I thought Uncle Preston’s invoking of Hitler during the holiday dinner would be the zenith of squirmy discomfort for everyone involved, but I was so very wrong.
Thanksgiving landed a week after Ralph and Mom told me I had to get a place of my own. Which meant I had two more weeks to find somewhere to live and a way to make some dough. In that first week I had made two big steps towards my career as a full-time blogger. First, I learned what a blog is. And second—okay, I guess I only made one step. I hadn’t even come up with a name for the blog yet. What I had done was hit up my sister, Christy, about letting me stay at her place temporarily. Same with Kevin. They both turned me down flat. I figured I’d try to enjoy Thanksgiving and resume starting a blog tomorrow.
Holiday get-togethers are always a big affair in my family. I’m the oldest of five kids, with two brothers and two sisters, and some of them are married and have kids. By the time you figured for my aunt and uncle, my grandparents, my cousins and all their kids, and friends of the family from around Colorado Springs, there were over fifty people crowded into my parent’s house, filling the various rooms and spilling into the backyard. At my request, Mom had invited Kevin over as well. But not until she’d made him promise that he would knock before entering any bathrooms, and try not to tear any more doors off their hinges.
All day long the aroma of pies baking and turkey roasting filled the house, causing my stomach to rumble non-stop. I’m lucky to come from a family who can cook like mad motherfuckers. My little brother Dougie and his wife Kim are actually trained chefs. So, by the time we all sat down to eat I was ravenous. Ralph and I had set up a bunch of tables, with six or seven place settings at each. I was sitting with Mom, Ralph, Uncle Preston, Christy, her husband Rodney, and Kevin. Christy was telling us about how her therapy practice was really growing.
“I just hired another full-time therapist,” she said. “She specializes in working with children. I’m really excited because I’ve been trying to find a child specialist to add to our team for awhile.”
“Speaking of children,” Uncle Preston piped in, “Did you guys hear that they’re trying to make abortion through the third trimester a federal law?”
At family events Uncle Preston always manages to turn any conversation to one of his three favorite topics: 1) castrating child molesters, 2) Hitler, or 3) how God is going to destroy the United States because abortion is legal.
“Why do you always bring up the most depressing topics at family parties?” Christy said, putting her face in her hands.
“I’ll tell you what’s depressing,” Preston replied around a mouthful of yams. “Being an unborn baby and your mother decides you’re an inconvenience, so she goes to an abortion clinic and you wind up being sucked into a sink and—”
“Oh my God, Preston!” Christy snapped. “We’re trying to eat! What is wrong with you?”
“I’m just pointing out that we live in a country where it’s legal to murder unborn babies,” Preston said, heaping more mashed potatoes onto his plate. “According to U.S. law, your mother could have aborted you, and you wouldn’t even be here to enjoy this dinner and have this conversation.”
“Yeah, but do we always have to discuss it at family dinners?” Christy said. “I swear, I’d like to go through at least one get-together without being totally depressed. Damn.”
“People turned a blind eye to Hitler killing millions of Jews, just like we’re turning a blind eye to abortion doctors killing millions of babies and—”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said as the table erupted in protest, everyone telling Preston to please shut the hell up and let us eat our meal in peace. Kevin continued cutting his turkey, glancing around in amusement. He finds my family entertaining.
Preston retreated into sullen silence, and focused on cramming food into his gob. For a few minutes the only sound was the clinking of cutlery and quiet conversation from the other tables.
Suddenly, Mom set her silverware down, cleared her throat and announced, “I have something to say. I’ve needed to say it for a long time. I’ve waited and waited, but after Uncle Preston’s comments I simply can’t hold off any longer.”
“Please, Alma,” Ralph said, gripping Mom’s shoulder, “don’t do this here. You said we would talk about this later, in private.”
“Jimmy Merle,” Mom said, “we need to talk!”
“This should be good,” Kevin said.
“Shut up,” I hissed, kicking him under the table. “What’s up, Mom?”
“I’ve decided that I’m not ready to be a mother.”
Everyone stared at her, dumbfounded.
“Mom, you have five grown children,” I said. “What do you mean ‘not ready to be a mother’?”
“When I got pregnant with you I was much, much, much too young to take on that kind of responsibility.”
“So, I’ve decided to terminate.”
Everyone at the table looked around at each other, thunderstruck.
“Mom,” Christy said, “are you saying you want to…abort Jimmy Merle?”
“Yes. I’ve decided it’s high time I exercised my reproductive rights.”
“For Fuck’s sake, Mom,” I said. “I’m fifty-two years old. That’s, like…the hundred-and-fifty-sixth trimester.”
“My body, my choice,” Mom said. “And don’t say the f-word.”
“But, but…that’s a really, really late term abortion,” I said. “I don’t think that’s legal, even in California.”
“My uterus, my rules!” Mom shouted, banging her hand down on the table, causing the glasses to jump. Stunned silence filled the room. Everyone at all the other tables stopped eating and stared at us, frozen. Not a glass clinked, not a fork moved.
