By Chelsea Logano
Look at all the Christmas stuff!! Wow, Christmas. We love Christmas, don’t we? We need to get juice, your favorite! I have grown accustomed to this sing song voice ever since Ben Jr. was born. I have unfortunately exchanged nights at the bar with the guys for Saturday nights at Target getting juice, and on top of the horrible Target experiences, it leads me to spend more time with my wife. I would not say I rushed into marriage and the whole deal, but rather got bombarded into it. As if it was something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. I would not say I had it all, but I basically had it all before Emma and Ben Jr. came along. Graduated from Brown and landed the huge executive job in Manhattan I had always been told to strive for. Now, I am stuck in the suburbs commuting to the city every day. Walking the streets of Manhattan are exhilarating and painful at the same time, exhilarating because I am in the one place in the world where I belong, and painful because I know it all has to end by 5 p.m.
“Ben!” Emma yells from across the store. You would think she would stick to only yelling at home, but she always seems to continue yelling at a high pitched voice all times of the day. It may even be possible she has been yelling for four years straight. “I have been looking for you guys for like a half hour! We need to get juice! Did you get juice? Are you even listening to anything that I am saying?” Emma says this all in one breath, it is usually how she speaks all the time. Yes, I say, I got the juice and we picked out Christmas stuff for the house. Emma wrinkles her nose at the sight of the blue and purple velvet stocking Ben and I picked out for Bob, our goldfish. Emma insisted on getting a goldfish rather than the golden retriever I had wanted because of the shedding. She vacuums 22 hours out of the day anyway, what is one more? “We can’t get this stocking! It doesn’t match the red and gold ones I ordered out of that expensive catalog last year.” That is another thing about this whole suburban lifestyle, why does everything in the house, including our toothbrushes, have to match? It is called variety; something Emma probably does not know exists.
“Alright she says, I think we have got everything we need.” I so desperately wanted to say, “what about some makeup for those bags under your eyes, and maybe a little mascara?” I think Emma is beautiful, but lately she looks like someone punched her in the face in both eyes. She has blotchy skin and has definitely put on about five to ten pounds over the years. I vaguely remember old Emma who would not be caught dead out in sweatpants, hair up, and no makeup. She is a completely different person than when I first saw her strutting down the streets of Manhattan in stilettos and a slinky dress at 10 a.m. Her beautiful, long, curly blonde hair was always parted down the middle, the shorter pieces in the front always delicately hitting her face. Now, it is short and an awkward brown color which is usually kept in a ponytail.
While in line waiting to be checked out, Emma starts to complain again about her sister, Sam. I know more about Sam’s life than I do my own sister’s. This week’s dilemma is what Sam wants for Christmas. Sam is twenty two and worlds apart from her sister. She is ten times more attractive than Emma is, even at the stiletto and slinky dress stage of her life. I do not know if husbands are not supposed to say things like that, but to be honest, I do not really care. Sam has the same long curly hair Emma used to have, except Sam’s is dark brown. She has bright blue eyes, tanned skin and freckles. Her body is similar to Emma’s before she had Ben Jr, tall and slim, but curvy in all of the right places.
Emma blurts out in line “Sam is asking me for money for Christmas, so she can get another tattoo. My mom and I both think it is ridiculous, just ridiculous. Don’t you think so Ben?” Obviously I have to agree with her, if I do not, I will most likely be sleeping in my Mercedes for the rest of the year, and it is starting to get cold. “Yeah, absolutely ridiculous, I say. What is wrong with your sister? She should be focusing on getting a job.” Emma’s eyes light up at the thought of me saying something that she one hundred percent approves of, and she shouts out, “I know!!” I am almost certain all of Target heard our conversation. She is always talking so loud like she is oblivious to all of her surroundings. All that little head of hers thinks about is when she will be able to order all of the newest arrivals form Pottery Barn, and perfecting the holiday meal she has been brainstorming since May. “Mommy!!” Ben Jr. says, interrupting my thoughts and in a split second he is lifted out of the carriage and into Emma’s arms. She babies him to no end, trying to satisfy his every need. She is always holding him; it seems weird to see her with her hands free. I would not say I am jealous of their relationship, just maybe a bit guilty for not being able to be there as much as Emma is for him. I pretty much do not exist in Ben’s eyes when she is around.
