One is fun

by jexmas on December 12, 2010

Since it is the season, I am thinking about Christmas, not just the holiday but my last name. Over the term of my life, Christmas has come to mean to so much and so little to me. So this piece of writing is about Christmas in one way or another.
In spite of my mother’s reluctance to be connected to other people, I know she did not want me to leave her, particularly when I had decided to move to the United States. At that time, it was the late 80s, her breast cancer was in remission and she was in a reasonable place emotionally. At the same time, she was fragile and, when she and my father give me a Christmas present in the months before I left Australia, it conveys a message loud and clear.
I am with my parents on Christmas Day. My sister and her family have already left and I did not see them. My parents are subdued. I see them standing together and take them in as if they are in a similar and singular frame of mind, as if they have a united front. They are never together on anything, but now they are together when my mother leans forward and hands me my gift.
Two packages are roughly wrapped and tied together with a single red ribbon. I can see one of them is a book, so I open it first, as much because I love to read and in the past have appreciated my mother’s suggestions for reading, and because I am aware of feeling pleased my mother took the time to find something she thought I would like. It is a cookbook and a fine gift because I do love to cook. But I am taken aback by the book’s rather overly optimistic title: “One is Fun” by Delia Smith.
“Oh, thanks. This will be useful,” I say hopefully. My parents smile and look pleased in a
I open the second gift, a small, rectangular, flat and floppy parcel that droops over my knee as I peel off the tape holding it together. At first, I do not believe what I am looking at. It is one pillow case. I did not know it is even possible to buy one pillow case.
I look with awe at these two new, freshly unwrapped gifts which seem to be saying the same thing. The way I read book’s title, it actually says, “See what happens when you leave home? You’ll end up in your cramped kitchen cooking sad soup in a lonely bowl.” So it and one pillow case at first send me a message about how to make the most of a depressing and lonely life. Then suddenly and more generously, I can imagine there is something strangely optimistic about their idea of encouraging me to learn to cope by myself.
I thank them both and hug them and cannot ask them what they had in mind when they chose these gifts because they would say something superficial, although it would also be heartfelt. So even if it had been about encouragement, they could not tell me and I could not hear it.
So I set off at the beginning of a new phase in my life with one pillow case and a cookbook called One is Fun. And perhaps it was even the next day that I bought for myself Martha Stewart’s Menus for Entertaining and a second pillow case. I called my boyfriend at the time, threw a party and made Christmas feel so much more alive.

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