Pedagogical Project “The Joy of Reading”
Mom goes on strike
No one could have predicted that Mom would go on strike at Christmastime.
It all started innocently enough the first Sunday in Advent. Mom had made a list of all the people she had to send Christmas cards to this year. Dad was in the kitchen cooking. MiniMo, my little brother, was writing a letter—a top secret letter, he said. But it wasn’t too secret—I could hear him reading the words aloud as he wrote “Dear Santa...” I was practicing some Christmas songs on the piano. Grandma was due to arrive any minute, and then we were going to have our little Advent celebration.
“Hey, where is Ben?” asked MiniMo abruptly.
“That lazy lump is still asleep,” said Mom. She didn’t sound pleased at all. Ben is our big brother and is almost seventeen. He’s constantly fighting with our parents. Most of their arguments have to do with his weird hairstyles. He had a Mohawk last summer, dreadlocks in the fall, and, at the moment, he is completely bald.
There he was at the door, pale and thin as a rail. He complained about a headache and asked Mom for an aspirin.
“Poor Ben!” said MiniMo sympathetically. He climbed down from his chair to help Ben to the sofa as if he were seriously ill. “There. Make yourself comfortable!” MiniMo adored Ben, and would do anything to help him feel better. Ben had given MiniMo his nickname, which was short for Mini-Monster, but even that didn’t get MiniMo upset. In fact, if you called him by his real name, Manuel, he’d ignore you.
Mom got a glass of water and an aspirin. “Let me tell you, Ben, if you get me out of bed after midnight one more time because you’ve forgotten your keys, then ...”
“I’ll let you in,” MiniMo whispered to him.
“I was trying to call Dad so I wouldn’t wake you,” Ben defended himself.
“Oh, please,” said Mom. “You know perfectly well that bulldozers couldn’t wake him once he’s in bed asleep!” As if on cue, Dad poked his head through the doorway. “Umm, I still need a few gifts for our employees,” he said to Mom. “Do you think you could pick them up, honey? The Christmas party is at the end of the week.”
He spotted Ben. “Ahhh, His Highness is up!” Dad’s voice got serious. “Better put on a hat before Grandma arrives. I’d rather not have to discuss your baldness with her.”
Ben glanced at Dad with a pained expression. He pulled an old Santa hat from his pocket and pulled it over his head.
Dad mumbled something and retreated back into the kitchen.
In his high voice, MiniMo sang, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” I accompanied him on the piano. Ben chimed in with made-up lyrics: “We’re getting a pet / With lots of black spots / He’s worth ten thousand dollars / and we’ll go where he trots / Santa Claus is bringing a horse!”
The doorbell rang, and Ben shot up off the couch. “That would be Grandma! Come on, MiniMo!” The two raced to the door. I followed on their heels.
“Hi, Grandma!” We took her coat and hat while she held tightly to the Advent wreath, which she brings with her each year. She wanted to carry it into the living room herself, as if she were afraid we would break it.
Dinner went smoothly without any major incidents. I told her about being the angel in our nativity play. “And I’m going to be a sheep,” said MiniMo. His whole face glowed.
“And I will be dear little Jesus,” said Ben sarcastically.
“You can be the ox and the donkey,” I sneered. I didn’t like it when he made fun of our nativity play.
“Children, children, enough fighting!” Grandma tried to calm us down.
After dinner, Dad lit the first candle on the Advent wreath. I played a few Christmas songs.
The others sang along—Mom with her hoarse soprano, MiniMo high pitched and off-key, Ben mute, with his mouth opening and closing like a fish, and Dad with his booming bass. Grandma was so touched she couldn’t get a note out.
Grandma complained about her arthritis and all the things she still had to do before Christmas. She asked Mom if she could run a few errands for her. She needed some gifts, some baked goods, and some new Christmas tree decorations. Oh, and it would be wonderful if Mom would buy a few cards for her sisters, write the cards, and then bring them by so Grandma could sign them herself.
Mom gasped for air. “William could take care of the cards for you!” she said, glaring at Dad.
“But, dear, William already has his hands full with work!” Grandma came to her son’s defense. “Besides, you have nicer handwriting. You also have more time.”
“Your mother seems to think that I have nothing better to do then run errands and write out cards,” snapped Mom after Grandma left. Mom was pretty upset.
“But, darling, she didn’t mean any harm. Sometimes, it is simply too much for her, especially right before Christmas.”
“Okay, time to make myself scarce,” said Ben, taking off his hat. “All this fuss about Christmas is lame.”
Ben was already out the door. He swung back around, “Yup, lame. By the way, is it okay if I go to a party the day after Christmas?”
“Ben, you know that’s the day we go to your uncle Fred’s,” Dad chimed in. “It’s a tradition.”
“Who needs tradition?” Ben shot back. “It’s always the same boring people having the same boring conversations. It’s totally lame.”
He started to leave the room, but Mom stood in his way.
“Just a moment, Ben!” she said. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe there really is no meaning left in those things we call tradition which seem so lame to you. Maybe we should just forget about Christmas this year.”
Ben’s jaw dropped in amazement. “No Christmas tree? No visits to relatives?”
“Hey, cool!” Ben was impressed. “Really cool! Wait until my friends hear about this!”
“No Christmas carp?” asked MiniMo hopefully, since he hated fish.
“Cool!” said MiniMo, impressed. “Really cool! I have to tell my kindergarten class.”
“No tree, no carp?” asked Dad, dismayed. “No traditions at all? We can’t do that to Grandma!”
“Especially since it also seems to be tradition that I have to juggle everything by myself,” said Mom, “and every year there’s more and more added to my to-do-list, and no one ever offers to help. Christmas should be about much more than that!”
Embarrassed, Dad, Ben, and I were quiet— at least until MiniMo suddenly sat up, breaking the silence with the words of the angel, “Behold! I bring you tidings of great joy.”
The third week of Advent had already begun, and Mom was still serious about her Christmas boycott. She didn’t lift a finger with respect to Christmas preparations, “No stress, no hustle and bustle,” she said over and over. “I am enjoying this!”
That’s because the rest of us were busy getting stressed—well at least Dad, Ben, and I.
Dad had to buy his employees’ gifts himself.
He wrote out all of our Christmas cards and Grandma’s, too. He also promised to take care of the tree. It wouldn’t do to be completely without a tree.
It also wouldn’t do to completely forget about the Christmas baking. Even Ben agreed on that point. Skipping too many traditions is lame, he said.
Since Dad once told me that a good manager must delegate, I gave Ben the assignment of sweet-talking our aunts into giving us donations of all types of cookies—cinnamon stars, rum balls, and vanilla crescents. As long as he poured on the charm, I figured we would get a decent amount of goodies.
And because I knew all about how forgetful Dad can be, I called my godfather to ask him for a Christmas tree, just in case. If he couldn’t get us one, I’d ask our school janitor for the tree from the auditorium.
And as for MiniMo—he learned the entire nativity play by heart! Perhaps I could even delegate my part to him. After all, who would care if one of the angels was on the short side?
And so it was, the Christmas when Mom went on strike.