When we arrive home, it is always the same. She puts Ben to bed and I plop down on the couch and turn on the T.V. Hoping there will be a good movie on so I can look distracted and not wanting to be bothered. With Christmas in about two weeks, our house obviously looks like something out of a magazine. Everywhere I turn there is some sort of absurd Christmas decoration. Is there really a need for a Christmas tree in every room? I know Emma will want to talk more later about Sam and all of her bad decisions, but I personally do not think that being a wild, eccentric, twenty-two-year-old makes someone a bad person. If she wants to get a tattoo, I do not see why she has to get the approval from Emma and her mom. Did I mention her mom? Emma’s mom is exactly what Emma will be like in about ten to twenty years. That thought alone freaks me out. Everything about the two of them is their way or the highway. No room for anyone else’s opinions. They object every new idea that the family raises and have this very self-righteous attitude to them.
So, when Christmas day arrives I am very curious as to what Emma has decided to get Sam for a present. Surprisingly, she has not discussed Sam’s past tattoo proposal at all with me, except for that one dreadful Saturday night at Target.
The doorbell rings and I feel a pit in my stomach at the thought of what the day will bring. I open the door to see Sam, smiling, screaming, “Ben! I haven’t seen you in forever, how are you?” It has been a while since I have seen a woman smile a genuine smile. She is wearing black pants and leather boots that go up to her knees. Her hair is pulled tightly back and allowing her tanned face to be completely exposed, something Emma would never have done. She is wearing a long white shirt that has a huge skinny black cross on it, which identically matches her cross tattoo on her wrist. I always treasure the holidays that are spent with Sam, because she has so much more life and excitement to her than Emma does. She is actually fun to talk to. She does not worry about petty things like matching tablecloths. She is free and values other people’s opinions and ideas. We are interrupted from our conversation by Emma coming down the stairs wearing the same tired face she has embodied, but instead of the usual sweatpants and sweatshirt attire, today she is wearing a bulky Christmas sweater to cover her stomach. She has also chosen jeans and snowman slippers. “Hey Sam,” she says in a monotonous voice, and then quickly goes right back into the kitchen, her favorite room of the house. While we wait for dinner and the rest of the family to arrive, Sam tells me about her recent move to New York City, and I inform her of all of my favorite places that I can no longer attend.
After dinner, it is present time, and I have this sort of nervous feeling. I am hoping Emma does not cause a scene, which I know will prompt Sam to leave. She is the only excitement I have had in my life for the past two months. Emma hands Sam a lonely card, and I think for a second that she must have given Sam the money after all. I watch Sam’s smile fade into a look of disgust and her face becomes bright red. She drops the card on the floor and rushes out the nearest door. Emma and her mother are smirking to each other and that is when I start to get extremely heated. I run out the door after Sam and find her at the end of the driveway sitting on the curb smoking a cigarette. I immediately ask her what was in the card but she can only keep shaking her head and inhaling her cigarette. She looks up at me with her blue eyes which create a huge contrast to the white snow around us. “Want one?” she says. I take one even though I know I should not since I gave up smoking right around the time I met Emma. She eventually tells me that inside the card was a gift certificate to a laser removal tattoo place in the city. Inside the card Emma wrote, “No one will ever hire you with a tattoo on your wrist.” The only thing I can do is laugh at the way Emma thinks. It is none of her business what Sam does with her life, and she should accept her family for what it is. I am starting to see exactly what type of person she is.
Sam gets up from the curb and announces that she is leaving, and will not be talking to Emma for a long time. Sam is not even out of the driveway yet when I decide to hop into my Mercedes and drive to the train station. A lot of thoughts are racing through my mind as I’m driving. I am guilty about leaving abruptly like this on Emma and I know I will miss Ben, but at the same time I am relieved that I will be finally returning to my real home, Manhattan.