Myrna, Max’s sister and nemesis, and husband Otto were spending the holidays with us. They’re family. We couldn’t say no when they announced they were coming.
Every morning at 5:00, Max and I woke to the whirring of the blender. Otto was making his pink powder morning pick-me-up before his yoga practice followed by a vigorous 3-hour bike ride as soon as the sun rose. At least he was out of the house.
Myrna liked to sleep in. “Lovely sleeping on these warm mornings,” she said. Then she swam in the pool, followed by a leisurely bath, and a few hours of applying creams, painting her nails and doing her hair – a daily make-over.
Meals were a challenge. Max and I eat normal food – salads, soups, cheese sandwiches, iced tea. Myrna picked at everything but we were used to that from her last visit. Otto is a vegan.
Meals were a challenge. Max and I eat normal food – salads, soups, cheese sandwiches, iced tea. Myrna picked at everything but we were used to that from her last visit. Otto is a vegan: no animal products but he did eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. But only when he prepared them so he was constantly underfoot in the kitchen.
He lectured us on everything on our plates – grilled tuna contained mercury, lettuce had no food value, carrots had too much sugar, cheese was fattening. His points were valid but we didn’t need a challenge at every meal. I was beginning to wonder what we would do with the turkey we had planned to serve on Christmas Day – maybe a nut and seed loaf instead?
Otto rambled on about the Tour de France bicycle race he had participated in when he was young giving unending blow-by-blow details about his bike and the ride. I glanced at Max. His eyes had glazed over. Otto also gave us complete information about his diet before he became vegan. It consisted of foods available before the invention of agriculture: wild salmon, wild meat such as bison, free range eggs, greens, coconuts, sweet potatoes and grains.
It all sounded healthy and educated but turned our meals into guilt trips.
Of course, he did not drink alcohol. Myrna drank only Veuve Clicquot at $55 a bottle. We splurged and bought a case. At least she was happy.
When he wasn’t doing yoga or riding his bike, Otto watched sports on TV. He is hard of hearing and listens without his hearing aid so, at any time of the day, we’d hear “Goooooooooooooooooooooooal!” resounding through the house and his wild applause.
After a few days, Myrna said, “Could we invite Cutlass and Bobo for Christmas Day? They’re such fun! And I want Otto to meet them.”
“We would,” Max said, “but they had a tiff at Thanksgiving. Bobo is in New York decorating for his client Jojo Three Fingers. Cutlass decided he needed to reconnect with his roots and is spending time with his family in Tennessee.”
“Oh, fiddle dee dee!” Myrna said. “They would have loved meeting Otto.”
Max whispered to me under his breath, “As much as changing a flat tire in a blizzard!”
While we were washing the dinner dishes, I said, “Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I can’t believe it – Thanksgiving was a disaster and Christmas will be worse.”
Max shook his head. “I know. I wanted it to be just you and me.”
That night at three o’clock, Otto banged on our bedroom door.
“What now?” Max said grumpily getting out of bed. “An emergency run for more pink powder?”
Otto looked agitated. “I can’t believe it. The office just emailed. There’s been a major shipping mix-up for 2,000 car bumpers. We have to leave for Germany immediately.”
“Sylvia, did you hear this? How tragic! Otto let me help you get ready.” He did a short happy dance behind Otto’s back.
Myrna came in and took my hand, “Sylvia, dear, so sorry we can’t be with you for Christmas. You must be devastated.”
“Myrna, in all honesty, I can’t find the words to tell you how I feel. Let’s get you to the airport.”
In our robes, we waited for their taxi. Hugs and air kisses all around. Then Max slammed the door behind them, maybe a bit too vigorously but they were already climbing into the car.
We went into the kitchen for coffee, big smiles on our faces. Max said, “Shall we unwrap the present they left for us?” He opened the box decorated with red and green stripes. Inside was a cuckoo clock. “I wonder. Does it whir like a blender at 5:00?”
“I hope they like their present,” I said. “She’ll probably email about it.”
Max put his arms around me. “No Myrna and Otto at Christmas! Yes, Sylvia, there really is a Santa Claus.”