Up at ours

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Families are like fudge - mostly sweet, with a few nuts.
- Author unknown


When Dad walked in the front door the other night, I was standing there with Elton John.
He's a two-foot-long corn snake named for the piano-key markings on his smooth belly. Cute little fella.
Inside a nearby crate, two brown toads were comically trampling each other, craning to get a better look at the live crickets that were the "dinner guests" of the scorpions in the terrarium next to theirs.
Willie, our poodle-terrier, was bouncing in front of Dad like a kangaroo, full of unrestrained joy that Pop was finally home.
My husband, mother, brother, sister-in-law, sister, brother-in-law and nephew were there, too, everyone talking at once.
Ah … just another night at the folks' house.
Now, my parents' place is as good as a concert at the best of times, partially because Mom is hard of hearing, which makes for some spectacular misunderstandings.
But on that night, it was positively uproarious.
And I was glad to be there, considering that G. and I had contemplated staying home, as he had worked late and was tired.
My sister and her husband - who run the Newfoundland Insectarium - were in town, and it was an opportunity for us to deliver their Christmas gifts, and vice versa.
Elton John, the toads, crickets and scorpions were part of a travelling exhibit from the Insectarium, which had visited a school in Ferryland that day.
Having a houseful of critters is nothing new for Mom and Dad - we grew up with all kinds of pets - which is why Dad was not fazed at coming home to find his youngest daughter holding a snake.
Instead, he was thrilled to have so many of us there at once.
"Look at all of my children!" he said with a wide smile.

'House of Satan'
Meanwhile, out in the kitchen, G. rummages around in the corner cupboard, pulling out dubious-looking bottles of homemade wine given to my parents as gifts over the years. Eventually he emerges, triumphant, with an unopened bottle of Lindemans Cawarra.
Mom pokes through the utensil drawer, trying to find the rarely-used corkscrew among the knives and carrot peelers and salad spoons. Her search turns up a matching pair of big wooden-handled, wicked-looking four-tined forks, used for prizing roasts from roasters.
"Those don't belong in this drawer," Mom says, tut-tutting.
G. takes one look at them and his eyes widen in mock horror.
"A snake! Pitchforks! What is this? A house of Satan?"
He encourages Mom to give me an apple and to take another picture of me with Elton John, but I refuse to play Eve.
Earlier, we had all taken turns posing for photos with the snake, and Mom had urged my brother to wind it around his neck.
He declined, seeing as how Elton had been introduced with the caveat, "He hasn't bitten anyone - yet."

Wedding ring-free
And as if coming home to find your hall filled with critters isn't enough, Dad - an Anglican minister - has to answer to Mom.
"You've got some explaining to do," she says sternly. "Hold out your hands."
"Oh," Dad says, looking down at his fingers. "My wedding ring! I left it upstairs earlier when I was washing my hands."
My sister was to blame for the interrogation, since she had suggested Mom should be suspicious that her husband of 57 years had gone out to a regimental dinner, dressed up like a stick of gum, smelling of aftershave, and ringless.
"Don't go out without your wedding ring anymore, Dad," I pleaded. "I don't want to be illegitimate."
Mom, by now satisfied that her husband was not a philanderer, turned her attention to me.
"What kind of an outfit is that, then?" she asked, sizing up my black dress and striped leggings, clearly unimpressed.
Eventually, we all sat down to wine and cheese and cake - the dog taking turns begging at everyone's chair and pawing at people for hugs, pathetically jealous of how much attention had been paid to the snake.
Too soon, it was time to go home.
The point of all this is that, sometimes, our lives get so busy, especially at Christmas, that we hesitate to take time for ourselves, and each other.
If you stop to think about it, what difference does it make if you are super-organized, your house is spotless and your freezer is full of home-baked cookies if you don't have any time to spend with the people you actually bought presents for?
That night, driving home with G., half-hoarse from laughing, tired - but in a good way - I figured the dishes in the sink could wait and the other chores I had hoped to do that night would get done some other time.
It's Christmas. Turn off the cellphones and CrackBerrys if you can, and enjoy the wonders of the season.
Merry Christmas.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram's story editor. She can be reached by e-mail at pframpton@thetelegram.com, but not today. Her columns are online at www.thetelegram.com.

Geographic location: Ferryland

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Recent comments

  • Paddy
    July 02, 2010 - 13:18

    Ms. Frampton, you are are beginning to remind me of Christie Blatchford with all the personal, family stuff----Its boring. Don't waste your talent on trivial stuff when there are so many substantive issues that could do with the benefit of your analysis. Let's get back to the hard-hitting journalism that pulls no punches and calls a spade a spade!

  • Paddy
    July 01, 2010 - 19:59

    Ms. Frampton, you are are beginning to remind me of Christie Blatchford with all the personal, family stuff----Its boring. Don't waste your talent on trivial stuff when there are so many substantive issues that could do with the benefit of your analysis. Let's get back to the hard-hitting journalism that pulls no punches and calls a spade a spade!