“Yeah, Jimmy Merle,” Kevin piped up gleefully, “her uterus, her rules!”
“Thank you, Dear,” Mom said, patting Kevin’s paw. “At least one male at this table isn’t a tyrannical patriarch.”
“The future is female, Alma,” Kevin said, smiling and flipping me the bird below the table so only I could see it.
“Shut up, Kevin,” I said. He was just taking Mom’s side to piss me off. Gorillas can be so fucking annoying. “Mom, you can’t abort me. I’m too far along.”
Mom stood up. “I’m going to need you to come with me, Jimmy Merle.”
“To the doctor. I’m not waiting another day.”
“But…but…it’s a holiday. Their offices are closed. Besides, I don’t want to go to the doctor with you.”
“Stop trying to control my body.”
“Yeah, Jimmy Merle,” Kevin said, grinning, “stop trying to control her body.”
“Shut the fuck UP, Kevin!” I said. “Mom, this is insane. I’m not going to the doctor with you, and you’re not aborting me. Now, can you please sit down so can we all enjoy this nice dinner?”
“Then you leave me no other option.” She turned and opened the coat closet behind her, fumbled around inside, then pulled something out and held it up.
A coat hanger.
“Holy shit!” I said as people around the room began talking loudly and shifting in their seats. Several implored Mom to calm down.
“Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate,” Mom said, edging around the table, wielding the hanger over her head like a sword. “And don’t say the s-word.”
“Daddy! What the hell is wrong with Mom?” I yelled, scrambling to my feet, knocking my chair over backward.”
“She went off her meds a week ago,” Ralph said, shaking his head. “For the past three days she’s been saying she wants an abortion. I’ve tried to talk her out of it, but she just keeps saying ‘stop trying to force your abortion views on my body.’ Sorry, son.”
“Mom! Stop it!” I yelled, moving around the table away from her.
“My uterus is private property!” She cried.
“Yeah, Jimmy Merle!” Kevin called out gleefully as the room erupted in chaos. “Her uterus is private property!”
Mom came towards me, waving the coat hanger like a weed whacker. I scrambled away as fast as I could, but there were so many chairs and tables and people I couldn’t move very fast.
“Mom! You’re pro-life, for God’s sake! You go to Church! What will Pastor Pendleton think?”
“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!”
She lunged at me, swinging the coat hanger. Its hook caught the sleeve of my sweater, and she began pulling me towards her. I grunted, trying to pull away, but she was imbued with the mighty strength of righteous indignation. With a desperate heave, I yanked my arm free, unraveling my sweater. As it let go, I reeled backwards into the dessert table, knocking it over. Rich pumpkin pies, scrumptious apple crumbles, and decadent chocolate tortes spilled across the floor to be trampled underfoot by the now thoroughly panicked guests.
It was a Thanksgiving disaster.
“Mom! Mom!—” It was hard to talk and dodge the coat hanger at the same time, especially with my feet sliding on whipped cream. “You…you’re not yourself! Cut it out!”
“If you cut off my reproductive choice, can I cut off yours?” She said, reaching for the turkey carving knife.
“FUCK!” I shrieked, and bolted for the front door as Ralph and Uncle Preston tackled her. Others quickly piled on.
“Help!” She yelled from beneath the heap of men. “I’m being repressed by the male patriarchy!”
As I sprinted down the street in terror, I could hear police sirens in the distance and Mom’s final cries echoing after me.
“I’m not your incubator to regulaaaaaaaate!”
Kevin grudgingly let me hide out at his apartment for a few days. I convinced him that I couldn’t go back to my parent’s basement until Mom was back in her right mind.
“It’s a safety issue,” I told him. “Besides, you egged her on, ass hat. So it’s mostly your fault that I’m even in this situation.”
“It is not,” Kevin snapped. “If you were my kid, I’d want an abortion, too. And don’t forget, your staying here is—”
“Only temporary,” I said. “You’ve told me enough times. I’ll be out of your hair soon.”
“And you’d better start flushing the toilet, fuckwit.”
“Oh, well pardon me all to hell,” I said sarcastically. “Sorry you had to see something that offended your delicate sensibilities.”
“Oh yeah? How about if I send you back to your Mom’s basement right now, fuck nose?”
“Okay, okay…jeez, I said I was sorry. Damn, chill out. Fuck’s sake.”
He flipped me the bird.
A couple of days later I gave Mom a call to see if the coast was clear. Fortunately, Ralph had gotten her to start taking her meds again, and she seemed to be back to her usual self.
“I’m feeling much better now, dear,” she said over the phone.
“That’s good to hear, Mom.”
“I’m so sorry for that little kerfuffle at Thanksgiving.”
“So, you don’t want to abort me anymore?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Sweetie,” she laughed. “I’m pro-life.”
“That’s a relief,” I said, chuckling along with her. “You had me worried.”