time for my family and am obviously and without question the most selfish individual that draws breath on the planet. BB has apparently discovered that the weekend before Christmas I travel to Fiji, alone without a care in world, to have my naked, oiled body massaged while I drink martinis next to a white sand beech with crystal blue water lapping at its shores. This would explain the inner glow of peace and tranquility I always exude during the holidays. Right.
Which all brings us to the peanut butter sandwich. This year, my family traveled to BB’s museum on New Year’s Day. My eight-year-old daughter and eleven-year-old son wanted to bring our yellow lab, but I explained to them that BB would not consider him a house dog and he would be much happier left at home where he could wallow and nap all day in my unmade bed. My brother and his wife, four-year-old son, and three-week-old daughter were also in attendance. BB had her entire clan, as requested, in her house all at the same time. She made a ham for lunch and the adults all ate in her enormous dining room on top of her one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old antique dining room table. The baby nursed, and my daughter and nephew ate in the kitchen where they would not make a mess on BB’s dining room rug.
My son, however, did not eat. He doesn’t eat ham, macaroni and cheese, corn, or potato salad. He actually was not hungry due to the large breakfast he ate before we arrived. Which is was fine with me, my son, and his father. It was not fine with BB. For most of the afternoon, BB offered my son food. All of which, with the exception of a sugar cookie, he politely declined. Finally, at about 5 in the afternoon, my son acquiesced to BB’s offer of a peanut butter sandwich. I suspected that he agreed only so that BB would stop asking him about food, but I decided not to intervene. Big mistake. The peanut butter sandwich was presented to my son with three major offenses 1) it was on white bread instead of wheat, 2) said white bread still had the crust attached to it, and 3) peaking out between the bread and peanut butter was jelly—my son doesn’t do fruit and as he explains, jelly is made from fruit. So, let’s just say the sandwich went uneaten, which was again fine with everyone concerned except BB.
Now, we move to January through April. This is the time of the year when we rehash whatever offensive event occurred to poor BB over the holidays. Based on my forty-five minute conversation with her last night, this year we’ll be talking about that damned peanut butter sandwich for a very long time.