was Christmas and we’re family. Mom came back. Apologies were offered. Embraces exchanged. The kids were still shell-shocked, but all the adults laughed and recounted the highlights as if the story happened years ago. “You’ve heard of bible thumpers,” my dad deadpanned, “she’s a bible thrower.” I don’t pretend that my Christmas crazies are crazier than yours. As Tolstoy nearly said, all normal families are alike, but each nutcake family is nutty in its own way. Family pride, however, dictates stipulating that my mother and uncle came by their Christmas craziness honestly, or at least genetically. Growing up in Pittsburgh, their father was a large-hearted, short-fused fireplug of a Sicilian who they called “Magoo,” after Mr. Magoo, the oblivious cartoon character who always narrowly averts disaster. Similarly, my grandfather was blind in one eye due to an injury on his construction job, but that didn’t stop him from driving lustily and erratically as other motorists feared for their lives. Christmas in the Magoo household similarly resembled a multi-car collision. My grandfather had little patience for the niceties of buying a Christmas tree. One year, after buying an anemic little Charlie Brown number, he couldn’t fit the tree in its holder due to obstructive lower limbs. In a Paul
habitually teasing us children about our big ears or lack of kickball prowess until we either cried or swung on him. As he did his Richard Dawkins routine on my mom, a fervent, no-quarter believer, he took to asking amateur-hour questions like, “If there is a God, how can there be natural disasters, or child starvation, or a Jimmy Carter presidency?” Mom gamely endured his Doubting Thomas shtick for a while. But when he started questioning the infallibility of God’s Word, he might as well have punched her in the chops. That’s when she wound up from the stretch. Mom is only five-foot-one with small hands, but somehow she wrapped one of them around her unwieldy King James and threw a perfect split-finger fastball. No one thought to put the radar gun on it, but she brought the high heat. The Bible was hurled about two feet higher than where Uncle Carl was sitting, but then dropped right where his head was... or should have been. Uncle Carl was a star three-sport athlete in high school, and even with all the Christmas carb-loading, he still had the reflexes of a lynx. The Bible hit the wall and crashed to the floor. The door slamming behind her, Mom stormed outside for a righteous walk-off. My worldly, older cousin Debbie, (savvier than I am about matters such as religious warfare) whispered, “We’re going to have to go. Your mother threw a Bible at my dad’s head.” But they didn’t go. And we all stayed together for the rest of the day because it
As Tolstoy nearly said, all normal families are alike, but each nutcake family is nutty in its own way.
74 | December 2017
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