My Christmas Vacation

My parents are adding a room on to their house. My Mom calls it the great room. My Dad calls it his room. I call it a ball room. Seriously…they could film a period drama with Keira Knightley in this space. It’s HUGE!

Basically, the back end of the house has been cut off. The kitchen is gone and only one bathroom is working. Everything that was in the kitchen, dining room, the laundry room, the pantry, the master bathroom and my parents’ closets is now scattered around the rest of the house collecting dust from the renovation.

And when I say everything…I mean everything. Stuff is literally everywhere.

So you can imagine my surprise when Mom announces that my Dad will be catering Christmas for the family at our house. Huh. Really?

Really.

The Saturday before Christmas turns into a Ray family work day. The goal? Clean out my “Mom’s den” so that people can actually walk and have a place to sit and eat by the fire. Also, create a somewhat cozy atmosphere in the rather large dining hall (because it is that big) in my “Dad’s room.” Secret goal? To encourage my Mom that it’s okay to donate the dish towels she received at her wedding shower and that Jamie and I are no longer sentimentally attached to the Muppets and Holly Hobby lunch boxes from first grade. (Do we dare look inside?)

The whole day was a bit of a blur. Lots of picking up and moving. Casually throwing away old broken candles that Mom is convinced she can melt into something spectacular. Once it was all said and done, we carved out a nice place for the family to enjoy themselves on Christmas Eve.

The next morning, I head downstairs to put some gifts under the tree and hear a strange noise. Sounds like a beep. I look up to the smoke detector to see if the battery is running low. Nope. And then I hear the beep again. I follow the noise and listen hard. Ironically, the beep is now coming from a different direction…behind me way up high.

I look to see the most beautiful red bird…chirping at me.

I’m calm. Why am I calm? Because this is not the first time, or second, or even third that the Ray house has been invaded by a bird. They quite like it in our house. Don’t get me started on the woodpecker “situation” of 2005. I’m still angry.

Anyway…

I walk outside to where my Dad is lighting a long string of leaves (remember how he likes to burn things?) and ask for his help to rescue the bird. Again, this ain’t our first rodeo. He looks at me and says, “I’ve already shoo’d four out this morning. I guess I missed one.”

He walks into “his room” and searches the ceiling. I approach him and say, “It’s in Mom’s room.”

This is a different story people. Mom’s den is the height of our house. It does not have a second floor above it. There is a balcony that overlooks her den. Typically, our bird friends like to hang out up there because of the windows.

Again, Daddy and I are calm. He has his rake in hand and heads up the stairs. It is at this point where the mumbling begins. I heard something about “where crap goes to die” and I couldn’t make out the rest. We literally have to pick our way through the Occupied Japan statues, precious antiques and mounds and mounds of random china plates and cups. The bird is not happy.

The trick is to get the bird in my sister’s room. Smaller space equals easier catch. Daddy is swaying the rake while I man her door…ready to shut at a moment’s notice. Here it comes! And SLAM!

Five seconds later that bird is out again. It made the complete circle through Jamie’s room, into our bathroom and around to my room and back out again. The mumbling of profanity has turned into screaming obscenities. Think Ralph’s father in A Christmas Story. My Dad makes a swipe at the bird, it flies to me again and I shut Jamie’s door again. My Dad yells, “GO SHUT THE DOOR!”

It is at this point that the communication breaks down. For some reason, I think that my Dad wants me to shut the door to the house. I remember thinking as I’m racing down the stairs…the same stairs I’ve raced down for 25 years…”This is so dumb. Like there are really birds just out there waiting to fly inside our house?”

In my haste to shut the door as fast as I could, I slipped on a Wal-Mart sack that lined the staircase. And proceeded to tumble head-first down the last four stairs. I remember landing…hard…on the bottom wooden step. I also remember…why I don’t know…to hurry up and go shut the door. As I’m limping across the den, I think to myself, “You can’t cry. Don’t cry. There’s no crying in baseball and surely no crying when rescuing pretty red birds.” But then the shooting pain deepened and I thought…to hell with that. And I cried like a little girl.

It was only when I heard crashes and rumbling upstairs that I snapped out of my pity party to see my Dad descending the steps with the bird in his hand. He caresses the bird and softly assures that it is fine and nothing is going to happen. I’m sure he had to notice that I was clearly in significant pain as I rocked back and forth clutching my shin, tears streaming down my face.

He told me to shake it off and rub some dirt in it as he pats me on my head to go outside…eager to release his new pet and get back to his leaves

Flashback to sixth grade. I’m running to meet up my friend in front of school and accidentally shut my thumb in the truck door as Daddy starts to drive off. I have to beat on the window for him to stop. He opens the door, looks at my throbbing thumb, looks at my white face and tells me to go see the school nurse.

This is a man who fought in Viet Nam. He’s just sensitive when it comes to his own family. And birds.

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