One year when I was seven, my mom said no to her parents’ invitation to Christmas dinner. Later, I found out that her decision was because the last time we’d visited, my grandfather had gotten drunk and angry and thrown a hairbrush at her. She was pretty much like “fuck you” after that. But at the time, as a seven-year-old, all I knew was that Mom was having some sort of stupid argument with her parents. And ruining all my fun.
Instead of spending Christmas day at my grandparents’ beautiful farmhouse, eating a scrumptious home cooked meal, opening presents and singing carols in front of the fireplace, I was going to be stuck with my unhappy mother in our teeny, tippy apartment. No presents under the tree. No turkey or stuffing or pie. No treats in the stocking except for these leftover “festive” cookies that had been given to Mom by one of her friends or something. They were shaped like wreathes and trees and were topped with crusty green frosting and little red candies for ornaments. They tasted like rancid food coloring with a side of cardboard. For little sugar-starved me, that was saying something.
I will, unfortunately, never forget that long, lonely, miserable Christmas day. The only thing that cheered me up was that the radio kept playing the Chipmunks Christmas song.
For some reason that brought a little glow of warmth to my heart. Those chipmunk kids were just so doggone cute. David Seville, their “dad,” indulged them even when Alvin made him angry. I loved when Alvin made him angry because it really just meant that Alvin was being a day-dreamy rascal, kind of like I was. Their child-like pleas for planes and hula hoops were so innocent and pure, and somebody was actually listening to them. At the time, I felt like no one was listening to me.
As a grown-up, I know that Mom was making one of those hard choices a parent has to make: saying no to a toxic situation even if it means depriving her little girl of the family, food, and fun times she had been looking forward to all year. As a kid, though, I was not trying to hear that. What I did get to hear was those chipmunks singing me my own little holiday lullaby.